We’re sitting at one of those little round tables in the foyer of the church. The one beside the giant Christmas tree artfully decorated and surrounded with the debris of recent photo sessions.
We’re passing the time, waiting. The children are practicing behind closed doors, perfecting their simple Christmas presentation – the kind that’s accompanied by the quiet smiles of parents, the click of cameras.
She asks the question innocently, the 24 year old newlywed sitting across from me.
“Do you like having kids?”
She doesn’t know. I’ve managed to hide it from most people tonight.
She doesn’t know I’m having one of the worst weekends in recent history. She doesn’t know what an empty shell I am. She doesn’t know that every time I find myself in an empty stairwell the loneliness closes in on me so strongly that it leaves me stunned, frozen. That the tears beg to fall for no reason. And 100 reasons.
She doesn’t know that I spent the first two hours of this party avoiding people because I didn’t have the strength to hide my sadness. She doesn’t know the feeling that keeps creeping into my chest, making it hard to breathe.
She doesn’t know I haven’t eaten in more than a day. She doesn’t know how tired I am. She doesn’t know I bought running shoes today and tried to chase endorphins through the woods, through mud and wet leaves and tears.
She doesn’t know how much I resent her and people like her. Those afforded the freedom of youth. Those with endless possibilities before them. Those that are still young and free on their 24th birthday instead of saddled with 3 kids and a 7 year marriage that is very nearly broken beyond repair.
She doesn’t know yet just how hard it can be to love your husband and serve your children.
She doesn’t know all the things I don’t ever say.
So I tell her the truth. Or at least part of it.
“Of course. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
The rest doesn’t need to be said right now.
*photo by johanna goodyear