This weekend I had the biggest, best, full-circle moment with my son, Levi.
When I was a kid and my parents split up, there was a period where I didn’t see my dad at all. I don’t remember this time because I was between two and three years old. My big brothers remember a time when my parents lived together. I don’t. My memory only lets me go back to a point where I was probably about four. At that time, my parents had split up and were both in new relationships. I lived with my mother and her husband. I thought he was my father. I can remember hearing his keys in the door, and sprinting over to him screaming an energetic, “Daaaadddyyyy!” He would laugh hysterically and sweep me up into his arms. That was the routine until one day my dad came to our house.
He knocked on the door and my older brothers opened it. They were jumping up and down. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” I was super confused.
“Where is your mother?”
My father stood there waiting. Hands at his side.
Rohan and Ricky cried out for her. They had no idea.
As soon as she came to the door, he started hitting her. She didn’t have a chance to step back from the blows or even ask a question. I don’t know when he stopped, but I know that he and my stepfather had words. My stepfather told him if he was a man, he would be living in the house with my mom and us kids. I don’t know how my father replied. Despite the attack, my parents managed to come up with an arrangement where we were with him on the weekends. I liked going to his apartment because he would take us out for dinner on Friday nights. Most times, we went to the Sizzler. When I first moved to LA, and started seeing Sizzlers everywhere, I told myself I would go for nostalgia’s sake. Now, I can’t fathom it. Maybe I should go and take Levi so I can have another rabbit hole moment. Perhaps he will tell me buffalos don’t have wings like I told my father when he asked me what I wanted the first time we went there.
On one of our weekend visits, he took us to Playworld. I think it was just me and Ricky. If Rohan was there, I don’t remember. He told us to get whatever we wanted. I picked up a Pretty Ballerina. She was Black, and came with a beautiful stand that made her twirl when you turned her on. She smelled like baby oil and had bright pink cheeks. I felt so lucky to have a dad that took me to the toy store and let me buy whatever I wanted. I have always loved my dad, even though I know how imperfect he is. He was my first love. So sweet to me all the time, and willing to do anything to make me happy. Always laughing with me and calling me darling.
Last weekend was my weekend with Levi. On Friday night, we stayed in. I promised him pizza, so I made that happen. On Saturday, my plan was to take him out for bacon. Bacon Saturday became a tradition when I had supervised visitation with him. It only took a couple meetings for me to understand that he needed to have breakfast before spending the day at whatever museum, or play space I picked for us to hang out in. I know how much he loves bacon, so every Friday, I made it my business to choose a spot for breakfast where he could gorge on bacon, and I could gorge on coffee. It has been my intention to keep things going since the gate was lifted, and I was able to be with him like normal again.
The thing is, last weekend, when he woke up, he wasn’t in the mood to leave the house. I am not sure how I knew it, but I did. He woke up and started playing. I offered him water, and vitamins. He took them, and went right back to his agenda. In my mind, I was like, “Levi doesn’t want to go anywhere.” I politely went to the Uber Eats app on my phone, and found a restaurant to order from. When the delivery driver sent word that she was outside, I told Levi that we needed to go outside and get the food. He reeled as I put his crocs on. I am not sure what bribe I offered as an incentive for him to go outside, but we eventually made it out there. The driver was an older lady. I guess we had taken too long, because she was on her way down the lobby steps.
I grabbed the bag from her. It was heavy with the hashbrowns and pancakes I had ordered for myself. We went inside, and as I parceled out the food between my son and myself, I felt settled. He devoured his bacon as usual. I picked over the pancakes and hashbrowns realizing that my eyes had been much bigger than my stomach when I looked at the menu. I lied to myself by placing the leftovers in the refrigerator. Once our bellies were settled, I got us both cleaned up and thought about what we were going to do for the day. I resolved to take him to the Mattel store. I learned about it from one of my co-workers. He said that the Hot Wheels cars were cheaper there. Levi was super into Hot Wheels. I figured that it wouldn’t damage my pockets too much to grab a few cars from them since it was the factory store.
We walked in the door, and I was catapulted back to about 1988 when my dad took us to buy toys from Playworld. I don’t even know how to describe the way I felt about it. I guess I would call it freeing to walk into a store ready to buy whatever my son wanted. It was also a little sad that this was happening on a court appointed weekend visit with him. I never planned to be a single parent. I know that some people do, and they love it. I’m not one of those. As a matter of fact, full transparency-I ended a pregnancy after college because I was about 100% sure the father wasn’t going to help me raise the baby.
Being a single parent after going through a terrible divorce, and subsequent custody battle made my reality feel even heavier. We walked through a couple aisles, and I began to take a look at the toys right along with my baby. I forgot how amazing toys could be! The Barbies were super impressive. Beautiful dresses, different skin tones-BABY HAIR. The car assortment, same. Flames, spikes, bright colors- the whole shebang.
I remembered the joy I felt with my father, and brothers while we shopped years ago. I then realized I was making core memories with my baby, regardless of how it happened.
In the end, Levi left with a huge Hot Wheel set that did about four loops. Definitely a D battery kind of contraption. Regardless of my situation, or anyone’s situation as a single parent- bliss can be found in the most remote corners of El Segundo, or other cities with stores that sell baked goods, books, toys, or chicken nuggets. The idea is to be present for these small humans that we brought here, and to have some fun in the process.