The shattering glass and splattering milk on the shiny marble hotel floor was more than just a broken bottle. It was the end of an epoch. I looked at 22-month-old Grace for signs of freaking out, and then took a picture of the mess before the bellmen scurried around to clean it up.

“OK Grace,” I explained after throwing several bills at the workers and apologizing profusely, as I had done exactly 11 times before, because usually the broken bottles occurred on hard restaurant floors, or the concrete sidewalks under an outdoor table. “The last bottle is broken. Bottles are for babies, and you’re a big girl now. No more bottle. Say bye-bye to ba-ba.”

“Ba-ba broken,” she repeated over the next few days, sometimes as a statement, sometimes as a question.

I had expected gnashing of teeth and wailing. But it never came. And the “ba-ba broken?”s eventually came every other day, then every few weeks, and now maybe once every couple months.

I underestimate Grace sometimes. She had been so addicted to her bottle, like in a junkie kind of way. Writhing and screaming if she didn’t get it, ready to do physical damage to anyone who stood in her way of “milt.” I thought it would be harder for her than that. Instead, the transition was flawless and kind of beautiful, and I got a better understanding of how Grace processes change.

Steve has been out of the house for two weeks. Or is it three now? I don’t know. We are telling Grace she has two homes, one with Mama and one with Dada. She asks a lot, “Where’s Dada? Is he sleeping at his house?” She’ll also say, in the same order each time, “Dada’s OK. Gracie’s OK. Mama’s OK.” And she talks a lot about home, “Gracie’s home.”

I have been neglecting most tasks outside of work to concentrate on the house. I want to make it the girly palace we so deserve, beautiful and practical and comfy. I am obsessed with orange curtains and in the past week I have: negotiated with fabric terrorists for 10 yards of Tibetan-orange shantung silk; spent way too much time sewing late into the night; realized I could only make two curtains, not the four I needed; gone to Ikea and got white curtains I didn’t want or need as a “solution” to the extra 4 yards of shantung silk left over; and realized I really really really want orange silk curtains, so my room can look like a Christo installation and somehow be transformed into a more spiritual place. Oh, also, I had a full debate about tab-top curtains vs. hidden tab and solved it by asking myself, “What would Yoko Ono do?”

In the next few days I will return Ikea curtains and go back to negotiate with fabric terrorists for more silk, and then spend more hours swearing at the sewing machine and working so late that I start hallucinating there are mice running around the table.

Steve and I have decided to make this the best divorce ever. We are painfully kind to each other and offer time with Grace on our “off” days. He fixed my tricky water heater Saturday. I made him this insane BLT salad we both like for dinner tonight.

Grace was eager to get in the bath after drawing on her feet with red magic markers, and so we went through the usual routine. As she pulled off her diaper, she banged her head on the tub and started crying. Then she got in the bath long enough to wash the marker off her feet, which was about 40 seconds, and then wanted to get out. She started wailing again, wrapping her soapy little body tight around me. She wouldn’t let me put her down, and directed me to get her some milk and her blanket. And she cried some more, from a deeper place inside her than a head bump (I’m her mama, I decode cries, like a bird-watcher can tell the subtle variation between an American Robin’s dawn and daytime calls).

And then she asked for “Mama night-night” and “Dada night-night.” Which means she wants both of us come lie down and read to her and snuggle until she goes to sleep.

So each of us laid down on either side of her in my bed, and Steve read a story, and I just breathed in soapy clean little girl smell. After the book I turned out the light, and the room took on low fiery glow from the last of the daylight fighting through the orange shantung silk curtains. Grace took each of our hands and tried to connect us.

Grace, living up to her name every day.
Vanessa McGradyHome

Comments 5

  1. angiemccullagh

    Beautiful post! I love the imagery of all of you lying there while the sun comes through the orange curtains.

  2. Anonymous

    Your last sentence brought a tear to my eye….I know how Gracie feels….I miss you two being together too….

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