It’s 9am, I am on a flight to Anchorage. The house was dark and quiet when I snuck out this morning, I couldn’t see the piles of laundry on the couch or the mess in the kitchen or the toys littering the floor. I pretended they weren’t there. I print off a few documents from the HR department and set off in the rain to join the cattle herds on the highway and mosey on to the airport, a 45-minute drive mutated into an hour and half, turning thousands of otherwise kind and decent humans into boiling, festering pits of dissatisfaction. My mind is spinning with the affairs of the household and I am imagining how my husband is handling all of the chaos of getting 4 kids ready for the day. I picture ratted hair, dollar bills stuffed in pockets because there is no time to pack lunch, cheerios on the floor and the twins emptying out the pots and pans, drumming them on the floor creating the chaotic soundtrack of a busy life. I hate not being there, I love not being there.
I breathe a sigh of relief that October is finally over. The month I dread every year as we bring in the grape harvest and my husband spends every spare hour crushing, pressing and barreling our dreams into their oak cocoons to mature for a few years. I swear we go days without having a conversation, just rapid fire debriefs and schedule coordination sessions. I started back to work this month after a year off. The twins have had ear infections, sinus infections and Nafiseh is refusing to be weaned. My ex-husband has hit rock bottom once again and Emma is reeling from the fallout, angry and sad and feeling like the forgotten middle child. I am torn between the physical demands of the twins and the emotional needs of the older kids, and I lie in bed at night blanketed by the guilt that haunts every working mom, there just isn’t enough of me to go around. I am flying to Alaska to fire a woman. While she won’t realize it today, I feel like I am giving her a gift, an opportunity to reflect on what is truly important and maybe ditch the corporate machine for a career more conducive to placid mothering. She is a writer in her spare time, I hope she seizes this opportunity to pursue her talents. I, on the other hand, will continue to put off the inevitable and fight the forgone conclusion that this is simply not sustainable. Part of me wants to quit the career and put all my energy into the family, the farm, and winery. The other part of me is having a hard time coming to terms with tossing this life I built up during a marriage to an alcoholic, a rocky divorce and single motherhood aside. I feel a certain sense of pride in knowing that I have something all my own, built up during a time when life was trying to pull me down, and I don’t have to share it. It rewards me for a job well done and feeds my ego unlike my mom role; no one notices all the mundane feats of housework I accomplish in a day. Women secretly harbor this need when every bite of food you take is shared, when you have given your body to create life, when you give up sleep to comfort your child, when you feel like you have no friends because there is just no time, when you have accomplished more between the hours of 6 and 8 am than most people do in a day and no one gives a damn! Of course I cling to this escape so defiantly despite the feeling that it isn’t what’s best for the family.
Shelley is analyzing “A Raisin in the Sun” for her honors humanity class. Her thematic essay focuses in on the stories’ underlying message of putting the needs of the family before that of the individual; setting some dreams aside to shrivel up, but taste sweeter when you come back to revisit them. The irony is not lost on me. My house is literally full of ripe grapes on the vine being squished and morphed into another reality. While they are delicious and sweet as they are, they will be transformed into something wholly different, without a hint of what they once were, but the pleasure and enjoyment they will give to so many will be much longer lived in their new state. My husband’s hands and nail beds are stained purple from endless hours crafting wine. He runs them through my hair as he defends himself against the accusations I have thrown at him. Convincing me that he isn’t trying to fight against me when he begs me not to pursue this career path. He only wants what’s best for the family. If we have our own businesses, we can run our own schedules, we can be close to the kids. With those big soft hands, he conjures up images of an entrepreneurial life of our own making. Something to reflect on together in our later years, two different varietals blended and aged together to create the perfect tonic to defend against life’s turbulence.
The plane landing feels more like a ship out in a rocky sea. I swallow back the nausea, put my blazer back on and don my professional self, the self that is feeling more like an alter ego I am having difficulty relating to. I shake it off, recover my poise and, heels clicking, march the façade onward, no one suspecting I am someone else entirely.