“Do you know how to play 52 pick up?”

This question is posed by my smirking step-brother who holds a deck of cards in his hands, circa 1983.

“No,” I say.

With thumb and forefinger he sends them shuffling through the air in random abandon, landing in a chaotic pile on the table.

“Get it? 52 pick up?”


If my life is a deck of cards, then perhaps 52 pick up is the game I’ve mastered. The airborne shuffle, that is, not necessarily the clean up.

As the Bohemian and I share a four-day reprieve of non-parenting days while Jeb’s away with his dad, I ponder how I’ve done it all out of order.

Honestly, I dreamt of the stereotypical, American life. I wanted marriage, a house, children. But I couldn’t be normal about it. I got engaged (diamond ring and all) when I was 16. Then didn’t really announce it (we’d wait to wed til after college anyway).

But I was on the path to normal. I’d get my degree, get a good paying job, marry the man I loved, and start a family. Seemed a simple formula for happy-ever-after.

Except my fiancé started an affair with the goth-girl at one of the chain bookstores in the Fresno mall (detailed account of this liberating break up in Crumbling Empires and Parked Cars). At 19, my engagement ended and my little ordered timeline was severely jumbled.

Once I left Fresno, I guess nothing really stayed inside the lines of predictable. I attended college for three years but left before getting my degree. I travelled by myself all over north america, working odd jobs and occasionally living out of my car. I longed for true love but questioned the precepts of monogamy.

By 29, I was in Hawaii living in a school bus, up on blocks, with a boyfriend who professed love but wasn’t sure about commitment. Though my closest friends were all married, I was the first to give birth. And nine months later, I had separated from the father of my child and forged into the realm of single motherhood.

By 39, many friends were at least a decade into their lives of married with children. I’d been piecing housing situations and jobs together. Though I’d been doing it in Hawaii, it was still hard as hell- building character, of course. I can’t help but look back and think that somehow, I was simply prepping myself for a future life with the Bohemian.

The announcement of my pending marriage, was often met with great support from friends coupled with undertones of wariness. Like when a dubious sigh meets the words “good luck.” Not sarcastic. More like hopeful skepticism. No one dared to actually express this blatantly, but I could tell that all-too often, ten plus years of matrimony can take its toll.

As I come to my 40th birthday, I’m a newlywed with a 9-year-old. We never had an official honeymoon, so we take the four days this week without a child to just be husband and wife. Niagara Falls is not in the equation. In fact, just about everything is business as usual.

So we work with what we’ve got. Sunset and an empty house. Why not leave the dishes and crawl under the covers before the sun goes down? Make jokes and stay up late on a weeknight? Have an ordinary kind of unconventional honeymoon?

I guess what has not yet been said here, is that for me, I don’t think ‘normal’ was in the cards. Try as I may to keep things ordered and straight, life has tossed my plans about in delightful whimsy. And if I look deeply, I can see that I wanted it this way. I never truly desired the status quo.

But for a long time, I was thinking that my less-than-typical life was a reflection that I was doing something wrong. That if I didn’t fit the mold it was because I was misshapen.

As I move into my fourth decade on planet earth, I’m so glad I did it all backwards. I let the cards fall where they may and found inspiration in the pile. It’s still a work in process, and I’ll probably spend a lifetime sorting through it.

It can be a fun game to play. Especially when you let go of straightening it out.


11 thoughts on “In the Cards

  1. All what you write seems pretty similar to my own journey. – A female friend of mine has a wonderful ‘statement’ about women getting 40. She is saying: “I really like this age, esp. in women. They seem to stand fully in life, have experienced many things, realized what they really want and just living it. Regardless what others may comment, judge and expect.” Therefore welcome in the 52 pick up club! 🙂


    1. I’m looking forward to the 40’s. Keeping in mind that each era has its own beauty, so I better soak it up, as it soon passes on. You’ve piqued my curiosity on your journey…I’m glad you can relate. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!


    1. Living in alignment with our truth is really pretty hard sometimes. Especially in a world that doesn’t really operate with that as a primary intention. So, for any of us that are on that mission, I say more power to you. Let’s keep inspiring each other to stay true.


  2. I’ve been in the 52 pick up club too and, like you, only lately realized that I’m actually having fun playing while knowing that I don’t have to pick up the cards, but can enjoy the free fall and fun patterns that have become my life – including many completely unexpected surprises!


    1. I’m so pleased that this post inspired multiple comments. I was conscious as I wrote it that my intention was to encourage others that are on the road less traveled, not necessarily just talk about my singular experience. I’m so happy to know that others can relate – you included. You are the wise elder calling back to us with sage insight. Thank you! Here’s to pleasantly unexpected surprises!


  3. I love reading your observations on this crazy thing called life! I always find myself going,”yes,yes” as I read them…..often out loud which scares hell out of the cat! My life has taken many twists and turns and I don’t ever remember having a plan, thank goodness, because I know I would have missed things along the route. As for the pack of cards, how about this analogy? Marriage starts with 2 hearts and a diamond and up with you wanting a club and a spade!!!……made me laugh out loud…and yes, I am single again….and very happy. Thanks for sharing as always


    1. I’m so glad you find something that strikes a chord (even if it does spook the cat!). Nice card analogy! Glad you are happy and enjoying. Thank you for sharing your insights. So appreciated.


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