Saturday, October 23, 2010

This is the Divorce that Never Ends...

Anyone who believes that a divorce is over when the judge signs the decree is seriously mistaken. It drags on. And on. And on.

The other day I was thinking about my family's holiday traditions. One of the ones that means the most to me is something my mom does: every year in December she gives us a new Christmas ornament, usually one of a series. I grew up receiving the Schmid Beatrix Potter ornaments, my sister got porcelain teddy bears, my dad got Hallmark train engines. We still get these every year, and my mom, being the thoughtful person she is, didn't want my ex-husband to feel left out of the family tradition when he started coming to holidays at our house. She knew he liked Spiderman (his favorite superhero), so she started investing in the Hallmark Spiderman series of ornaments, giving him one each year and hanging them on the tree along with all the rest. Which was great, and I still appreciate her even thinking to do it, but now it leaves me with one problem: those ornaments are still at my parents' house, boxed up along with everything else, waiting to be hung on the tree this year. Wrapped carefully in newspaper, little cartoon mementos of my failed marriage just waiting to come out of hiding and remind me of the life I thought I would have and never will.

What do I do with them? I'm certain we won't hang them on the tree this year, not out of spite but to avoid the awkwardness of them. In fact, I'm willing to bet my mom will have separated them out and hidden them away before I even arrive home for the holidays. But that still leaves me with the problem of deciding their fate. Do I offer them to my ex? They were his, after all, but I'm fairly sure he won't want them for the same reason I don't: they just feel sad now.

I had another "Lingering Divorce" moment earlier this evening. I went to a party at my best friend's place, a housewarming for the house she just bought and moved into with her boyfriend. I don't know most of her other friends, but there are a few I've met before and I was mostly hanging out with them. I was really more or less fine until I heard someone mention that another couple had just arrived. Their names sounded familiar, and then I remembered: one of my best friend's coworkers is married to a guy who used to work with my ex-husband a few years back. I met them once or twice at company picnics and holiday parties. And suddenly, even thought I was 98% sure they wouldn't even remember who I was if I explained the connection to them let alone recognize me on their own, I was anxious and scared and nervous and uncomfortable all at once. If they did recognize me, there would have to be the inevitable explanation and accompanying awkwardness. And if they didn't, I would still be apprehensive the rest of the night. So I finally did what any mature adult would do: I left.

And then, of course, there's the birthday situation. Not mine. His. It's coming up soon, and while he and I are still friendly, I wouldn't say we're friends. Can I send him an email to wish him a happy birthday? An IM? Or do I stay away all together? Why isn't there a handbook for the recently divorced, something like the Handbook for the Recently Deceased in Beetlejuice?

Every time I think I'm over the divorce and really just dealing with my own issues now (and they are substantial, trust me), things like this come up and remind me that even if I am more or less over the divorce it still has the ability to rear its ugly head and disrupt my life. I wonder when it will stop, if ever. And I wonder, if it doesn't stop, if it will at least stop bothering me.

Update, 10/25/2010: I spoke to my mom today (who reads my blog regularly) and she informed me that she had already planned to hide my ex-husband's ornaments away well before my arrival. Oh, and the wedding album has been put into hiding as well. Well done, Mom. I love you.


fortunecookiejunkie said...

One day several months ago, I walked into my parents' house and noticed the bridal portrait that had adorned the entry wall had been replaced by a much smaller, much less embarrassing portrait (of birds). My mother had done that so many months before, without my even realizing. I suspect your mother will also shield you from that process, as you suggest. What our mothers can't shield us from is the insidious, often unexpected ways divorce creeps into our daily lives. There's no telling how long we will wrestle with those moments.

As far as what to do with the ornaments, sell them on eBay. No reason not to.

ilovebabyquilts said...

I know what you mean, a similar thing happened to me when I lost that baby. I didn't realize how many people had seen me pregnant for those 36 weeks, from the checker at 7-11 to a distant neighbor, I got "where's the baby?" cheerful questions for a year afterwards. Had to tell the story over and over, reopening the wound each time. It does eventually get better, eventually EVERYONE knows and it stops being weird.

Anonymous said...

Leaving is a perfectly adult thing to do. Or maybe I just say that because it is what I would have done. :/ If you both have Facebook, I highly recommend it for post-divorce ~friendly communication. I think it nicely straddles the line of 'I didn't forget your birthday, but you weren't worth an email."

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