María Alicia is in Puerto Montt this week with her daughter, keeping her daughter and granddaughter company through the last couple of weeks of her pregnancy, so her husband could go to an important work conference. This has meant that Juan and I are left to lead the semi-bachelor/bachelorette lifestyle.
There have been a number of noticeable changes. Garbage piles up alarmingly quickly in the kitchen waste bin. Dishes go hours without being washed. Today may be the first day that my bed went unmade, because on the rare occasions that I don’t make it, María Alicia always does. When the food she’d stockpiled for us ran out, we regressed to a diet composed almost entirely of carbs: Juan is living happily off of noodles while I have subsisted primarily on rice and liters of salad and fruit. Could be worse.
But it could be better. In the absence of María Alicia, we have lost a familial rhythm. With her around, we eat onces at the same time, and even if I’m not hungry (post-class fruit bowl raid … oops), I’ll still sit with them, drinking tea and chatting for half an hour. Usually when I come back from class, María Alicia is perched on the couch immersed in a Judge-Judy-type show and knitting. “Hola mi niña” she says as I kiss her on the cheek, and we spend 5 minutes sharing the details of our days before I dump my stuff in my room and get to work. What lacks with Juan and me is not the ability, but the momentum that expectations about shared time give. I expect María Alicia to rather aggressively ask questions about my day as soon as I’ve walked in the door. I expect her to pop her head around the corner to my room at around 6pm and ask “vas a tomar onces, mija?”. And I like this expectation, this structure, this reminder to appreciate the small daily things. With Juan, though, if we’re not hungry and in the same place at the same time, we don’t eat meals together. Things are friendly, but there isn’t any glue.
So, freedom to let the dishes pile and the bed stay a crumple has a cost. Instead of all of us orbiting the same sun, surfing the same wave, Juan and I spin off and coast further apart. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that, while washing dishes and making my bed could be onerous, I do it because I love María Alicia, because I know that she can’t rest until order in the universe is restored, and I hate to cause her the extra work. It’s funny, because I thought re-transitioning to home life after 2 years of living on my own would feel restrictive, but in reality, a large part of me needs the structure, someone to pull me out of my self-absorbed world with a “how was your day, honey?”, which always invites a the reciprocating question on my part, or “tea’s ready”, to which I can’t help but mentally add “get your sorry self off of that computer, feed your body, feed your soul and come be a human”. Amen, sister. And I can’t wait for your return on Sunday.