This is what I want:
A Friday night.
Mr. Magpie comes home from work early, around 5, greeted by an exuberant toddler, a bouncy, drooly 10-month-old, a loyal Airedale terrier, and a wife who grows more devoted by the day.
We have been through things together. Children (childbirth…!), home-buying, business-building and business-shuttering, losses, recessions, illnesses, deaths. Most recently, a pandemic, during which I have shaved his head multiple times in the bathtub of our master bathroom, while our 10-month-old son and three-year-old daughter watched us, entranced. This: the slenderest and most insignificant of intimacies, and yet —
Why have these little nothings occasionally undone me, made me feel alien in my own life?
But — there he will be. Or, there he is. I cannot disguise my irresolution with the future, or conditional, or present tenses in this post, if that tells you anything about the level of uncertainty in which we are living today.
No: there he is.
In his usual way, shockingly unruffled by the day, and even by the gritty subway, from which he has just emerged. One of the miraculously attractive things about him is that he always looks as though he has just showered. He is — as always — calm, and clean, and unperturbed. His briefcase in hand, his smile ready.
After the usual flurry of greeting — “daddy!” “who’s that, dada?” “dadadadadada!” “hi!” “the mail–” [shrieks, feet padding] “how was your day–” “dada!” “daddy look what I made!” [shrieks, laughter] —
We pour a glass of champagne — because. I am in my bathrobe, having washed and blow-dried my hair just an hour or two earlier, while micro was napping and mini was watching her iPad on my bed, feet from me, our parallel activities occasionally intersecting in conversation:
“Too loud,” she will have occasionally chided, looking up angrily at my blow-dryer. Other times, our exchange will have been punctuated by her laughter at a show. And still others:
“Can I have some wipstick, too, mama?”
I am dressed, made up. We clink glasses.
A sitter arrives.
We rush around:
Instructions on formula and bedtime and whether mini may have one or two Pepperidge Farm Verona cookies if she finishes her supper, which I have already placed on the counter, waiting for a quick zap in the microwave:
Buttered orzo, roast chicken, peas — all diced up small for my young son. One of those meals that I know, from the aggregate experience of having prepared every single morsel of food these children have eaten in the past many months, while under quarantine, that they will eat, soundly and without complaint.
Spritzes of perfume. Splintered conversation as we drink sips of champagne, linger in front of the closet mirror, select earrings and belts. Mr. Magpie complaining about what he should wear, tsk-ing me for not letting him know I’d be so dressed up as I slip into a possibly inappropriately formal dress for the occasion —
“Wife!” he yells out, in part playful reproach and in part admiration, as I emerge from the closet in my new dress. His head is cocked, though, so I know it’s more of the latter.
We scurry out the door, kissing foreheads and leaving money for pizza and —
We are into the elevator, and everything feels quiet and hopeful as we run past Edwin at the front door:
“A taxi?” he asks, opening the door for us.
“No thanks, Edwin!”
“Four minutes til the next 1,” Mr. Magpie informs me, grabbing my hand as we walk-run toward the Subway.
We make that stilted New Yorker small-talk on the train: conversation in shorthand or even in silence, locking eyes, for example, over the man leaning against one of the poles, preventing anyone else from comfortably hanging on without rubbing her fists all over his tweed jacket. (Just, why do people do this?! How rude!) Mr. Magpie knows, instinctively, why I am making these eyes, and he rolls his own, and grimaces.
We emerge in TriBeCa, or West Village, maybe — ascending to a restaurant that makes us feel like a million bucks given its solicitous wait-staff and its discreet maitre d’ and its overlong list of complicated cocktails and its $19 appetizers and —
My beloved sister and my brother in law, my cousin and her husband, our dearest friends, my Mr. Magpie. All of us at a table, exchanging small-talk and laughter and the occasional hand squeeze or knowing sigh over a perfect meal in the most romantic of cities (when it wants to be).
The clink of glasses, the swish of dresses as my sister and I walk to the restroom, giggling — always! — over the stupidest of inside jokes that mean nothing to anyone but everything to me, her pretty face lit up by the candle at the sink in the restroom mirror —
Oh! Her face, so familiar to me —
It is the slimmest —
most inconsequential —
Of griefs but —
I miss it fiercely, the incandescence of being among people I love, in the embrace of good wine and good food, Mr. Magpie’s arm slung around my shoulder, the way time just slows into a honey trickle of happy conversation and the clank of forks borrowing spears of asparagus on neighboring plates and “could I have another glass, please?”
Surely moments like these will return, but in the pettiest of ways, I find myself grieving their utter irredeemability right now: the lost perfume spritzes, the missing eye rolls over the airhead leaning against the pole on the subway, the absence of clanking glasses, the mirage of my sister’s face in that mirror next to me.
Tout me manque.*
*I miss everything.
+We have and love these planters on our back patio.
+A perfect top with denim.
+Great gifts for littles.
+My favorite audiobooks.
+Great swim for summer 2022.
+Affordable basics for children.