Thursday, January 18, 2018
How dare we think of January only as a month to last through, as if the unfolding days are not worth their time. I was a Christmas snob cloaked in my sentimentality of holiday songs, warm passionate holiday colors and evergreen trees and boughs which adorned my home. Or perhaps I just really really like Christmas. (I am still brushing up piles of pine needles as I sweep carpets, floors and heat vents.)
Oh I know I lamented, refused even, to give into the crisp blues and sparkles of January, but I did. (I did paint my nails the frostiest blue I could find). It was time. With ridiculous stubbornness, I unplugged the building light displays.
But subzero temperatures had delayed family Christmas season outings until Epiphany Saturday. And while the meal, conversations and football games were more than enough, a true new tradition was born when everyone had left. Everyone that is, except for my eighty-two year old mother and I.
With a fresh pot of coffee, the two of us packaged and organized Christmas village decorations back in red Christmas storage boxes. She dusted tree ornaments, most of which had been given to me from her. We both smiled. I rewrapped. Ornaments were retucked in their green plastic storage container. In an epiphany of epiphanies, I saw spread out before me an organized color-coding of history, memories and a bit of the rights of womanhood. From my mom. From me. From years ago. Hmm. My excuse of not having the capacity for creativity, high intelligence and organization was becoming very flimsy (yes, please laugh and roll your eyes).
My mother and I packaged and talked until two in the morning. We also managed to eat half a fruitcake.
Technically the days are again growing longer. Every three days or so, almost by instinct or habit or both, I find myself measuring the sunset shadows from trees to snow, partnering with the hands on the clock. A bit further. A bit longer the day. A bit brighter. Unfortunately the day’s length has little impact upon the temperature; an inviting sparkling hand which tempts a person, “come nearer,” with the bitterest of freeze-dried soul.
I have found a peculiar new passion for January in Wisconsin in grilling experiments and bonfires. There is something magical about both, in the subzero temperatures. The night blackens so quickly with the sun disappearing to a mild glow through the wooded horizon. And then the sky is black. With a moonless night, the stars are diamond studs lain across black velvet. There would be no other way to display the universe’s finest. In the woods, all around you is blackness except the soft blue-white snow and the lights of the house.
And of a bonfire crispy licking at the eight degrees below zero air which surrounds its flames.
He said, “I’m sorry.” Words I had never heard from him about anything deeper than a forgotten orange juice. And that even might be giving him credit where none is due.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
I looked at him, stunned. He had continued to explain he knew exactly when ‘it’ became clear. I am not sure when he figured ‘it’ out but it had not been during months of marriage counseling. During the thick of our battles, he had never been sorry. Now you could be wondering about what type of shrew I would be, to not admit my faults. Oh, I have plenty of ‘fault’. I have plenty of sin and blame to place upon my shoulders. I have no problem admitting it.
“I remember the night we went out to eat, for a Friday night fish fry. It was just the two of us. I messed up. I’m sorry.” Now, of course, the survival of a twenty year marriage does not depend upon one night out. The spark is not lost on one incident. Through the wretched last years of marriage, through the counseling and battles and attempts, it was an evening to which I kept referring. We had gone to eat at a favorite country tavern. It was one of those perfect ‘date like’ couple moments in which your top notch clothes and top-notch preparations are not demanded (because in reality, although a person loves Friday night, you have worked. Best jeans, please. Nice outfit. Smell good. Look smashing. Yes. Black tie / pantyhose? Nope, save it.) In Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry is a cultural staple. Religious, not religious. It does not matter. Fridays are fish night. A person may wonder at the quality but I assure you that this particular pub has the best baked scallops (and a wonderful whiskey, wink. ) and always the resounding echos of a week’s earned laughter.
It had been our chance at a romantic Friday evening so many years ago. What happened I really wish not to write. But it was not romantic and it was not salvageable.
We both began to cry, separated by the comfort of the distance of the kitchen island, a stove top width between us. In a sappy romantic movie, the moment could have been a rush into each others arms. A reconciliation. It was reconciliation for us too, but it was a reconciling of one of the too many moments in our marriage which had been infliction rather than affection.
I let myself cry with him for the first time in three years, the distance he and I have traveled since the divorce. I did not rush into his arms. Nor did I run away. I physically moved away from the kitchen island to the other side of the room in order to cry, still in the same room yet at a distance. It was a space of a sorrowful kindness and tears of gratitude. Healing in the first days of the new year.
Eventually our tears dried. Managing the details of the business of raising our son replaced the scattering sentiments of our broken bond. Our marriage was broken but not our family. We have truly figured out how to be friends.
“I’m sorry” had rung in my head. For hours I was not really sure of neither how I felt nor of how I should feel. I was stunned as if hit by bad news but I could not figure out why. Was this not good news?
It took hours into the following day to realize the recognition of reality. For the first time he had admitted to what he had done. Like a rope flung to another side of time, back to that time in my life, his apology secured a piece of my soul, bridging what I had written about to another perspective. He had been a participant and a witness to the time when my whole world changed. I had written journals during those days, trying to clear my own disbelief at the extreme nature of hatred I had felt from people who had called themselves my friends. I had wrestled with understanding all of them, coupling their actions with justifications. I still held a smidgen of my own disbelief.
What happened to me professionally at that time was the literal icing on the cake. I worked in a field, in a segment of society, which prides itself by the vows of its own doctrine, to lend a hand to those who had been downed. I had been through years of a marriage in turmoil and during the last months of my marriage, my professional life and the life I had fell apart. There had been no one to help me. There was no hand, not to me, not to my husband, not to our marriage and especially not to our son. In the months prior I reached for help to only find mockery and no one to help. Not from that part of my life. Lately a new question popped in my head.
Why did not my friend, my boss, why did she not stand for me? Why did she not reach out either to those above to assist me or to others around me? Another curiosity to which I no longer need an answer.
But I did find friends. I did. And I did hear an “I’m sorry” that seemed to be one of those blanketed apologies like an all-encompassing blanket property insurance policy.
It covered all damages.
His voiced words were like the painting of golden brushstrokes. It was a moment of kintsugi. My wounds, my scars. I was sorry too.
Blessings to you. May my life, to you,….well just know that anything is possible. Healing is possible. Have faith, work hard, believe, love.
Love you. Lots of love.
PS. Oh! I almost forgot – the January vegetable grilling recipe. Two red peppers for sweetness and color. A large container of fresh baby bella mushrooms and a good sized head of broccoli. Szechuan sauce and a bit of olive oil. Grill in aluminum or in a grilling vegetable basket alongside the meat.
Why do I feel like the adventure is just beginning? Hmm. Stay tuned. X