Some days, it's so easy. Some days, I pick the kids up from a full day at preschool, and they are happy and sweet, and they have taken a nap, and they run to me full of smiles and tales of their play. Some days, we run into the dad of Maddie's best preschool friend, and we talk about his son's upcoming birthday and how much fun it will be, and we say "Adios! Hasta mañana!" to the teachers and then when we have to go back twice for things we forgot, it's funny rather than annoying despite the bitter cold.
Some days, we listen to Sesame Street for the 50,427th time and sing along and smile like it's the first time we've heard it. And when we get home, we listen through to the end of the song, and then we go up the back stairs because the lock has been sticking in the front door, and even though we're doing something out of the norm, no one freaks out. Some days, we get inside, and coats and shoes come off and get put away, and puzzles are done while I cook dinner and we transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer together, as though there were nothing more entertaining on this earth to do with our time.
And then we eat, peas and pears and macaroni and cheese from a box, then some corn by special request from Riley, and after every bite of peas, we high five about how much they have made our bodies grow and be strong. Some days, kids practice their letters in their books from Auntie Mim while I do the dishes, and with dripping hands, I walk from kitchen to dining room to proclaim the perfection of each of the traced letters as they are made. Then we retrieve the dry laundry and put on pajamas and watch a show and read books and brush teeth and go through the endless steps of the bedtime routine.
And at the end of that routine, on some days, I want to stay in that moment, in that room, in that snuggle for just a little longer. I sniff the soft skin of toddler necks, I give one more kiss, I nuzzle one more nose, and I tell them how wonderful they are and how much I love them.
And while I do that, on some days, on this day, I think about their father. I think about how today, he would be 37 years old. I think about how nice it would be for him to be here to see the perfection of his children. I think about how nice it would be to share life's duties with a partner, and to go to bed with someone I know and love and trust, someone who wouldn't care that I put my fleece pajamas on at 5:30, someone who would spell me from packing another preschool lunch, someone who would kiss me and tell me that I'm beautiful, someone who would talk me into—or out of, depending on the night—another glass of wine, rather than to go to bed alone.
Some days more than other days, the easy days, the days like this, I miss John profoundly. Because this is what he lost, these days, these easy days, these days that are all love and earnest toddler joy.
This is what he lost.