After a half hearted workout, I dressed myself in the warm comfort clothing I’d tossed into the gym-bag earlier knowing I would go nowhere but straight home. No one would see me in the threadbare sweatshirt, the fleece vest, my son’s army long-johns, multiple pairs of arm warmers, and my polar fleece pants that make me look like I weigh 200 pounds.
This is not my normal self, going to the gym late in the day, skimping on the workout, and not caring enough to pick out respectable clothes. Slipping into the shoes I usually wear only to walk the dog, I hurried from Island Fitness, hoping no one would notice me.
When I arrived home, fumes of grilled meat greeted me. My son was in the kitchen with a new friend and a pile of barbequed chicken thighs sat in the middle of the kitchen counter.
“Oh hi,” I said to the friend, raking my windblown bangs with my fingers. She was beautiful. And tall enough to see the inch of gray roots on top of my head. I left my scarf on to distract from the rest of me and looked to my son, not sure if I should quietly disappear. But the counter was set for three. Bottles of pinot grigio and merlot were already opened and he offered me a glass of the white. I threw off one of my layers of fleece.
“Uh, if you tear up the romaine, I’ll make a Caesar dressing,” I said to the guest. We worked side by side, me dumping together anchovies, garlic, and olive oil as she cut and carefully arranged the salad. I ditched a pair of arm warmers and drank some wine.
It was so easy. So normal. And I’ve been craving easy and normal ever since my daughter died over three years ago. Glancing at the life-sized portrait of Marika on the wall, I made a silent toast to her.
The three of us filled our plates and ate. The friend laughed like a two-year-old being tickled. I almost cried to hear laughter in my house again.
“I just bought cake at Sarah’s Patisserie. Anyone into dessert?” I asked when we’d polished off most of the food. But they smiled, no. “Well, thanks for a great dinner. I’ll do the dishes,” I offered. They disappeared upstairs and there was more laughter.
I tore off my sweatshirt and began to clear and clean, humming “Some Enchanted Evening,” an old favorite. Then I ate a whole mini-cranberry-ginger cake myself and thought about the ever-changing nature of normal.
What is normal anyway?