It's not that the idea came out of nowhere, it had been planned for months. It's not that their absence was a surprise. I'd offered him Spring Break, since I knew I couldn't afford to take them anywhere. It's not even that I hadn't expected to be jealous or lonely or unhappy. It was just that I didn't expect to look at the first picture and see my "family", minus me.
Divorce quite naturally causes thousands of "lasts." Last time living together, last anniversary, last joint taxes, last "table for four," last family photos. There are a million more "firsts." First time living alone, first time mowing the lawn, first time you have to call or text to share a child's accomplishment, first solo road trip. Most of them you anticipate.
This one hit like a ton of bricks. This one knocked me off of my axis and threw me left of center. This one, I simply had not prepared myself for. I was happy for them, for their adventure, for their sun kissed faces and chlorine hair, for their laughter and silly stories. But, for the first time it was not first hand. I was not a witness. I was not a participant. This trip had no mommy. My "family" went on vacation and I watched from afar.
Perhaps in the grand scheme of the changes divorce brings, this one will one day pale in comparison. Perhaps I will look back and realize it was not as monumental as it felt at the time. Perhaps. At the time though, it felt like everything. It felt like a test, a living and breathing proof, more a marathon and less a sprint. Those six days were long for me. I kept busy and engaged with people I love to ease the knot in my stomach. I felt the heavy so deeply and tried to focus on the kids voices via phone and the few pictures they sent.
From the beginning, I've promised my kids we'd still be a "family," we'd just redefine what that meant. All along I assumed I'd know what that definition would be, how it would feel and what it would look like. But when my "family" went on vacation, I realized that control should have been categorized under "lasts." I am simply learning as I go, simply defining as it happens. WE are still a "family," but everything has changed.