Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Quiet Ferocity Part One: Flames and Embers

on July 20, 2015

It was all so long ago. In my senior year of high school it was the tradition in my small southern town to give parties – lots of them – to honor the graduates. The hostesses paired us girls up with a boy by asking us to choose an escort. I had had my eye on the class president for a while and jumped at the chance to go to parties with him. One thing led to another and eventually he warmed up to me. After graduation his family moved to another town and we both went off to college. The end of my dream – or so it seemed to me.

He came back to town to visit friends a couple of times after that. We had fun going to Christmas dances, another of the town’s cultural delights. Nothing much was said about “feelings”. That was the 50’s. Then out of the blue I received a gorgeous bunch of yellow roses from him the spring of my senior year of college. That summer he wrote a letter saying that if I weren’t wearing the fraternity pin or engagement ring of another boy, he wanted to visit me. I was getting used to his non-verbal style and found it quite romantic. Also I could read into it whatever I wanted.

Life went on. He went off to fulfill his R.O.T.C. obligation. Those were the days of the Draft when all young men were required to spend two years in military service. I went off to find a job and became a bank teller. That Thanksgiving when he was home on leave from the Army we got together for a college football game close to his home and the city where I worked. After the game we had supper in a small cafe on the town square. He asked me to marry him. Well, I did have to think about that! Next day I said “Yes”. We bought a bottle of Champagne to celebrate and with it a can opener that had a corkscrew and beer opener attached so we could open it. The can opener has out-lasted my two marriages. It is in my kitchen drawer as I write.

We were married for thirty years in the then-traditional division of labor model. We became parents of three boys we both loved dearly. I was the full-time mother and he was the full-time bread-winner. In time we began to live separate lives and divorced.

Five years after the divorce we attended our 40th high school reunion, separately. This was only the second reunion our class had celebrated and we had missed the first, our 20th. He had a companion with him. I was by myself. A classmate I had not known well began a conversation with me saying he had been in love with me in the sixth grade. He showed me snapshots he had taken of other classmates and me with his Brownie box camera, an early forerunner of the cellphone camera. I laughed and replied that I had no idea. This was the beginning of another story and my second marriage.

Our marriage lasted almost twenty years. Good years. We traveled to most of the places I had long wanted to see. In time the same old division of labor thing intervened. I should have known that my hard-won sense of being my own woman clashed with his idea of my role in his life.

In the last few years of our marriage we began spending Christmas at my son’s house. My daughter-in-law had decided she would invite us and my former husband along with his companion to dinner. Things grew comfortable between all of us. The day after Christmas one year my daughter-in-law took some of the out-of-town guests to see a local attraction. My husband, my former husband, two of my sons and one grandchild stayed behind. My daughter-in-law, who loved to cook and decorate the dining room table for guests, was late getting back. We got hungry and decided to feed ourselves leftovers. My former husband, two of our sons and I rummaged around in the refrigerator and came up with a fine meal. We stood at the kitchen counter and ate from containers – a stark contrast to my daughter-in-law’s elegant entertaining. We looked at each other and suddenly recognized that we were acting like the “family” we once were. We were bonded by our old habits. My husband and the one grandchild sat at the breakfast table and looked on in amazement as the circle of family kept spinning.

10 responses to “Quiet Ferocity Part One: Flames and Embers

  1. Lovely. I especially like the line, “The can opener has out-lasted my two marriages. It is in my kitchen drawer as I write.” What a great image! I also like “the circle of family kept spinning.” Nicely done. I enjoyed this a lot. I’m still friends with the father of my sons and we used to get together much more when youngest son lived in the same area as his dad. Now not so much, but the family circle remains. My two husbands even like each other.

  2. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks, Alex. 🙂

  3. Love the twists and turns of history and entwined lives in this, strange how we fall back into patterns of behaviour depending who we’re with.

  4. hbsuefred says:

    A new favorite saying of mine relates to true stories like this that seem fictional.
    You can’t make this stuff up!p
    Don’t know if the fact that all your families seem to get along with each other, even after you and your spouses have split, is a recommendation for traditional gender roles or not. I am sure, however, that they speak very well of you as a parent providing an excellent role model for how we can and should all get along with each other. If only we could apply that example in a much broader scale this world or at least a part of our society would be a better place.
    I think also that you were lucky to have had two such amiable ex-spouses. Was it something in the water in your town? Maybe we could start this quest for a better world there.:)

    • vivachange77 says:

      I like your thoughts and ideas. I agree that getting along with divorced spouses doesn’t fit old gender roles. I think it is more a product of aging when you discover that old “rules:” no longer matter. My sons already have better marriages than my two. Water?..Our town did get its water from artesian wells.

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