It's difficult to be moody and introspective on such a spectacular spring day in Portland, especially after a peppy forty-five minute walk with Brady: sunshine, colorful blooms everywhere, sweet smells and a bag of warm poo in my hand. (And getting whistled at — twice; I wanted to stop them and ask, "Really? Still? Because I've been feeling a bit frumpy lately.) But I started this post a few days ago and would like to be done with it, so I will sit at my desk and grind it out so I can move on to more interesting things, like dishpan hands.
I've never defined myself by my job, but lately I've been defining myself by my lack of one. (Sure, I'm Grace's mom, but she goes to pre-school four days a week so that she won't lose her spot if I ever find work.) Also, when pressed, I can always trot out the "I'm a writer" bit. But there's something about a protracted period of unemployment that messes with your psyche; I'm starting to feel unemployable. I've never really had to look for work before; jobs have sort of found me. And now I'm looking like crazy, and nothing is happening. Yes, I know a lot of other people are in the same boat, but I'd like to be among the first rescued.
I may have mentioned that Grace and I now live right around the corner from the first house John and I lived in when we moved to Portland. (We lived there when Grace was born.) There are so many things I love about being back in this neighborhood, I couldn't possibly list them. I have always loved to explore the streets of Northeast Portland and look at houses; I used to jog for miles indulging in serious house envy. I have one walking path that takes me north on 39th (sorry, I mean César E. Chávez Blvd.) up to Wistaria right before you get to Alameda Ridge. My reward for the hill? Gawking at my dream house at the top: a three-story remodeled Mediterranean stucco deal with a gorgeous copper balcony. Then we hang a couple of lefts and head back home on 37th. Portland has some beautiful homes, and I never get tired of looking at them. I'm not talking about big, showy mansions with professionally tended gardens; the houses that captivate me most are tidy little bungalows or cottages that are obviously well-loved by the people that live there.
When I walk Brady now, I'm acutely aware of how things have changed for all of us. I used to covet the houses and gardens, but now I envy the families that live in them. I've had nice homes; they come and go. But that sense of hope and optimism we had when we started a family feels like it's gone for good. That sounds more depressing than I want it to, but it's just a fact: we are no longer a traditional, nuclear family. Grace will likely bear the brunt of this reality; her future looks quite a bit different than it did when she was born. John and I planned to have a baby, adopt another child and at some point live in a foreign country so that our kids could be bilingual. We were going to be different parents, always open to new adventures. That's not going to happen now, unless John and I achieve some sort of unprecedented ex-spousal state of harmony and selflessness.
Grace and I have everything we need for now. By global standards, we're rich in so many ways. Still, I hope our situation is temporary, not because of our standard of living, but because being a single mom is lonely and that trickles down to Gigi. It's just more fun to have someone with whom to share, every day, Grace's milestones, her setbacks, my own frustrations and joys. It's difficult, and scary, to be that adventurous parent when you're by yourself. Then I remind myself that my worst nightmares have always centered around finding myself alone. So — clichéd as it may be — I'm doing the thing that frightens me the most. (That's good, right?) And it's not so bad, because I'm never really alone, and I am so grateful for the people who reach out to let me know that, from my sister-in-law, to internet friends I've never met, to old high school and college buddies, to my local posse of girlfriends. And family, of course. Tonight, my brother came over with pizza, beer and a movie, and rescued us from a Friday night of cranky, headachy mom meets tired, disgruntled howler monkey.
It's not the same as raising a child with two parents, but I hope Grace will some day appreciate the huge, diverse crowd that took part in her upbringing. One of the things we sometimes do at night when she seems adrift is to list all of the people who love her, and that she loves. Lately, it takes longer and longer. That gives me hope that, job or no job right now, we're going to be okay in the long run.