I go out of my way to make it seem like my husband’s business trips are fun for the kids and me. We miss him less if we can break with the weekday school-dinner-homework routine. We get takeout, make blanket forts, build Playmobil and train setups in the living room, become worse slobs than usual, watch black and white movies and have sleepovers in our bed (I steal his jeans and his pillow and I don’t have to worry about my snoring).
But the house takes liberties of its own, kind of like the script of an Albert Brooks movie where everything goes wrong in the most eye-rolling ways. The house lets loose all of those pranks it has been saving just for me – it allows the field mice in and sends them dancing up to the wall behind our bed, pops the lightbulbs in the most unreachable sockets, lures the woodpeckers to all four outside corners of the house, swarms the carpenters ants and termites, crashes a computer or two, breaks one major appliance, and finds never-before-seen ways to rupture the plumbing. We are now at the point that, when the neighbors learn he is away, they call to ask if anything has broken yet.
And even though part of me thinks my husband has the power to set me up by conspiring with beasts and infrastructure, there’s nothing like a little drama to make time fly. As long as I can marshall the courage and resources to make it right – so far my record is pretty good – I think it’s key for both of us to remember why we work better together than apart. I feel liberated for all of about 15 mintes when he leaves, and then I notice the scaffolding of our lives tremble ever so slightly and though I get to snore, I don’t sleep quite so well. Even so, I know that the house could come down around us, but the structure that counts is in fine shape.