Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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The Incredibly Loud Silence

I alternate between blowing kisses and a toothy smile punctuated by enthusiastic two-handed waves like some kind of coked out summer parade float queen. Their dad tells them to Wave to mommy! Blow mommy kisses! because he's all too familiar with the emotions that accompany this moment and then they’re gone.


New Order rides the air in their wake for a split-second, a few notes escaping open windows even after I can no longer see them, before disintegrating like fog in the sunshine.

And all is quiet.

The silence that immediately descends upon this tiny post-divorce kingdom I’ve worked so hard to carve out for myself and my three children is far louder than any fighting and tears over toys or what to watch on TV that went down over the past couple days.

I stand barefoot on my driveway as May dusk slowly suffuses the neighborhood with violet shadows, staring at the point in the distance where I last saw Charlie’s blonde head peeping out the back window. I briefly allow myself to wonder what he's thinking as he's whisked to his dad's house. Two-year-old thoughts; a kaleidoscope of innocent images and feelings, not yet shaped or tainted by anything other than his own perfectly pure brain. Mama happily waving goodbye and mama inspires feelings of comfort and safety and love and now he's with daddy who inspires the same and this is all he's ever known. I stop short of wondering what the older two are thinking. Mostly, I already know how they feel about this two-house existence, we talk about it as often as they need to.

Back in the house every previously disregarded routine sign of child life now takes on deep, sentimental significance. The spiky drawing of Godzilla my daughter left on the kitchen table is not just a few crayon scribbles but a masterpiece clearly indicative of a special mind; the SpiderMan costume my son stepped out of and left in a heap on the floor – as if he simply evaporated from within its cloth confines - is now worthy of emotional contemplation, like staring at a sculpture in a museum, and not the annoyance it would be if he were still here creating another damn mess to clean.

Violet was here.
Henry was here.
Charlie was here.

A plastic toy fire engine spins on my record player. A scene that a mere hour ago would’ve prompted scary mom face, angry voice and stern finger points; now the sight of the little red truck on an endless journey around my turntable seems to take on all the meaning in the world and I become hypnotized by its fireless trek. A fire truck with no fire to put out. A mom without kids.

That first hour after they’re gone is a jangly, awkward adjustment that hasn't improved with time. I wander, my mind wanders, unsure what to do with myself. Guarding the lives of three small human beings is an intense, consuming, emotionally exhausting and extremely physical existence and when it's gone your mind and body continue in that elevated state of being. Your mind circles and circles, a stuck record player that wants to play, searching for something that can absorb all that energy but there is nothing. Like finishing a marathon, you have to walk it off, let the adrenaline dissipate and try to channel the intensity of parenthood into something different. This unnatural childless state of being is a strange, clumsy existence to navigate in an otherwise chaotic, child-filled life.

I could take a long shower now. A shower without anyone opening the bathroom door and letting in all the cold air before whipping open the curtain to point at and vocally label my naked body parts. But it’s not the same. A luxurious shower stolen in the triumphant moments after I’ve put them all to bed at night is far lovelier than a shower that can last forever because nobody needs you.

Reader Comments (12)

This is beautiful. And they always need you.

May 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteranother_mama

Sending you tidal waves of love, equal parts whiskey and mayhem if i may. But mostly love to fill those cracks.

May 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSelena Mills

So exactly why did you choose to have a third child? You should have thought /wondered what Charlie might be thinking before conceiving him, especially when you knew the marriage was headed towards divorce!! Of course he is confused!!

May 10, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDona

Kind of a cruel response lacking in empathy, Dona. This is an honest piece, and anyone who's lived or loved knows that life and love can often be in flux and our hopes for the future don't always align with what ultimately comes to pass. Her son may have questions, but in the hands of a thoughtful, loving parent/s, he will be just fine. Who among us isn't confused?

May 10, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteranother_mama

Oh, Dona. I'm sorry you're feeling bad enough to attempt to make someone else who is obviously in pain hurt even worse than they already do. Feeling shitty sucks.

May 10, 2016 | Registered CommenterMonica

Trust me Monica I feel bad about nothing. I think it's a valid question and no doubt one you won't touch on. I don't think I'm the only person who questions the idea of a third child when divorce was imminate between you and Serge. I don't feel bad for you, I feel bad that Charlie has to live in caous because of your poor choices. Clearly having Charlie was all about YOU and not Charlie. Take a little ownership for it! Do I think you and Serge are horrible people or bad parents? No I don't, but two years later wondering what Charlie is thinking as Charlie is hustled from house to house........well,you're a bit late! What the're a child of divorce yourself, I think you have a pretty good idea about what Charlie is or might be thinking. Quit making every about YOU!

