There were three brown haired girls. They came into our life at the park, by default I guess of the fact that their Dad and I had been spending lots of time talking on the phone and he brought them to my town to meet me.
I knew about them all since they were born because my mum knew his mum and many years before he or I got married (to other people) our mum’s knew we were friends. We were friends for a few years, and then life took us in other directions and we didn’t really talk anymore. But every time he and his wife had a daughter my mum would tell me and I would feel happy because daughters are beautiful and I too was having daughters.
Our marriages didn’t work out the way we might have dreamed and after all that it seemed OK to be friends again, and part of me was thankful that we hadn’t been friends for that whole time, because when our friendship turned into something more I was glad there was no reason to suspect we hadn’t honoured our marriages. Or more, that I hadn’t. I can not speak for him and since EVERYTHING (the thing of the every that blew up any version of our friendship and our relationship and love and what I believed it was about) I am not sure about my version of the story of us. But this one part I am sure of.
I do not want to go over the how’s and the whys and the what fors. Just that one day in the park near my house he came with his 3 brown-haired daughters and they were 4 and 6 and 8 and then after that for four years I knew them. Less time at first, and then more time, until he moved in and they came every second week for 3 nights and half the school holidays and I was sure I had 7 daughters – 4 with golden hair and 3 with brown hair. Not that they belonged to me. Not that I was their mum (they have their own beautiful brown-haired mum). Just that my heart found space to fit 3 more children in, and I imagined that my life would be this unfolding of (far too many) daughters (amongst other things).
There are so many logistics for lots of children, and beds and bedrooms, and what they like to eat and not eat, which clothes they’ll wear, the need to label all the underwear because there is so much and so many similar sizes, bedtime routines, sports they enjoy, having enough bikes, boogie boards, towels and making time for everyone, having enough avocado (every child who has come through this house seems to love avocado!) and shoes. Where to put all the shoes.
But outside of all the logistics, and living in different towns, and shared care arrangement’s and not having a car they could all fit in there was just this sense that I had of family and the way they all (those kids) were with each other. The sisterhood. Of not actual sisters but knowing exactly how to care for each other. They would play these massive games of hospitals, and wrap the littlest one up and make her the injured baby, and someone else would be a pregnant mother, and they would be doctors and nurses and ambulance drivers. Sometimes they would draw or paint for hours, and the never-endingness of craft activities and games and snack platters. Sometimes they would fight, or have to have some enforced quiet time and we couldn’t always agree over what to do or what to watch on TV. And life changes, because kids grow up and imaginative games aren’t the go, and certain TV shows or movies aren’t so popular anymore. But sometimes it was just so full and busy it hardly seemed to matter. And sometimes it was so full and busy you forgot who you were outside of all these children. And sometimes it felt like family and sometimes it didn’t.
This week I am sad about the brown-haired girls because the youngest one has been messaging me. We are Instagram friends and it has meant through this whole year of not being able to see each other once in person, they have been able to see how we are, and me them. I love that she messages me, but in that it reminds me that they are no longer here and as an ex-stepparent you have don’t always have a place or a space to miss those children. But I have missed them, and sometimes I still do. I do not miss him anymore, not even a little bit, but I do miss them and I’m not sure if there’s anything I should do with that. Or if there is anything I can do with that.
I guess I could start by forgiving him for the way he did it. I knew they were leaving before they did. I knew he was leaving us, but he hadn’t told them yet. The last time we were altogether it was the Australia Day long weekend last year and there was so much to do as a family.
We spent hours at the beach. We rode out bikes. We watched the fireworks and I cried in the dark while everyone else stared at the sky. I tried my best to make food and be cheerful and happy and join in, but sometimes I had to hide in my room and calm a panic attack. On the last night my girls went back to their Dad’s house, so it was just me and him and his three. We watched something on TV, probably “Modern Family” because we all liked that, it made us laugh. I do not know exactly why, but that night the youngest brown-haired two lay either side of me on the mattress in front the TV and hugged me and held my hands, and I tried to believe it would all be OK and we would somehow find a way to still be family. The next morning he took them back to their Mum and all three hugged me goodbye and said “see you in two weeks” and I smiled and waved and hurt inside. He told them after they had left that they wouldn’t be coming back. I do not know how it was, except I do know they cried. And I have not seen them since.
I thought I could forgive him for everything, and about me I have been able to. About me and him, and the stuff about us.
But how he was to my children and his ability to walk away from them without a backwards glance seems unforgivable. How he presumed somehow that it would be the same for me with his children, and that I would not notice the absence of them, that seems harder to let go of. That he asked me once not to contact them too much because it made them feel uncomfortable, when I was only responding to them contacting me. These things I have been unsure if I can make OK, and when you cannot find peace with the way things were then they steal your peace and leave you in pieces. So perhaps if I can accept that, like with everything, he wanted to make it the least painful and less confronting to him and his choices. And perhaps to us. I actually cannot imagine the goodbye where they knew they would not see us again. I cannot imagine how I would have been able to see them in the first 6 months and not be a complete wreck. I could see them now and be completely able to be OK, but how would we not speak of him, their Daddy and everything that is no longer? And to be honest I don’t really want to speak about him, and I cannot separate them from being his children, nor would I want to. So I just let them know that they have a special place in my heart, not by default of anything, and I think it’s OK not to have change that. Some people get to stay in your heart when everything changes, and some people need to get out. I think for a long time I thought I would feel better if I got them out. But now I feel better that a part of me will always love them and have space and time if they need me or even if they want to miss us and love us.
So nothing changes and everything changes, and one day in the unfolding of EVERYTHING ELSE (all the else of every that hasn’t unfolded yet) all will just be as it should be. And the sisterhood will always exist, just by default of the fact that however it came to be and what happened next we are all women, connected by threads that do not ever end.