Of course, now it all seems logical. I was brought up in a chaotic environment, so my ex-husband’s large, traditional family seemed like THE answer to my inner turmoil. I so respected the common sense, the rules, the rituals–even if it all intimidated the hell out of me. And I fell very much in love with an inaccessible, serious man. No surprise, then, that what attracted me, smothered me. Eventually, after a 20-year relationship with my ex (and his family), I ended it.
To be truthful, holidays do hurt as a result.
I want my kids to be with their dad and his family when they have annual whatever-it-might-be’s, surrounded by a dozen aunts and uncles and the dozens of cousins–and their dad and his girlfriend. I can’t offer anything even close, as my family is fractured (my one sibling lives out-of-town, and my parents divorced just this past year). My 3 kids spend a very busy Christmas Eve at my former in-laws opening gifts and feasting.
I got a text from my ex-husband during this last X-Mas Eve’s hubbub, when I was home alone, wrapping my kids’ gifts. It was a photo of the 2 of us, at about 19 years old. A portrait, actually, taken at Sears, I think. My former father-in-law decided to gift (??) my ex with a box full of pictures of me and notes/poetry I’d written him. I find this odd, but not at all strange, for my former father-in-law. He’s a sweet man, and I think he was probably just cleaning up the basement. Or something. Nonetheless, it certainly felt like a final last scrub of the house to make sure all traces of me were removed.
On Christmas morning, before my kids came back to me after staying the night at their dad’s, my ex sent a photo of a note I’d written him in 1993. I’m not sure why, but it crushed me. My kids walked in the door to find me with tears in my eyes.
It’s rather awkward that my ex-husband’s entire family has, one by one, moved to the city in which I live. 3 live in my neighborhood. I don’t think anyone hates me, but I can’t be sure. There is definitely some iciness with some. A small wave I consider a grand gesture from others. Being the clannish family they are, there are times I have to suck it up and sit alone at my daughters’ basketball games while I watch them slide in next to each other.
I sincerely appreciate any love and support they show my children. And if it wasn’t clearly unwelcome and painfully awkward, I’d probably sit closer to the family in the bleachers. When my hs freshman daughter made varsity basketball this year, it was a Big Deal. 14 of them showed up for her first game. My son, as kind to and protective of me as he can be, walked me in and sat with me for most of the game. I realize all this is a natural outcome of divorce, and nights like that aren’t about me, anyway. Still, it’s hard not to feel bummed about being conspicuous and isolated.
I watched my ex’s girlfriend chat with a couple of my former sisters-in-law, who hadn’t attempted to wave or make eye contact with me. My heart warmed a little seeing the way she fits in. I squirmed and looked to see how many more minutes were on the clock, how many more eternal basketball minutes I’d have to sit alone.
Then I imagined myself in the girlfriend’s spot, only not as girlfriend, but as wife again. I imagined the squeeze of the family around me and the attempts to make small talk. I imagined scanning the bleachers from that seat and spotting a woman sitting alone.
“Damn,” I’d think. “She has it made.”