I shall believe

I’m home again. The one in The ‘Ville …

Part of me is happy to be back here. The other part of me is wishing I could be in two places at once … I got to spend five nights and four days with Kates and Pheebs. Two extra nights and two extra days than what I had planned, which made it that much harder to leave them.

The original plan was to spend Friday driving there and Monday driving back. But I was granted an early leave Thursday afternoon, and as it turned out, I got out just in time because The ‘Ville got walloped with another snowstorm Friday morning … Then, as I was preparing on Sunday night to begin my drive back, winter weather was still affecting The ‘Ville, and the forecast for K-Town was just as foul. As emails flew among my colleagues and I on Sunday night, I was all but advised to stay put.

I didn’t argue. We were having a good weekend being a family …

* * *

When I arrived late Thursday night, of course, Phoebe was asleep, and I’d have to wait for Friday morning to see her reaction to me being home … Before I awoke, Kates started the morning routine, getting Phoebe dressed and ready for daycare. Then Phoebe got her morning milk and plopped herself on the couch to watch her Elmo video.

Around that point, I walked down the hallway and appeared in front of her … But she didn’t even flinch. Didn’t even miss a gulp of her milk. Instead, her little eyes just peered at me over her bottle, as if to say, “What’s up, Daddy.” Even as I took a seat next to her on the couch -- nothing.

It wasn’t until Kates and Phoebe were about to leave for the daycare that Pheebs’ true emotions started showing. In one of her signature signs of affection and trust, she grabbed my hand and pulled me to the back door, saying, “Daddy, come.” I obliged and helped her to the door before handing her off to Kates, who led her out the door … Once Kates and Phoebe were outside, and I began to close the door, Phoebe realized I wasn’t going with them, and the waterworks began. She did not want to let me out of her sight.

As Friday continued, I worked from home. Hundreds of miles from my office, it never ceases to amaze me how mobile our society has become … I also joined some old newspaper friends for lunch at the iconic Coffee Pot. Before that, I went to the News to meet my friend Laura, and stepped inside the newsroom for the first time since leaving two months ago. It was wonderful to see some former colleagues. I relished the notion that I’m in a better place now.

On Friday afternoon, Kates was running late on her way to pick up Phoebe and called me to go and keep Phoebe company at the daycare until she arrived; I would have picked up Phoebe myself but I no longer have a car seat in my vehicle … When I arrived, Phoebe ran to me and jumped into my arms like never before. And she stayed there for the duration, showing no intentions of letting go. Every couple minutes she just stared at me, eventually catching my eyes and giggling like she couldn’t believe it was really me.

Back at the house Friday evening, I found myself on the couch watching Barney with Phoebe -- something I wouldn’t have been caught doing dead a couple years ago. And yet, I realized, in those moments, I couldn’t have been happier.

The other highlight was playing blocks with her. She’d dump her blocks onto the floor and command me to join her on the floor: “Daddy, sit down!”

Her personality is showing more each day, and she’s learning words by the minute. Say something out loud, and she’ll repeat it. She learns the words, and she remembers it. Her memory is getting sharper by the day, too.

To cap the night, Kates and I ordered campfire-style patty melts from one of our favorite take-out joints. We played with Phoebe. We read stories on the “big bed,” we rocked together and put her to bed.

Then Kates and I fell asleep together on the couch, trying to catch up on our TV shows.

* * *

Saturday began around 7 a.m. with Phoebe calling “Daaaaaa-dy … Daaaaaa-dy … Daaaaaa-dy” from her crib across the hall. It was amusing because -- even when I’m home -- the first person Phoebe wants in the morning is always Kates -- “Maaaaaa-my” -- and no one else. … So I -- somewhat gladly -- got out of bed to tend to Phoebe while Kates basked in a few extra minutes of bedtime.

By mid-morning, I was in our basement den, and the packing had commenced. The top goal for the weekend was to gut the den of all its clutter, close my beloved baseball museum and reduce all our displays and belongings to a pile of boxes … By 11, our realtor had arrived, and Kates and I were signing paperwork to sell our house. It went on the market Monday morning.

As Kates and I packed things away, and the boxes started mounting, it was hard not to wonder what must be going through Phoebe’s head …. Throughout the day, she galloped among and between the boxes. She sat among the virtual forts, playing with some of my old business cards. And every once in awhile, she’d convince Kates and I to stop packing so we could dance and jump around with her. Phoebe delights in jumping and dancing …

And there was Phoebe’s fascination with the packing peanuts. We probably spent most of the morning doing this …

* * *

I wish I could say Sunday and Monday were as enjoyable …

My parents came Sunday afternoon to help with the packing operations. Mother-dominated conversations turned to Kates’ job prospects. And the sale of our house. And the purchase of a new house. And closing dates. And moving dates. And vacation visits. Things that, in my mind, are months in the future.

I listened as politely as I could … Until eventually, I snapped. “I can’t think about that stuff right now!” I shouted at my mother.

Looking back on the exchange now, I can only reason that this whole moving thing and the finality of leaving our house -- the beloved house in which we’ve lived and improved and made our own during the last 5 ½ years -- is starting to hit me. There were some weird feelings bubbling inside me over the weekend, as we decluttered and packed. The walls are mostly barren now and we’re missing many of the family photos that added charm and personality to our home. Phoebe’s toys have been mostly packed away and relegated to our basement rec room. Worst of all, my baseball museum has been reduced to a coordinated stack of boxes, and I’m fearing I might never recapture its grandeur.

I’ve made a lot of big moves in my life, and I’ve always been an independent person. I can fend for myself.

Still, never before has my life felt so upside down as it feels right now. I’m living in two totally different worlds. I feel the pull of my world in The ‘Ville, to be there and work and do what’s best for my career.

And yet I have my two wonderful girls in K-Town, who I long to be with, dine with, laugh with and experience life with. I want to run and play blocks with Phoebe. I want to watch TV and hold Kates. I want to work on our house, in our yard, take walks around the block.

I just have to be patient … No one said this would be easy.

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