Sunday, June 14, 2015
This I Shall Tell You
Recently I changed my name back to my maiden one. When I went to the social security office, the clerk glanced down at my divorce decree, quickly looked up at me and asked, "What took you so long???" I had kept my husband's name to make things easier for my daughter.
It's been 28 years since my former husband placed a one hundred dollar bill in the empty space on the bookshelf that was left by the stereo he yanked from the wall. For the record, he also took our sterling silver flatware his parents gave us seven years before on our wedding day. The money he left was meant for a month of diapers, food and gasoline but even in 1987, it didn't go far. Something else was missing that afternoon too - beach towels from the hall closet which eventually led me to the discovery of the new young lady in my husband's life. Suddenly the world tipped on its axis and I was a grieving single mother of an infant. In order to divorce me quickly, my husband filed "Cruel and Abusive Treatment". I remember the judge's scoffing question to my husband, "Did she hit you with a rolling pin or something"? But the judge divorced us anyway and I rushed home to nurse our baby.
I could tell you all the indignities I suffered, the hardships, the friends that fell away because they were suddenly uncomfortable with my singleness. I could tell you about the smoke detectors he knew were not hooked up the day he left, the time his mother said I needed to do some yard work so the house would sell faster (his family owns an industrial landscaping company which had stopped coming weekly). I could tell you about the day the young lady sped up the driveway in a new car to hand deliver another overdue child support check, the day my mother-in-law stopped by to collect her son's tuxedo for a big party, and the time the electricity was turned off (again) because he didn't pay the bill on time. But no...no, I won't tell you all that.
Instead I will tell you how I learned to be both mother and father to my daughter. And I will tell you about the time I stayed up all night teaching myself to quilt so that I could finish a pretty flower-sprigged jacket for her. And how the next day when I photographed her wearing the jacket at the playground, there was no one to delight in it with me or delight with me in her but how we enjoyed the bright October sun anyway and began the rhythm for our future days. And I will tell you the story about the day we moved from our big house to a three room apartment and my daughter whispered that first night, "Mommy this feels like home too". And there is the story about the revolving door of babysitters and how hard pressed I was to find her most favorite who eventually came with matching bunny slippers and chocolate chips to bake cookies during The Great Chicken Pox Week when I couldn't take off from work. I will tell you about my mother's unending rescues and how she lifted me up with encouragement and checks when I was lonely and broke. I will tell you about the surprising tears I shed at my daughter's first ballet recital when she twirled to "Somewhere Up There" in a white tutu, silver shoes and a shy angelic smile. That was the day my sister leaned over and squeezed my hand - tears in her eyes too, for a precious little girl who never knew a daddy. And there is the story of friends who ran out to the drugstore for me so I didn't have to take my child out of her sick bed in the middle of the night to get her medication, and friends who thought to ask us to dinner on especially painful long holiday weekends in summer. A church that welcomed us and had fathers who told my daughter she was pretty and good. Oh I will tell you so much more - the years at a new middle school when the mean girls finally got to her and how months later at graduation, she was called three times to the stage for three separate awards, including "Nicest Classmate". And her other graduations, including the night she received her graduate degree and how I embraced her and whispered, "Now go find your geek!" And I will tell you how she did just that and fell in love with a smart and fine young man with kind eyes who loves her back. And I will tell you that in a few weeks she will marry in front of family and friends, colleagues and bosses who tell me over and over what a wonderful woman she is and a gifted Special Ed teacher that is making a difference in our
Yes...yes, this I shall tell you.
Note: the picture is from a card I bought and framed in 1987 for my bedroom wall.