“You not crying any more, mommy? You not goin’ to cry now?” said Beatrice with tilted head in the most sincere voice she could conjure.
“No, BeBe, mommy’s not crying now. Mommy’s not crying anymore.”
“You goin’ to da gym now?”
“No Bea, not tonight. Mommy and daddy are going to have mommy/daddy time.”
“I poop in my pull-ups.”
“Thanks, Bea. Moment has passed I guess, huh?”
And after their baths, I took them both to their rooms, sang Beatrice two rounds of “itsy-bitsy spider” before laying her down, and went in to tuck my special little guy into his almost-too-small-for-him bed.
“Yes, Roman?” I replied with a sigh, as I sat on the edge, looking around at the room I so carefully crafted for this intelligent boy of six years.
“I love you more than you know.”
My reaction took me by surprise. I didn’t even have the time to think about the words fully before the wails left my body. I lifted his upper half toward mine and hugged him with genuine gratitude. He was the second man in my life and yet here he was taking the role of my protector. Something, or someone, was making his mommy hurt, and since he couldn’t stop the pain, he went the other way and added the joy.
I could barely breathe through my tears, but did all that I could to whisper “thank you” in his ear before tucking him back in and letting him know that I would see him in the morning.
Five minutes later I sat staring at the two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc that my husband had poured while I put the kids to sleep. We both took a deep breath and tapped glasses in a toast – like we always do – to the strength we continue to have, and as I looked at his mouth, expecting an “I told you so” to be the words that I would hear, the unpredictable happened… he asked me a question:
“Where would you like to go for your fortieth?”
Astonished, I stared slightly slack-jawed at him. I felt like rapidly shaking my head back and forth a la Tom and Jerry cartoons when they can’t believe what they’re hearing. Wow. That’s a question. And yeah, that’s my Todd. Leave it to my Todd to surprise me. He’s always been the best at it.
“I mean, you’ve got to start thinking about where you want to go on your birthday trip. We’ve got to get the ball rolling on planning and saving. You’ve only got ten months.”
“Okay. Then yes, let’s start thinking. Are Estonia and Latvia still in the running?”
“Yeah, but I know those were places that I wanted to go more than you. I want to go where you want to go. This is your birthday, so you decide. No kids. I’ll ask my mom to watch them. All that I ask is that we’re not travelling to five different cities. Two at most, can we agree to that?”
“Yes. Agreed. No problem. My God I’m so excited! What do you think… Europe again? I’ve never been to South America though, maybe South America? How many Bourdains do we have Tivo’d? Let’s see where he’s been…”
And with the press of a rubber-like button on a glossy black remote control, my Sauvignon Blanc was replaced by an Alentejo which I was sipping on a Portuguese beach after a night out in Lisbon, eating, drinking, and listening to the sounds of Fado; Portugal’s answer to The Blues. I looked at the love of my life as he swam in the warm Atlantic water and pinched myself for being so lucky. Do I want to be here, in Portugal? Or how about Argentina… I love the Tango? Or, do I want to go back to Italy and travel the southern parts, where my heritage is, but then take a boat over to Croatia from the Eastern coast? Where do I want to go? Where, for my fortieth, do I want to be?
“I’ve got it, babe. I know where I want to be on my fortieth,” I said, hardly containing my excitement at the idea that I should have known all along.
“Out with it, then, crackie. Where?”