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If you ever doubt that you should make the effort….

July 6, 2012

I finked on my younger son’s baseball game, the one scheduled to take place when I knew my ex-in-laws were here, because I dreaded sitting in a miasma of disdain. This, it struck me even at the time, was very cowardly, and I was ashamed of myself. (I rigged it so I was obligated to drive my older son somewhere. It was legitimate, but only partly. Any fool could see right through my excuse.)

After the game was over and won, I found out that my ex-sister-in-law wasn’t even there. “Oh, she took a different flight,” my younger son said, sitting at the table in his baseball uniform. “She’ll be here tomorrow.” God damn it, I thought, if there’s anything worse than acting like a chicken, it’s acting like a chicken WITH NO PAYOFF. I pictured my vile ex-brother-in-law, gloating over my failure to appear. Then I pictured him not even noticing. Then I pictured nobody giving a shit one way or the other, and I decided enough was enough. “I’m going to take the cousins to ice cream,” I told my sons, and I called my ex-husband to set things up.

The following day, feeling very noble indeed, I went for a walk with consoling-windows friend and her enormous eight-month-old puppy. It was mid-morning, hot, and my kids (and the younger of my nephews) were at the three-hour morning camp that every kid in our town attends, either as a camper or a counselor. Consoling-windows friend and I were wearing the t-shirts we’d slept in. Our hair was uncombed, our teeth unbrushed. I had an exceedingly goofy pair of shoes on. The dog didn’t mind, and we saw no one we knew. But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should we meet but Mr. McGregor!

(Digression: I donated our complete set of Beatrix Potter. The house is stripped, almost ready to show, purged of outgrown books and childish things. But I read through my favorites before parting with them, while trying to remind the children of precious childhood memories–for instance, reading Peter Rabbit on our lovely porch at bedtime, while fireflies winked and the lovely smell of night-blooming jasmine wafted through the air. They were blasé. “You LOVED Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” I told my older son, who looked genuinely bewildered. “I did?” he said, flipping through the pages with absolutely no sign of recognition. Ah, the rewards of childrearing….)

Anyway, as I was saying. Down we walked to the baseball field at the end of our street, only to smack right into my ex-husband, my nephew, my ex-brother-in-law, and my ex-sister-in-law, fresh from the airport. My ex-husband was pitching to my nephew, who left the batting box immediately and gave me a hug. My ex-in-laws were perfunctory. Consoling-windows friend was indignant. We said our hellos, then went on our way, feeling frumpier than ever. (My ex-sister-in-law is always well-groomed, and a bit of a clothes horse. Even right off the red-eye, she exudes a certain something.)

I picked the four boys up later that afternoon. My nephews came leaping into the car–the younger one, whom I hadn’t seen yet, was bursting with news. “Long time no SEE!” he exclaimed joyously. “How ARE you? What have you been UP to? How is your WRITING going?” Everyone talked at once–they fought to talk. We laughed and laughed and teased my older nephew when he spilled ice cream on his shirt. I taught them an obnoxious song–they had a five hour drive with their parents the following day–and incited the four of them to misbehave, there in my messy car, with the windows rolled down and the radio turned up and ice cream melting all over the place. We ended up at the pool, where their parents joined us after a bit, at which point I got out of the water and went to sit in my customary spot in the shade. No one joined me. My ex-in-laws chose chairs about twenty feet away, and sat with their backs to me, together. This, I thought, was unnecessary. I could feel the afternoon’s good mood fizzling, and I got up to leave.

I hugged my nephews good bye, maneuvering so I could push them into the pool afterwards, and I kissed my kids. I said goodbye to my ex-in-laws, praised the cuteness of their children, thanked them for letting me take them for part of the afternoon. “They were really excited to see you,” my ex-sister-in-law said. I told her how sweet they had been, and wished them a pleasant drive (the song! the song! Let’s hope my nephews remembered to deploy it.) Waving goodbye, my ex-sister-in-law called me by an old, affectionate nickname–one of my ex-husband’s nicknames for me, which startled me. I’m sure it showed. No one has called me by that nickname in years–is that still how they think of me? I backed away slowly, smiling and waving, then fled.

Later my kids told me how nice it had been when we all went out together. I kept thinking about my nephews, how big they were now, how genuinely happy to see me they seemed, how much fun it was to see them. And so what if their parents gave me the cold shoulder? Truth is, they acted exactly the same way when I was still married. But now I have an excuse to see the kids on their own, since I’m the sister outlaw. The outlaw aunt. I ride in on my Volvo and break all the rules. Who cares what the stuffy grown-ups think?

The ice cream cups and napkins are still in my car–it fits my outlaw image to be a total slob–and they make me happy every time I see them. What a delightful thing–a pair of nephews restored. I couldn’t be happier.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2012 1:00 pm

    Oh gosh. I loved this. An outlaw auntie! What freedom!

  2. Kathryn Conway permalink
    July 6, 2012 1:07 pm

    good goin’ josey wales! 🙂

  3. July 6, 2012 2:40 pm

    That’s great. How nice for your kids and nephews!

  4. July 6, 2012 4:19 pm

    I loved this. It ought to go in the anthology, “How to Treat Your Outlaws.” (Which doesn’t exist but should.)

  5. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 6, 2012 5:34 pm

    It’s all really due to the extreme good nature of my nephews, who were so damned adorable and funny and fun to be with. I’m not sure, but this may in fact be the very last awkward post-divorce kink. There’s nothing left that daunts me, now…everything I worried about or wondered about or felt queasy about has come to pass. Oh, the peace of mind!

  6. July 7, 2012 10:49 pm

    oh how lovely! i’m so glad you had a great time with the kids; who cares what the adults think!! i love being an aunt; i’m so close to my nephews and neices. Of course these are all on my side of the family! 🙂 but really this is such a heartwarming post. as much as the adults may dislike you, at least they are not interfering with their kids’ showing you affection. (also, please excuse me putting it this way; i cannot help myself; only because my ex is still trying to turn my very young children’s minds against me)

  7. July 8, 2012 1:04 am

    this is totally unrelated. in your writings you mention sitting on your porch, watching fireflies … well, i came across this article and my first thought was about you … for your sons if they should ask you about …

  8. Juliet Gingles permalink
    July 9, 2012 7:08 am

    Divorce is not always good. You should normally work out first the problems in your marriage before settling into divorce. In asian countries, divorce is almost completely unheard of for the reason that they have lots of patience on their marriage. “”;:’

  9. penny permalink
    July 9, 2012 11:58 am

    LOVE your writings. GOOD for you on teaching the kids the annoying song. You are hysterical.
    To Juliet… unless you travel in the same shoes- keep your comments to yourself. Divorce is an unfortunate event- however- there are times where it’s the best for all involved. Have some love (if not understanding) for others.

  10. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 16, 2012 6:25 pm

    I’m pretty sure “Juliet” is spam, and therefore knows not what she says….but thank you for rallying to my defense. I’m always amazed I haven’t had more bad comments. Even on Babble, those who wrote were mostly kind. Perhaps internet trolls are becoming less common?

  11. Brant Conyer permalink
    March 25, 2013 4:08 pm

    Divorce can be a tumultuous time and if not managed properly, can be one of the most financially devastating life events. The process can be emotional and intense and the financial decisions you make during this time might be some of the most important economic decisions of your life. It is imperative to understand your complete financial situation. Knowledge and preparation will be crucial to your creating a sound financial agreement.


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