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  • New Years Eve, 2011. First Christmas single, first New Years single, etc. Divorce in the works; the four of us raw, uncertain. There's no guidebook. Our lives - uncharted - mine feels more nakedly so. Max and Tommy, nine and seven, are rallying pretty well, but we're living in Upson Downs.

    This New Years it's me and the boys - exactly, perfectly yes. Just to stay up late, OD on Looney Tunes and old movies, and fight to stay awake. The way we did in my rockin' 'round the clock Monopoly family. Boys and I in a wee house in Berkeley, too small for a Christmas tree, so we've hung garlands and homemade wreathy things from the Home Depot trim bin. The ceiling is the forest floor. I've suspended yellow-leaved branches up there, and two faded redwood boards with all kinds of geegaws hanging from it.
    Stuff we've made.
    Our Upside Down Forest.

    It's magical and weird and funky. Grownups need to duck and weave around pine branches that sweep and swipe. It's kind of annoying - I like that. Nature is annoying and art needs to annoy sometimes and it's all inside-outside confusion. I want a treehouse - a make-believe house. Goddamn perfect.

    What isn't goddamn perfect is the virus I've had for over a month. Hacking like Camille. Coughing my insides out. Tommy Tuna had a bout of it and is recovering, but now Maxie Pie, my fourth grader, is sinking. His face, pasty for 2 days, gets red, hot cheeks, eyes glassy while saying he's fine. We're calling it The Thing. It's lousy, The Thing.

    And then Maxie's insides threaten to outside themselves, and all the fun of staying up 'til midnight dashed when he rushes to the toilet, hanging his head over the rim. He's crying and I'm rubbing his back, and Tommy's trying to muscle his way in 'cause he's seven and is freaked out even at the suggestion of being in a room alone. So there's three of us in a one-person bathroom and Max has his eyes closed, panting. Really wanting to hurl and get it over with, but unable to.

    "Mom, what do you do when you want to throw up but you can't and you're tired - I'm so tired... I feel yucky..." he trails off and snuffles.

    "When I feel like that I bring a pillow and blanket into the bathroom, and sleep there," I say, eyeballing the bathroom. He won't fit. He'll have to curve somehow. I snag a pillow and blanket from a pile in the main room. Earlier Max made A Nest for all three of us, rimmed by pillows and cushions, blankets and comforters stacked in the middle for a squishy, soft, Dish-Nest. To one side is Abuelita Juli's metal trunk from Peru. It's currently The Origami Studio, a thick sea of birds and dinosaurs and frogs and Yoda-guys and ships.

    When I return Maxie's already stretched out, his eyes closed. Telling him it was okay to sleep knocked him out. I put a pillow under my Pie's head, and do the same for Tommy, banished to the doorway of the bathroom. Once I get Tommy set up, Max is snoring. Tom and I giggle, and I lie down next to him. I don't want Max waking up in the bathroom and feeling weird. I want him to know we're here, we're still in A Nest. Only the floor is different. Hard.

    Very hard. My head's the white oval above and we sleep all night like that. I'm grumbling, Max unmoving, and Tom shifting and patting my head - slowly ooch-ing over to steal my pillow.

    In the morning we're all sore and stiff, but happy. We kept our nest. We missed the midnight countdown. But I see Max's flushed and happy face, realizing we've been by his side all night.

    We haven't missed out on anything.
    ........Best New Years ever.
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