It’s after eleven and everyone’s asleep, so I decide to call it a night. But, not before I check on my kids one more time. I like to watch them sleep, give them each one last kiss on the cheek, and whisper something in their ears. I love you. Jesus loves you. Everything will be OK.
First, I check on Bridgette, who has finally moved to a big-girl bed. Don’t judge me. She just turned five, but when you have a baby after 40 nothing is on track. And, then I check on Sullivan to make sure he has not completely zipped himself inside his sleeping bag, his preferred manner of sleeping these days.
And, then I creak up the stairs to check on my teenager, my Juliette. She is sound asleep and there at the foot of her bed is a Vera Bradley bag packed tight and ready to go.
It’s filled with all the things she will need for the weekend. This packing, this coming and going, has been going on since custody and visitation were decided in 1999. She was 15 months old when the marriage ended and now, unbelievably, she is 15. And, almost 16 at that.
Seeing the bag, I’m impressed that she’s so disciplined and organized, but then I feel like I’m going to have a moment like that scene from Forrest Gump when Jenny starts throwing rocks at the house. I want to throw rocks at this bag. I want to hurl it over a mountain, toss it into the sea.
I walk back downstairs, verklempt. I cry, I go to bed, but I can’t sleep and so I write a screenplay in my head. It’s a love story.
In the morning, Juliette brings her Vera Bradley bag downstairs. I say it’s such a pretty bag and she says yes, and I say, so, you want another one, and she says yeah. I run my finger along the zipper and I say, wow, it’s so big, and she says, the duffel bag is bigger. I remind her the store sent me a 40-off coupon for any one item. It was inside the birthday card Vera Bradley sent me. She smiles really big and I tell her we’ll check out the duffel bag soon.
Life is too short for sad endings, so, I need to tell you that during the first 15 conversations I had with Juliette about her love of Vera Bradley bags (thank you, Andi) I kept doing that annoying parent thing and called them Vera Wangs. You never think when you’re 16 and watching MTV and doing aerobics and wearing lots of frosty Aziza eyeshadow that one day you’re going to be really uncool. Now, I know when I showed up with a new pair of jeans and my dad asked me who Calvin Klein was he was dead serious. He really didn’t know.