"Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future". - Steve Jobs
I call this the limbo time of year between the glorious fall foliage and the frigid winter blast that always arrives sooner than I'm ready. It's unusually balmy, a night we might otherwise be outside biking or at the park. The comfort of that thought makes me want to bundle up my precious ones in my arms and NOT tell them anything. We've dreaded this inevitable moment for the better part of a year and on this early November evening in 2004, the 7th to be exact, we will tell our three young children that their little lives are about to divide in half. After having worked out the myriad of details involved in this new life forward, my soon to be ex-husband and I were determined to be able to answer as many of their questions as we could. They didn't know it yet but he had bought the house around the corner; privacy for our lives apart yet convenient to keep their lives as stable as we could. School would remain the same, friends, community activities, parks and bike routes. One week here where they had always lived, the next week there. "Mommy's House" and "Daddy's House"...how strange that sounds when I say it out loud.
How could we make the unknown less frightening? We knew what we didn't want for them; none of the chaos and dysfunction we so often heard about. That wasn't our story, nor would it be our legacy. Their needs were our priority; no different than if we were a family together under one roof. We would always be their parents protecting them from harm. Our family would soon discover a new kind of normal. We were retiring our marriage after 18 years. Divorcing.
Funny what you notice during surreal moments when change creeps in, pulls up a chair and makes itself at home. My hands are sweaty and my head is hot. My throat is dry and my dread is palpable. I feel the fear; for them and for myself but can't let on. Here I sit at the top of the stairs where I've sat a million times over the last 14 years. It's my perch to welcome friends, wave the children off to school, and applaud the parade of neighborhood kids' Halloween costumes in our entrance-way. This was my observation deck of high traffic and countless memories. I look down and notice dog hair from our black springer spaniel staring back at me from the dusty rose carpets that were in fashion when we built this house in 1990. Surely I had vacuumed yesterday?
What defines the kind of moment you know is a snapshot for your memory quilt, frozen in time? What defines a feeling happening now that you'll surely remember forever as the point of departure? This is the moment when everything changes. For every family, the moment is different. I was about to become the captain of my own ship. I had never lived on my own before. We were in full agreement to co-parent three young sailors 50-50, who never asked to be crew on the journey. I would stay here; take on the financial responsibility of this house by myself, and to do so I had spent months re-establishing my company after many years of part-time client contracts organized around full-time stay-at-home parenting. Doing things right had taken time. I am grateful for a home office, where I can continue to work keeping to some kind of routine. I did know one thing for sure: that a new reality would officially begin today for our two sons and daughter, ages 13, 9 and 6.
I look over at my husband wondering when the moment will present itself, the quiet just before our words would begin to flow. The time would choose itself. There would be no turning back from this day, our lives were moving in two different directions. Our house was now mine and with the proceeds of his sale to me, his life would have a new start, right around the corner.
Our New Normal begins
Telling them Mommy and Daddy are going to be living in two places from now on; that we are not going to be married together anymore but that the most important thing was that we loved the three of them with all our hearts, more than anything in the world, just about broke me. Uncertain, confused stares and then tears. My gut ached and I think I forgot to breathe. And then, THE question we had prepared for came: "where's Daddy going to live"? Our reply was ready telling them about that nice little house around the corner with the backyard on their favorite park. They knew which house we were talking about. "That's Daddy's house now and on Sunday nights, we'll take turns and you will still have us both, but you will have us in two houses."
I'm not sure how long the millisecond lasts before they asked their next question with wide-eyed wonder: "Can we go there...now?" One look between us acknowledges that this is our defining moment, the first of many. I don't think I skip a beat when I say with a lump in my throat, "Of course you can, go ahead". And with that, they gather up their coats and with childlike anticipation of the unknown mixed with strange comfort, the four of them walk out together and close the door.
And here I sit. Alone in the loud silence in "my" house, change wrapping itself around me and little puddles quickly appear as dark pink polka dots on the well-worn carpet. The tears come as the moving on meets the letting go. At 41, the next leg of my personal journey was underway but so was my new-found friendship with courage, belief, faith and new hope for the future.