Reflections on Identity

Watching the Movie of My Life

Taking a moment to feel and see all the beating hearts under my roof


Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

I make a bowl of popcorn and stand at the kitchen counter eating it. The house is quiet, which is unusual. For the past month, my two-bedroom apartment has been filled to maximum capacity: my eldest daughter living home for the year while attending graduate school, my son home from college for the month with his new Scottish girlfriend, and my youngest daughter, at twelve, the only permanent resident aside from me.

I insist that my son and his girlfriend take my bedroom while I bunk — literally, in a bunk bed — with my daughters. Everyone balks at this arrangement minus my youngest, who is delighted at the prospect of a month-long sleepover. My son does not want to displace me; I do not want my son to feel that he doesn’t have a place here, our first home since my divorce, two bedrooms smaller than the last one. My eldest, already bristling at having to share a cozy pink bedroom with her baby sister, is disappointed to find herself with yet another roommate, this one who protests the window she likes to keep open at night and wants lights out by 11pm.

Complaints are registered, voices are raised, but ultimately my authority reigns. Within a few hours, my son and his girlfriend transform my immaculate and serene bedroom into a slovenly college dorm and my bathroom — well, my bathroom looks like the fraternity bathroom I still recall slipping into late at night in places where girls were not supposed to be.

Every morning at dawn, I slither off my daughter’s bubble gum pink satin sheets to start the day. I casually suggest that we switch to cotton for the duration of my stay so that we stop sliding into each other all night — and also, more urgently, so that I can get out of bed with my dignity intact instead of being ejected by the slippery material, but she smiles sweetly and says, “but Mommy, I love my sheets,” and that is that.

Gently opening my bedroom door to tiptoe to my bathroom, I glance at my son and his girlfriend asleep in my king-sized bed, the television having been left on when they fell asleep in the wee hours of the night. She has taken residence on my side, her angelic face…



Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.