Thursday, November 24, 2011
From the roots...
Two years and a month ago, I left my husband. I won't go into detail, but he took everything from money to the remaining vestiges of my pride and self-worth. I was a broken woman with two broken children. It was with a lot of fear that I packed up my car with my two beautiful daughters, our cat, and the clothes we owned, and began a two day drive to another State where my parents were waiting to take us in. On the way, I stayed at the house of one of my publishers. Her sense of humor and energy brought life back to my children and dried the tears I'd been shedding for the man my husband could have been, but wasn't.
I arrived at my destination the next day, and spent the following year getting my girls back on track with their self-confidence. It took a lot to rebuild their security and to let them know that the three of us would weather on just fine, even when their father began his campaign against me to our former (powerful) community. My kids knew the truth, they'd seen it, and their relationship with him was changed forever.
A year later, I had enough to venture out again. My family wanted me to stay, but I knew better. I'd already been hiding my writing from them for a full year, but it was challenging. With no locks on the doors and me working about seventy hours a week from home, there were constant interruptions and opinions about what I should be doing with my time. And from their view point, I understand. All they knew was I barely paid the bills and worked like a dog doing something obscure online.
November 8th last year, I left a second time and set my sights on Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were a lot of factors involved. But the biggest hurdle was that I had purchased a home here with everything I had after the divorce finalized (no, y'all, I got a fraction of what he stole from me and next to nothing in child support) and the couple in the home refused to move out.
Two friends stepped up to save me when my family deserted me. Again that's another story, but suffice it to say homelessness is not something I chose for myself or my children. For three weeks we lived out of a motel room, wrangling the cheapest price I could and hiding our living situation from the schools. My kids would have been kicked out of school, had they known we weren't in the area.
At one point we lived in a motel that housed a prison penitentiary and the morning commute to school meant squeezing through a throng of over muscled men with fresh cuts and bruises who were a little too interested in us. Through it all Bronwyn Green and Brynn Paulin kept me sane. Bronwyn cooked dinner for us every night without fail. She did our laundry and invited us to her home for hours each day. She was literally my angel. Brynn Paulin, who had just moved, opened her home to me during the day so that I could work. She invited me in to her community of friends (non-writing related), and invited me to gatherings the reminded me what normal was supposed to look like.
A year ago today I had Thanksgiving with Brynn's family. I thanked her several times, but I still cried on my way home for the generosity shown me that day. And that evening, the couple finally moved out of my house and I wasted no time getting in.
A lot has happened in a year. There have been trials and challenges through it all. There have been adjustments and relationships working things out whether between my children and their father, or me and which church I attend, but we've never forgotten how it could have been.
Last year changed our lives. I grew up, which is a weird thing for someone with two kids to say. We're starting new traditions and we're keeping some old ones. But most importantly we value the lessons we've learned along the way. There are people who are family because we were born into them. Then there are those that are family because you chose them and they can become more integrated in who you are than those who share your blood.
Family, both types, have hiccups along the way and that doesn't mean they are less important to you. On the contrary those adjustment periods are because they mean so much to you that you shift and sort yourself to make the fit that much better.
We go through phases. Your sister might always argue your ear off. Your mom will never be satisfied with her cranberry sauce made fresh and differently every year. Your brother will never stop being self-centered or rude to his wife. Your dad will never understand what you do for a living and he will never stop grumbling about whatever political party he hates most. Football and parades may always be the Thanksgiving issue and you may think your sister in law should get a clue.
Your friends may be near or far, unhappy or distracted. You may have had recent disagreements or ones that have festered. But your friends are yours by choice. Remember why you have them and what they mean to you. Yes, even if they're in another State. Friends, good ones, are hard to come by. Then imagine those friends around the table with you today. Look at them in your mind's eyes, sitting side by side with your relatives. They are more than the individual but the sum of the whole. And that's just one equation that will never change. These people are your family. Remind them, while you are reminding yourself, how important they are to you.
While you're at it, start a new tradition if the old ones have grown stale. Heck, start one if you yourself have grown stale. This year, we instituted a new one that we've pledged to carry into our gray hairs. All Thanksgivings at home, whether alone or with other invited guests, will be in pajamas. I don't care if you have fancy hair and footies, or long silk robes and undergarments in place. It's all about the comfort. But um, please wear pants.
And while you're at all this reflection and change.... have a very Happy Thanksgiving.