Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Hilton Garden Bethesda Says So

B'shert. That’s the Hebrew word for what’s meant to be. Even when I was little, I felt out of step with the other girls who walked around with dolls stuffed under their shirts, who pulled them out by their plastic legs (we didn’t know these were breach births) and announced, “I have a baby boy” or “I have a little girl.” I never stuffed a doll under my clothes. I somehow knew I would never have a baby of my own. I knew for sure when the doctor told me at 29 that my “open just a smidge” window of opportunity was closing—and I was marrying a man who couldn’t decide just yet if he wanted children at all.

This past spring, I picked up a 19-year-old from her first year away at school. A few weekends ago, I asked a 15-year-old to leave her room neat so that when we come home on Monday, we’ll return to a clean house.

These girls are my husband’s daughters. My new husband. What’s extraordinary about us as a couple—and what makes a great story (we think)—is that he and I dated 30 years ago. Thanks to Google and my high-school reunion site, I woke up one winter morning to an email from him. Both divorced, we soon picked up where we’d left off. “It was meant to be,” friends said. B'shert.

Almost every morning, as another day begins, I have the same thought. From where I am with my book on the couch, I study him opposite me in the loveseat, the newspaper open against his bent legs. If we’d stayed together back then, I know, we would have children together—during the years my window was open wide enough for a Cadillac Seville to drive through. Am I mournful? Yes. Do I wish things had been different? No.

These two lovely girls, whom I adore, wouldn’t be here if things had been different. B'shert.

The first time the younger one needed to introduce us post-wedding, she presented “my father,” then paused. I extended my hand and said, “I’m Carla.” We giggled later, discussing that since I am still Carla, saying “This is Carla” is perfectly suitable. At a college event, as the words “this is my stepmother” finished passing through the older daughter’s lips, our eyes locked. We both knew what the other was thinking: Yuck.

So, who am I? What are we?

We were traveling that weekend to Maryland (when I’d requested we come home to a clean house) to attend my brother’s wedding. “There will be two adults traveling with two teenagers,” I’d told the hotel reservationist by phone, requesting adjoining rooms. Minutes after hanging up, the hotel’s email chimed in my Outlook in-box. I scrolled the page, my eyes settling on the last line: Family of Four. I maximized the window so the document filled the screen. I read the line again.

It has been confirmed by the Hilton Garden Bethesda. B'shert.

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