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Long ago and far away

September 25, 2010

You guys are all much smarter than I am.  Thank you for your brilliant suggestions.  Actually, for “try something different” I suddenly flashed on this (they do silent retreats!)  But truly, with the possible exception of the Salvation Army (hate bells), all your ideas are excellent.  The only thing I balk at involves asking my kids how they’d like to spend the holidays, which is simply because mine are a certain kind of children, who find being consulted more stressful and bewildering than being ordered around.  First of all, they’re stereotypically oblivious boys–if I asked them what they wanted to do for Christmas, they’d stare at me, shrug, and say, “I dunno,” the way they do when I ask them what they want to do for, say, dinner.  Second of all, I know my particular kids would feel guilty if I asked them to help divvy up holiday time spent with their father versus time spent with me.  However, if I pronounce, ex cathedra, that Christmas will be celebrated THUS this year, they’ll stare at me, shrug, and say “Okay.”

So I just have to figure it out.  Which I will.  As for me, don’t worry about me. If the monks won’t have me (will they be able to TELL I’m an atheist? Do we smell funny or anything?), I can roll right out of my back yard into my consoling-windows friend’s epic holiday extravaganza. Her entire hilarious family descends every year like out-of-state locusts, and they’re used to having me tag along.  Alternately, I can see the beauty in spending the day by the fire with a book and a big mug of eggnog, indeed I can.  I think what’s hard for me to let go of is the idea that my kids won’t get the Christmas ritual sequence that I love–but hey.  I love making Halloween costumes, and one year one kid refused to go as anything but a store-bought knight.  I love homemade birthday parties, and one year one kid insisted on a big prefab jamboree at a ghastly climbing gym/miniature golf/video game establishment–that came complete with ice-cream-cake, by the way, thus depriving me of another of my favorite activities (my birthday cakes, if I do say so myself, are pretty damned good.)  And I survived.  Mostly I’m with Jaywalker–the umbilical cord of the fake family Christmas MUST be cut.  The presence of my out-laws is a convenient excuse to do so.

Today is–would be–the anniversary of my wedding.  We were never big anniversary celebrators.  Sometimes we’d use it as an excuse to go out to dinner, but I was never given, say, a bauble to mark the occasion.  We were 25 and 26 when we got married, and the wedding itself–a lovely, formal, elegantly old-fashioned wedding–was entirely arranged by my mother and grandmother. (Whenever my mother asked me anything about the wedding, I’d stare at her, shrug, and say “I dunno.”)  I wore my grandmother’s dress, and figured my job was just to show up.  Which, it turned out, it was.

I wonder whether my ex-husband remembers the date–he’s not the type to remember dates–and if so, what he is thinking about.  A year ago I would have sworn he’d be furious, thinking hateful thoughts of betrayal and broken vows.  Now I’m not so sure.  He has introduced the children to his second serious post-marital girlfriend, who is (from what I can discern–all hail Facebook) beautiful and accomplished; he seems to be fairly pleased with life these days.  Right now he’s at a scientific conference in one of my favorite places in the world, having (I would imagine) a wonderful time.  We spent three weeks in residence there for three summers in a row–the last three summers of our marriage, as it turns out.  I’ve been trying to write about those three summers–the way they tolled the death of the marriage, the oddness of having such a precise place to chart the yearly decline of trust and mutual affection–but haven’t yet managed to.  Next entry, perhaps.

Right now I’m remembering how it felt to be standing in front of my friends and family in an ancient, unairconditioned Southern church, hot as hell in my grandmother’s heavy satin dress, giggling and whispering to my sister and my soon-to-be-husband while the poor minister tried to uphold the seriousness of the occasion by speaking loudly and slowly, overcompensating, I suppose, for the flippant attitude of the bride.  Oh, I was happy.  All my friends were there, sweating in solidarity, probably stoned out of their minds, grinning along with us, dressed up, looking so mature all of a sudden.  We rented a beach house for everyone to stay in for the duration, and the guest list grew day by day until there was no more room at all and people had to crash in tents on the lawn, and still more people kept arriving, and we all stayed up later and later and later every night.  Relatives threw elegant parties for us all week. It was marvelous.  I’d never really thought about my wedding until it was practically happening, and then it turned out to be perfect.  It still feels that way, though the marriage that followed didn’t make it past its early teens.  Still, I wouldn’t go back and undo it.  I wouldn’t wish it never happened.  In fact, even knowing where we ended up, I wouldn’t change a single glorious thing.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2010 3:05 pm

    Christmas over at consoling windows friend’s house sounds like a good option to me whilst thekids are with their dad and then another version on Boxing Day but then I have no great Christmas rituals other than eating large quantities of food to uphold.

    Your wedding sounds epic. It’s good to have perfect memory too for the years you were together.

  2. LMM permalink
    September 27, 2010 11:03 am

    Today (the 27th, the day I’m reading this), is my anniversary with my ex. 13 years. And I too was wondering today if he remembered…I doubt it. But it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my wondering. For that I thank you. 🙂

  3. Jul permalink
    September 27, 2010 1:22 pm

    Love, love the description of the wedding week… and the very grown-up, very comforting idea that a relationship does NOT need to last forever to be worthwhile. People have a hard time with that idea for some reason. There is something scary and immature about attempting to redact huge swaths of the past with a black Sharpie. I love that you still appreciate and value aspects of the relationship in spite of – nay, even BECAUSE OF – the relationship’s end.

  4. MEP permalink
    September 27, 2010 1:57 pm

    I totally agree with you about not asking the kids what they want to do for the holidays. I think it’s cruel to pretend they have any sort of control over anything that happens when it comes to custody arrangements. My daughter doesn’t get to decide when she sees her dad, or when she sees me, so I’m not going to set her up to ask for something we can’t provide for her.

    My wedding anniversary is coming up on Thursday, and I dread it in an unconscious, sad way every year. My ex definitely remembers it, and usually mentions it. This would have been our 10th.

  5. Take 5 permalink
    September 29, 2010 5:03 pm

    I love the description of the wedding too. Sounds dreamy. We were married by a judge who was delightful, and who happened to be the only judge free on the Sunday in August we picked. She just sort of thumbed through a big wedding binder for readings as we stood there looking dumb in her spiffy Seattle courtroom. And like you, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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