When I look back at March to July of 2008, I can’t recall much. The Skype phone calls between Abby and myself, to the best of my knowledge, were regularly scheduled. I went to work Monday through Friday. And I gradually came to grips with this new life without the kiddo around. This wasn’t an optimal way of life, but that’s the human condition, isn’t it? Being able to adapt and move forward is what makes us, well, US.
They weren’t easy months by any means. But, at one point in those dark months, I started to envision what life would look like long term without having Abby around. Keep in mind, I didn’t commit to moving to Maryland until July of 2008. Before that time, I just assumed this was how it was going to be for the foreseeable future. Those 4 months really were a blur. It almost feels like I was in suspended animation during that short window of time.
So, we’re changing the narrative for the next few months leading up to July. I’m sure you all got your fill about articles regarding divorce and, I most definitely, got my fill writing about it. The next few articles will be much less confusing regarding flashbacks and will focus on more recent events. The articles will be broken into parts of a larger story arc I’ve titled “If I Hadn’t Moved”. Enjoy.
If I Hadn’t Moved – Part I
It was just another weekend in January 2018. Katie and I were on our way to pick Abby up from her mother’s house. We had asked Abby where she wanted to grab some grub. This almost always mutates into your typical “I don’t care where we eat” conversations that I’m not going to bother to go into. You’re welcome.
I was under the impression it was one of those weekends where we would eat somewhere close by in Annapolis. A drive to Baltimore, DC (or farther) was just out of the question. Tantrums would be thrown, people in the car would be punched! No one in this car was safe if I had to drive to Baltimore or DC!
We went to the Sip & Bite in Baltimore. I was not happy. Katie and Abby had breakfast for dinner. Not me. Can’t stand breakfast for dinner. Certain foods are assigned to a time of day; in my book, eggs showing up at 6pm is unacceptable. I do not participate in breakfast for dinner and condemn all that do! Abby ordered chocolate chip pancakes. Meal heresy, I say! I had the chicken sandwich. It’s versatile. It can be lunch…but a dinner appearance is also welcomed.
The next day, Abby went to reheat the chocolate chip pancakes in the toaster oven. I was in the living room watching Chelsea destroy Newcastle when I smelled something burning. I walked into the kitchen with a sense of curiosity. I really didn’t think much of it. But what I saw next will haunt me for a while to say the least.
Some of the chocolate chips from the pancakes melted and fell into the heating element of the toaster oven. The heating element didn’t take too kindly to the melting chocolate shower and reacted as it would with anything that touches it…it caught fire. Fires occasionally happen. I’m guilty of being a little careless in the past and inadvertently provoking a little flame here and there in that toaster, but this wasn’t the shocking part.
As I panned my eyes over to my daughter, I witnessed the unbelievable. It was a 14-year-old girl without her eyes glued to her cell phone for once. It was the fire that had her undivided attention. She was calm and collected. She watched as if it was a campfire by the beach on casual Friday evening. Maybe roasting some marshmallows and talking about how lovely a night it was…not a care in the world. She had forgotten the world for a moment and took in the warmth of the flame behind the glass door of that Black & Decker Toast R Oven…until I interrupted her meditation session with my concerned parental verbiage that sounded like, “WHAT THE FUCK?! FIRE!”
I opened the toaster and tried my damnedest to blow out that flame. It took a few fairy tale big bad wolf huff and puffs but I was able to successfully put it out. I then turned to Abby with a look I’m almost certain she was unfamiliar with. A look that said “I love you…but…why?” Then I said, “I love you…but…Why? Why didn’t you do anything to put out the fire? Fire in a toaster is bad.”
I really should have expected her response since I’ve heard it so many times. She looked me dead in my eyes and said, “I don’t know.” The most troubling part of all was that I believed her. She really didn’t know. This would have been an acceptable answer for a toddler taking a crayon to the living room wall and sketching a masterpiece and immediately being confronted. A toddler would just shrug, and you can’t really hold anything against them for doing so.
But this was a 14-year-old kid. A kid that can bathe herself, feed herself…hell, put on her own makeup. THIS KID is capable of calculated complex algebraic equations. A kid that (currently) does not believe in religion because science makes more sense. Yet apparently she doesn’t understand the science behind melted chocolate dripping on the heating element of a toaster catching fire and burning a house down. I was dumbfounded. WE were dumbfounded! Each of us dumbfounded for different reasons but dumbfounded nonetheless.
Too many thoughts to count rattled around in my mind. I wanted to reprimand her. I wanted to ask her at the very least 20 more questions. But then I smiled. Then I started laughing. I remembered MY father was a short tempered man most of the time. I think all he needed was a minute to take a deep breath and reevaluate the situation to realize that whatever he was going to get worked up about, let it be a broken jar of mayonnaise or some crumbs left on the floor of the living room, was not that big of a deal. So, some burnt pancakes, in my book, were going to fall under that column as well.
I try not to dwell too much on the idea of what may have been if I hadn’t moved to Maryland. If I hadn’t moved to Maryland I would have missed this moment. It wouldn’t’ve happened…well, it may have happened, but not with me at this house in Annapolis, Maryland. It would eat up an entire week and drive me insane imagining my hands as they type these very words beginning to fade like the members in McFly family photo in Back to the Future!
So, I will dedicate this kind of chaos theory/critical thinking strictly for the purpose of the next few articles.