"Oscar! Oscito Dogito!"
The children are back, slouch into the house in a straggling caravan of plastic bags and abandoned coats and Nintendo cables. They both have an outlandish amount of hair, something must be done, even though Lashes only wants to go to a massively inconvenient salon miles away that has a sort of disgusting miniature pinscher called 'Paris' that he adores. I extract a quick kiss from each of them, Fingers tells me he did a 3B climbing wall and Lashes something I don't quite understand about emptying a mask, before they wriggle away to check the premises for new shaped elastic bands.
When their father leaves; they rifle through the cupboards until they find the replacement Jammie Dodgers that the dog hasn't discovered yet, eat the whole packet, poke the dog and start issuing eleventh hour pre-school demands.
"I need €2,80 tomorrow"
"I need a passport photo"
"I need crème fraîche" (???)
"I need my swimming stuff"
"So do I"
"I need a déguisement".
"I need a compass".
(Implausibly, these are all accurate demands, verified on examination of gulag despatches. I haven't had so much fun since they requested both a newspaper article on the Chilean miners several days after it was no longer news - internet print-outs not acceptable, no explanation why - and comprehensive documentary evidence of Brussels's recycling policy on 12 hours notice a couple of weeks ago "Fingers! No! I CANNOT find a photograph of a battery, dammit! Who in the world puts a picture of batteries in their promotional literature???").
That done, they slouch away and ignore me for most of the evening, stonewalling my questions, strewing elastic bands all over the floor. It's very comforting, to be taken for granted. Lashes has been worryingly solicitous towards me since the summer holidays, watchful, taking my arm, dancing attendance, consoling. It's good he doesn't feel like he needs to do that at the moment.
Will it ever not be weird, though, I wonder? At the end of each week, there's a strange half hour of, what? Anxiety? Confusion? Discomfort? Adjustment, certainly, and then everything is back to normal for another week, whatever 'normal' is for that particular week. I wonder what they think of it, the boys. It seems very new to me, but a year is a big proportion of your life when you're six, or eight. I don't remember my own parents ever being together, or them splitting up. I do remember hating the changeovers, though I spent far less time with my father than the boys do. I hated being in transit, having to adjust to a new space and a new set of rules.
Here, we swapped things around at la rentrée, used to changeover at school with one of us dropping them off on Monday morning and the other picking them up that evening. It was good initially, I think, ensured they were always happy to see either of us, and gave us a bit of distance when we needed it. But this system seems more grown up, more permanent, we have a drink, chat for ten minutes, tell each other whatever we remember, then he leaves. It feels very, well. Very adult? It's not entirely comfortable, but it's ok, really ok.
I don't know. I'm feeling a bit reflective because it's coming up to a year, but I won't harp on, I promise. It's such a commonplace now, utterly unexceptional, barely worthy of comment except when you're living through it. You hear a lot about the horrible kind, the painful and outrageous and unfair kinds of divorce and separation. Less about the ones where everyone stumbles around feeling their way, doing their best, occasionally messing up, like us. I can't help but wonder how it feels for others, which is why I love Irretrievably Broken so much. Irretrievably Broken is brilliantly moving, and brilliantly unguarded on negotiating this strange process. I love and unreservedly recommend her writing. One day the two of us will write something about divorce and separation together and the world will tremble. Or ignore us entirely. Probably that.
I'll carve a vegetable or something tomorrow, it's not only going to be heavy introspection now I'm unemployed, honest.