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDona

Why did I have a third child? Because we both wanted another child and divorce didn't feel imminent at that time. If you are married you understand that marriage is filled with highs and lows and you try to ride them out as best you can. And then a moment of clarity arrived in my marriage when something snapped and I couldn't do it anymore, it no longer seemed like the appropriate environment in which to raise children. It was a terrible, heartbreaking realization and goddamn, I wish it was different. But it isn't. I am so glad to have our three children who absolutely make our lives complete, though. Our lives are not chaos because of divorce, our lives are much calmer as a result of divorce; our lives are chaos in the same way that any other family with three children experiences kid-related chaos. My kids are doing well. And I hope to raise them with love and compassion so that they'd never leave comments like the ones you're leaving on this website. Now that I've answered your comment let's talk about why you feel so badly that it makes you feel better to call me out with such an angry tone. What's going on, Dona? Can I help at all? If you need to you can email me at monica bielanko at gmail dot com.

May 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterMonica

Monica.......again, I'm not angry with you or anybody. When I read that post my first gut reaction was "well why the hell did you have a third kid?" Not a doubt in my mind that I'm not the only person on the inter webs thinking that thought. Go back and read what you've written about your marriage, clearly it was a not a good marriage for a long, long LONG time. You said so yourself. So bringing a kid into turmoil with thoughts of divorce always on the back burner was just selfish IMHO. It was about what YOU wanted and not about a child coming into the world never knowing his Mom and Dad together as a family unit. And yes, I get that families are very different today and I think kids have a lot of resilience and they do adapt. I get all that. The world isn't perfect, I'm not perfect, you're not perfect. Hell, I even get the being alone and everything quiet when the kids are at Serge's house. I raised two step -kids. I know more than I wanna know about blended families, divorce, kids, chaos, the back and forth of it all. Your kids are young, trust me, kids get a whole lot smarter as they get older. And actually Violet, who is absolutely adorable BTW probably knows and understands way more than we ever did at her age. Things in your life will change a million and one times before those kids are grown and gone. You and Serge might or might not get along as new people come and go in your lives. Life is hard, choices are difficult sometimes, but when a marriage is bad, you don't bring another child into the world because you want one. You think about what is best for the kid....and sorry Monica, life isn't always about YOU!

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDona

Don't feed the troll, and that's all she is. You have nothing to explain or apologize for if some Troll doesn't get how life works.

May 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoReally?

When I read your posts, Dona, I see that you're looking at Monica's life through your how is that not about YOU? Can't you put yourself in Monica's shoes and show a bit of understanding, and empathy, for what she's describing as an incredibly difficult time? And even if you don't agree with how it all came about, it's no excuse to come at her so harshly. I'm so tired of reading posts from people who feel so entitled and free to say whatever is on their mind just because it's "the internet". 99.9% of the time, the words would never be said to someone's face...and if it is something you'd say if you were face to face? Then I'd say to your face that you're a judgmental bitch. Actually, never mind - I'd say that to you anyway.

**You seem very fixated on your view that Monica thinks everything is all about HER...but this is HER blog, is it not? So why are you here reading if you don't want to hear about HER life??? And how things are going from HER perspective??? Ugh.

May 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterH

I'll sidestep the Dona-troll nastiness to say that you captured perfectly the complicated life that comes with being divorced and caring for small kids. I have a 3 and a 5 year old and also still struggle with the time they are away... trying to distill and accept that mix of relief, longing, sadness, anticipation, that gets whirled all into one ball of emotion everytime they drive off with their Dad.

I'm curious about what your older ones say about the two house life. Mine were young enough that they don't have memories of living all under the same roof but they've never brought up the topic, and I've never asked. They seem to just think it's their normal, with no negative value to it. I struggle to come up with a way to ask them about it without suggesting anything to them or coloring it with my own regrets. How have you talked about it?

May 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercurlycue

Can't comment on the previous posts about the guy in your life and guessing there's a reason for that but I stumbled on them as I go through kind of the same thing with someone who I believe is a good person, just maybe not good for me and who I think has his own things going on that I'll never quite understand. Anyway, just a note to say thanks for those and I'll be coming back to read you some more. I'm sure there's someone out there for both of us, or at least lots more chances to fall hard, like you wrote.

May 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commentershyreader

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