Yesterday Bolt and I had a couple of hours to kill while someone was cleaning our house. What to do with a quiet 13-year-old in sub-freezing temperatures on a holiday? My initial thought was the library, until I realized it would be closed for the holiday. He isn’t the type of kid who likes to sit and chat over a meal, so that option too was out. A friend suggested we go hang out at Barnes and Noble, which he reluctantly agreed to do. So, after getting a small breakfast sandwich we headed there. At first, he didn’t seem to know what to do, but I helped guide him to the teen and comic sections while I went in search of travel books. After browsing for a while, we sat down at a table and begin sorting through our chosen books. Before we knew it two hours had flown by. I let him pick a pair of comics to purchase and as we left the store he said, “I thought that would be boring, but it was actually kind of fun”. He is a hard kid to please, but he also doesn’t ask for much, so this was a huge win for us to be able to spend a few comfortable hours in each other’s presence. As we were leaving the store, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia. Sitting for hours in Barnes and Noble pouring over books reminded me of the countless hours my ex and I spent doing the same thing when we were dating and early in our marriage. My ex passed on his love for comics to both of our sons. It was so strange to sit there with my son, doing something my ex and I used to do, while he is across the country creating a new life. Oddly, though, the memory didn’t bring a wave a sadness or grief, but fondness. I am not romanticizing anything, but this memory wasn’t entrenched in the lies of the past decade, but rather in the man I knew then…before…before infertility, before all the lies, before all the affairs. It was a memory that I could dwell in without wondering what and who he was lying to me about. Unfortunately, when the affair came to light, the affairs of the previous decade did as well, and for that reason, I really struggle with my memories with him. However, there is the brief window of time – 4 or so years – that I can think about fondly. So, as Bolt and I hopped in the car, I shared that memory with him too. I want him to know that, while his dad hurt me deeply, I loved him and have some very pleasant memories and hopefully, one day, he will say the same.
Let me preface this by saying that I asked my ex to do very little before he left, but one of the things I specifically requested is that he go through the Christmas stuff. I didn’t want to have to face the process of separating ornaments and drudging up memories. Well, he was too busy to do so over the course of 6 weeks, so tonight I had to do it. I pulled out his ornaments and his stocking and they will travel in one of the boys’s suitcases, along with his baby books that he left behind, when they go see him for Christmas. The tree decorating affair was bittersweet, at best. The boys were being obnoxious about helping and then going on and on about how they loved every one of dad’s ornaments and mocking all of mine. I tried not to cry, but there were also a lot of shared memories that were still hung on the tree. Part of me is glad to have this “first” over and done with, but this was definitely one of the harder ones. When the boys had lost interest in decorating, I took our shared ornaments down to the basement, away from prying eyes, and smashed them into a million pieces. It hurt like hell, but I needed to do it.
The truth is, though, that even though our ornaments are sitting in my trash, I can’t do the same with my memories. The tree is beautiful and full of history and while my ex may have moved on, he still shares pieces of the tree and he always will. I look forward to building on to the tree with new memories, but I cannot pretend that 14 years never happened. Some days, it feels like it would be easier, but he will always occupy a piece of my past. Now, I need to work on creating a new future.