For the past year while my ex and I go through the divorce process, our daughter and I have been living in the marital home. This has been a blessing in many regards: I went from being a “mostly” stay-at home mother with freelance gigs, to being a full-time working mother plus a good freelance load. Basically, I’m trying to get on my financial feet and it’s taking a while thanks to student loans, day care, and the fact that I was out of the work force for some time. The marital home has been one source of stability for my daughter and myself through the dissolution of the marriage. Picking up the pieces of your life after divorce is hard enough and more so, when you add having to move and find new housing.
Sometimes though, being in the marital home has made it seem as if the marriage is not really over. When my ex comes to get my daughter, he walks in as if it’s his home, fixing curtains and greeting the dog as if he was just there a few hours ago. And in many ways, it is his home. It’s his name on the mortgage and those were his curtains and his dog too. When he enters the door whether he’s in a good mood with me or a bad mood with me, I’m dealing with my old married life for better or worse in that brief period of time. A new home would be a new boundary and new way of seeing us in our coparenting roles.
I had decided to take down some photos of him in the house–not all, but the wedding ones and coupled ones. I left a family photo shoot up. I wrestled with this choice: taking down photos eliminates memories but perhaps those memories that may be sad for me, are happy for my daughter? I have been in the process of “rephoto-ing” and trying to decide how to give my daughter memories that are good for her, even if odd for me.
But the photos aren’t the only reminders lingering. For my child, the red washcloth in the shower reminds her of the days in which Daddy lived here.
“This was Daddy’s washcloth when he lived here,” she says.
It’s like his ghost is still here. The other day when I picked up the teakettle to boil water, my first thought was, “This was his teakettle. Not mine.” And a few weeks ago when I broke the toaster oven at first, I cringed ready for intense criticism but then I realized that he’s not here to yell at me over this and won’t be again. The house plays tricks on me: we are totally apart from each other and done, yet the house and its structure says differently because it houses memories as if they’re still going on. As if we’re still going on.
I remember how my ex and I would complain about the lack of space here. We would say we wanted more room. A real yard. One of us would say, “Why is that neighbor being loud?” or “Who didn’t pick up after their dog again?!” We got bogged down in the minutiae called “We’re not happy with what we have, so let’s bitch.” We forgot to be grateful for what we did have, even if it wasn’t what we had imagined when we said ” I do.”
Sure, we had planned for a bigger home but then someone, me, had violently ill pregnancies. The job market was tough. Life was hard. Things didn’t go as we had hoped. It wouldn’t have saved our marriage–we were not destined to be on any planet despite the love we had, but I do wish we had stopped sometimes to acknowledge that while life was hard, it was going to get better. From time to time I would offer such thoughts or he would, yet neither of us seemed to be positive at the same time and in the same way.
Now, as we prepare the house for a foreclosure, I laugh at the irony. The one place I complained about, I am now in mourning over. The one place that hadn’t seemed enough, was. Logistically, there are things I don’t like about where I live so the idea of moving is really sweet, but it’s rather bitter knowing that honestly, money is so tight and I am not sure where we will go next. I’m not quite ready financially, but life doesn’t go so neatly. I’m gritting my teeth and hoping for the best. That today’s income will grow over the next few years. That I will have some peace of mind and not be operating hand to fist forever.
The one home that shoulda coulda been bigger or in a different area or something else that we had not planned was the one home we bought together. The only home our daughter has known. It’s where our kid was made, and then raised. We had family parties here. Life was well-lived, ill-lived, and long-lived in this house and soon, it will be gone. It won’t be ours. Won’t be mine. Won’t be our daughter’s.
My daughter and I will end up somewhere, who knows where, and that will become our new home without the ghost of her father and my ex. All on our own without him. Without the marital memory. Without the teakettle, red washcloth, and broken tiles near the kitchen sink. It’s terrifying on one hand to know that I will be providing for us and on such newly-working career legs, yet it is also exhilarating to know that I have a fresh start. A chance to be grateful for whatever I have even if there’s no room, bad windows, no yard, or all of that. A chance to see hope that things will get better and have the patience and fortitude to hold on. A home with new boundaries. With new memories. With new challenges.
It breaks my heart to lose the house and not walk away from it as we had originally planned, but no matter what I must forge ahead and show my daughter what it means to make lemonade out of lemons and make that lemonade a bit sweeter.