How I Spent My Summer Vacation
My ex-husband moved. Dear readers, those of you who assured me that the Cottage Formerly Known as Dream was not the answer to all my prayers were absolutely correct. Had I gotten what I wanted back in 2010, I would have been out on the street in 2013. “The landlords need me out by July, so their daughter can move in,” my ex-husband told me back in May, sounding a bit frantic.
A happy, self-actualized, independent ex-wife would have left him to sort the particulars of his own life out. A happy, self-actualized, independent ex-husband would have been capable of sorting his own particulars. I wonder, sometimes, whether fucked-up marital relationships are doomed to persist, forever and ever, as long as the ex-spouses continue to interact. I bring out the worst in my ex-husband, I fear, and he brings out the absolute worst in me.
So, and predictably, I became obsessed with his move. I scoured Craigslist and the classified section of our tiny town’s tiny weekly newspaper, which he stubbornly refused to look at. I found him a house nearby. I found another. I found a third. Some he looked at, some he ignored, all were unsatisfactory. Eventually, he found a house in a town half an hour away–a town where he knows no one, a town that is moderately convenient to the children’s school and not at all convenient to my house nor to his lab. He took the children to look at it, signed a lease, and I went quietly ballistic.
What the fuck, I said to myself (and to my boyfriend, and to consoling-windows friend, and everyone who crossed paths with me, and anyone who foolishly picked up the phone when I called) was his problem? Had he forgotten that the children spend the whole summer with me, all day every day, and that our older son’s job and our younger son’s half-assed half-day camp both were located here, in my town, half an hour away from his new house? Was he planning to drive them every single morning over to me by eight thirty a. m.? Was he then planning to pick them up after work at my house, when he deigned to come and get them for “his” evenings? What about when school started? Had he forgotten that school ends in the afternoon, and he doesn’t get home till evening? What about sports? Had he forgotten that he leans heavily on the kindness of neighbors with children on our kids’ teams, who drive them to and fro when he doesn’t want to?
I raged, I fumed, I counted the ways he was an imbecile. And then I woke up one morning, after weeks of this, and thought, what the hell. It’s his stupid life to lead wherever he wants, and it’s not the end of the world
So the moral of the story is that I’m a bossy domineering jerk. Getting bent out of shape was a waste of time and energy. Besides, it probably gave me shingles.
Surrounded By Children
The kids were with me every day all summer. They talked non stop and ate like locusts and made it impossible to get work done, but I was in such a state, most of the time, that I didn’t care. I wish I could say that they were a glorious distraction, that they sensed that I was out of sorts and tense and sad, but they were oblivious, which is (I suppose) a good thing. You don’t want your kids worrying about you, tiptoeing around you.
My boyfriend’s younger daughter and my younger son flew by themselves down to South Carolina to visit my mom for a week. They marched right on the plane without so much as a backward look, carping at each other like an old married couple, dragging their wheeled suitcases behind them. (They’re now 12 and 11, grades seven and six, in case you’ve lost track.) Meanwhile, my boyfriend’s older daughter and my older son went to look at colleges with their other respective parents and ended up, at one school they visited, on the same tour. “It’s a real pain in the neck explaining who we are,” my son told me, when he got home. “So we just say we’re brother and sister now.” He has a point–“My mom’s boyfriend’s daughter, who’s here with her mom, actually, and I’m here with my dad, and they don’t know each other, so it’s a bit odd,” is cumbersome. Still, the brother/sister thing unsettles me slightly.
So now my boyfriend’s ex and mine have been officially introduced, and I wonder what they made of each other. If the kids end up going to college together–they’ve both applied early decision to the same place–this sort of thing will become commonplace.
We couldn’t manage a week away with all four kids this year–their various sports and jobs and camps made it impossible to coordinate. But in late August we drove in two cars with three of the four up to my mother’s rented house in Maine, stopping along the way to camp by the ocean near an old boarding school friend of mine. My boyfriend’s older daughter rode shotgun in my car the whole way. On both long days of driving, she talked for about six hours straight and made me laugh so hard I almost drove off the road.
For years and years–since my children were born, come to think of it–people saw fit to warn me about teenagers. Oh, you like your kids now, but just wait a few more years. Then you’ll really be in for it, these same people predicted darkly. Well, why wouldn’t they be right? After all, everyone knows that teenagers are monstrous. I never thought to question anyone. I just figured I’d deal with the problems as they came. I know I’m not out of the woods–bad things could come up at any moment!–but so far so good. And neither my boyfriend’s seventeen-year-old daughter nor my seventeen-year-old son are perfect by any standards, but my god do they ever entertain us.
Hideously, Pointlessly Furious With Family
Here’s a dire prediction that did, in fact, come true: Families tear each other to pieces over the most ridiculous things. It’s not just money, though of course there is that, too. What has become apparent since my grandmother’s death is that she was not only the emotional center of our clan, but the ethical and moral center, too–both the glue that held us together and the whip that made everyone behave. Without her, we’re vicious and nasty and utterly adrift. I don’t know how other families cope with death. I don’t know how other families divvy up property and renegotiate their places in the hierarchy of siblings and cousins and parents and children. I do know that my family seems to be doing everything badly, with no thought to long-term harmony and a good deal of cutting-off-noses-to-spite-our-faces. It’s horrifying, and I’m glad my grandmother isn’t alive to see it.