“She’s not my mom.”
The TSA agent rakes her eyes across my face.
I only make things worse.
“She always says that.” I could smile, but something about the TSA sets me on edge. Every time.
With a surgical gloved hand, Ms. TSA guides me past the x-rays.
“Raise your arms, please.”
Though she says please, her voice belies that politesse.
Four-year old Muffin drags her duffel bag filled to capacity with stuffed animals. A furry leg is stuck in the zipper. Though I’m about to be groped by the TSA, I still manage to wonder if it’s the lion or the wolf.
“Sit right there, hon. Mom will be ready in just a minute.”
“She’s not my mom,” Muffin states again, rather too emphatically.
I turn and smile at her. She’s the cutest, greatest kid ever.
“Who are you?”
“You have my ID.”
Why don’t I answer? Why do I provoke her? I make a mental note to discuss that with someone, a therapist? A friend? Do I have any friends?
Muffin, of course, is acutely aware of our gunslinger showdown. “She’s my aunt!”
Ms. TSA and I exchange a menacing squint.
After a valiant struggle, the furry creature pops forth from the duffel. It is neither the lion nor the wolf, but the giraffe. A tiny rip in the fabric opens, a blob of stuffing leaks. Muffin looks up at me, her face reddens, and then there is the wail. I wrap my arms around her. I glance up at Ms. TSA. She smiles and nods in approval.
Pixie Wolfgang, ok her real name is Helen, and I were best friends in high school. We were inseparable. Upon graduation we drifted apart, but recently reconnected. This is her story. I wonder how I would fare.
Pix married Ed and raised 2 children: a boy and a girl, the all American family. Fun-loving empty nesters for 13 years, they partied with their neighbors, and traveled on an occasional cruise. Their house, and everything in it, they had to themselves. Pixie is an accomplished artist. Her specialty is Santa Claus figurines, and they are stunning. She was often in her basement studio, painting. Their children lived nearby with their children, and visited weekly.
Pix had a good job in a dental office with bosses who were relaxed. Ed had a stable and contented engineering position that he’d held for decades. All was humming smoothly along, until…
One June the dentists sold their practice. Pixie’s new bosses required a more demanding schedule.
In July their son divorced. Due to his ex-wife’s outlandish spending spree, and his lack of control over the finances, he lost his house. Before anyone could soak it all in, he and his 3 girls, and 1 dog were homeless. Lock, stock and barrel they all moved in with Pixie and Ed.
What next? In August, Pixie’s mother died unexpectedly. At this point, Pix thought she’d lost her mind. Maybe, in fact, did lose her mind. Her son still had his job. But that job required him to travel. He was home every other weekend. The 3 girls became Pixie and Ed’s responsibility. The oldest is 15, and then 11, the little one is 5. What an adjustment! For everyone.
The youngest cried herself to sleep night after night. One of the girls came down with the flu, and then the entire household was sick. The first 6 months were utter hell. A therapist helped Pix sort through the morass of emotion. Therapists don’t come cheap. Gradually Pixie’s cousin took over that role. In other words, she listened. As well, she lent a helping hand with the girls. Pix then began a series of phone calls to the girls’ mother. In time she overcame her embarrassment and shame, and began to ferry her daughters to school activities, and take them out on weekends.
Slowly, Pixie’s life took shape. Not once did she or Ed consider an alternative. The girls needed them. They were there to stay, for as long as it took for their son to get back on his feet. It was difficult, but not impossible.
Rarely does she have a moment to herself. Her once meticulous house is littered with toys, and dog hair. But she loves her granddaughters, and even the dog, and she will do whatever is necessary for them to feel loved and secure.
Now, it’s a year later, and Pix has not yet picked up her paintbrush. That will happen in its own time. But, every once in awhile, it will slip out, and instead of grandmother, one of the girls will call her mom.
Do you know grandparents, or aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters who have stepped in to care for family in need?