I came home and declared, “I don’t think I have ever felt that way, Stephen. I am not duped by those perfect feeds. Everyone has a messy life in some ways, they just don’t share it."
That same month, some friends who have a bluegrass band asked me to take some band pictures. We went out mid-day to this empty lot with a cool mural painted on the adjoining building. There I was with my single camera and step stool. I’m 4’10’’ in the morning. They say you shrink a little bit during the day. The step stool helps me photograph people’s faces instead of their necks. I can tell you, I strike a pretty unimposing figure.
We are there, and what I can only describe as a supremely confident photographer came over with a bride and groom. Could her bride and groom pose with the band? Would they play for the couple? Would one of her assistants hand her the 80mm lens? Would the other assistant take a photo of her taking a photo? Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Days later, this photographer posted the photo of the bride a groom with the band on Instagram. One of the bandmates brought the picture to my attention. I scrolled through the photographer's feed and discovered prettier people, better light, more creative angles, and a familiar face.
Our children’s principal and her family were there in this photographer's feed. I really didn’t know much about her at the time. She has two daughters. One the same age as Schroeder, the other the same age as Maggie. I knew that she dressed well, and I knew that I didn’t like her tone when she called me to talk about Schroeder’s behavior. Did he go to preschool? Is he young for his grade? Are you as good of a mom as you think you are? She didn’t ask the last question. There’s a solid chance that she didn’t have a tone, either. She may have just been doing her job. We might never know.
I found out a few more things about her from her instagram feed. It has since become private, likely because of stalkers like me. She recently sold her four bedroom home in exchange for a condo downtown. They were no longer trapped on evenings and weekends cleaning, maintaining, and improving a home. They were now urban dwellers. The city was their backyard.I had fallen down the rabbit hole, and my mind began to churn. In our move to the city, why hadn’t we considered moving to a condo instead of a 130 year old, beige, moth-ball filled house? A house that had consumed a good portion of our expendable income over the last five years.
It occurred to me that one difference in her situation and mine was she has two kids and I have five. Why did I have five kids!? My life decisions no longer made any sense.
Just after Christmas, I tore up our upstairs hall bathroom and slowly began to put it back together. I pulled down a grate and found it was hiding a big hole in the ceiling. I pulled out the vanity and discovered there was no wall behind it. It was a slow process. My mom asked me, “Who are you hiring to lay the tile?” No one. I’m doing it myself. She outright laughed. I reminded her that DIY projects are as much about the process and what you learn as the end result. I’m still clinging to this truth.
I spent a grueling mid-winter Saturday laying down tile. I had started in the corner which was the wrong strategy, and all the poorly spaced seams were converging in the very center of the floor. Mortar was coming up through the cracks, and I wasn’t doing a fantastic job wiping it all away.
Stephen had decided to forego the home improvement life and took D’arcy to the historic Women’s March. While I was slugging away on my hands and knees in a bathroom with no windows, he was updating me on his day. Ran into your cousin’s family. In a strange turn of events, my cousin’s wife had just become the assistant principal at our kids' school. They are going to the principal’s condo for lunch, and have invited us to come. Is that cool? I guess. Eating butternut squash soup. Of course you are.
The irony of this turn of events was not escaping me.
Days later, I would call Stephen crying that the thinset mortar I neglected to thoroughly wipe away had dried on the top of the tile. Also, it was really all his fault since he was pretending to be a free wheeling urban dweller when in fact he was the kind of downtown dweller with a really big old house which required him to spend his Saturdays helping his wife lay tile in a windowless upstairs bathroom. He refused to accept the blame. However, he took the next day off work, and we spent seven hours slowly chiseling off the excess mortar.