Thursday, May 7, 2009

This goes along with the season, holiday, family theme I am trying to develop.


SEASONS FROM A MARRIAGE

FALL INTO SPRING

She had always loved the Fall. Her birthday. The cooler weather and the colorful, falling leaves. Sunday drives through vivid, scenic mountains and chestnut hunting when she was younger. Crisp, brisk mornings filled with blinding sunlight and the sound of chirping crickets. Early, breathtaking sunsets. But this year was different. For the first time in a long time, she was alone.
He had walked out in the Spring. May to be exact. In the middle of Spring cleaning, he decided that he wanted to be sprung. After twelve years of marriage. Was going to turn forty soon and had to find himself. Just left. Left behind his messes in every corner of the house for her to clean up. Messes that she had never understood but tolerated because of her love for him. And she was paralyzed. All Summer. Kept hoping that he would come back - to her, to his piles of meaningless stuff, to finally help her clean it all up. But he never did. And now it was Fall. And she had to do something.
The cooler weather and turning leaves beckoned her. But so did the messy house. So she opened the windows and doors to let the Fall in as she cleaned. And pretty soon all the piles of stuff were outside and the garbage collectors picked them up and they were gone. And then he wanted to come home. And she said no.
She had finally done her Spring cleaning in the Fall. And had been sprung into a new life. In her favorite time of year, the Fall. And she didn't have to leave to find out who she was. She had always known. And was looking forward to the Spring. It was a true birthday. He life was no longer a mess.
***

INDEPENDENCE DAY

He had come back in December. Just before Christmas, after being gone for six months. She had reconsidered and decided to let him return to their marital home since he had promised that there would be no more of the verbal abuse that had so characterized their life prior to his departure. And she had believed him. It was, after all, the Holiday Season and her judgment was clouded by the Yuletide Spirit.
It was a rocky readjustment period, but that was to be expected. After all, they had both gotten used to being alone. But things appeared to be settling into a pleasant pattern, with little daily upheaval. That is until his birthday, which was at the end of June, approached.
He had always gotten depressed around his birthday. Something about another year passing without achieving anything of note. She had never fully understood his logic, since he was successful in the external ways of the world which were of such importance to him. Age was just a number, to be celebrated and not mourned, noted and not hidden or obsessed over. Or so she thought. As the years went by, the depression that at the beginning of their marriage surrounded his birthday grew to extend to a year long event. She had not missed "celebrating" it last year. But as the date drew near, she knew what was in store. So when he announced he was going to spend it with his sisters in a distant town, she was somewhat upset - after all, shouldn't he want to spend his special day with his wife - but also relieved that she would not have to bear the brunt of his moodiness this time around. Instead of begging him to stay and trying to make him happy, she let him go and had a 4th of July weekend full of blissful peace. And when he came back - still agitated over being another year older - she just walked the other way. She had learned a lot in his absence the previous year. It was not her job to make him happy. He would have to do that himself. She had freed herself of a burden that was not hers. In the true meaning of Independence Day.
***

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

She had always gotten more caught up in the spirit of giving than receiving during the holidays. The picking out of gifts that would be special to their recipients. She had never been quite comfortable asking for anything, and this year she had spent a lot of time simplifying. But when Christmastime rolled around, and her husband asked the perfunctory question "What do you want?," she decided to make a short list of things of value to her. It was part of her new way of thinking, to ask for what she needed instead of accepting what was given her. After searching the house for something tangible that they both could use (she was still a practical girl and could not entirely give up thinking of others) - and coming up with an old mattress that needed to be replaced, she expressly requested things more personal and important to her - peace and harmony in the household, with some kindness, nurturing and understanding - in essence, a change in her husband's demeanor which had been overwhelmingly hostile, with little respite, since the onset of her illness six years ago. Angry at the fact that she had gotten sick, he took it out on her, the victim. And although he had promised to transform when he returned, the old patterns had gradually reemerged and she just wanted it to end. As a Christmas gift to her. She also wanted him to spend more time with her, not just be physically present in the house doing whatever activity he was engaged in alone. And she wanted him to stop taking her for granted and appreciate what she did do for him, which was a lot, although her illness rendered her unable to work outside the home. She did not think that was asking for too much, just to be treated as a human being and a wife again. He appeared to agree.
So as the holidays approached, she busied herself with the activities of the season - cards, presents, cookies and the like. She expected her gifts to come after Christmas - they judiciously shopped sales and she did not anticipate an overnight metamorphosis in her husband's behavior, just the beginning of an effort. So when a local relative of her husband's who he had not seen in almost twenty years called from out of the blue and claimed the shopping day after Christmas that they had previously reserved for themselves, she was upset that her husband unilaterally agreed. Not for the mattress that they did not purchase on that particular day, but for the realization that this was not the start of something new, but more of the same. His promises were half hearted and worthless; he was never going to change.
Holidays are for families. After almost fifteen years of marriage, it seemed her husband included everyone but her in that definition, leaving her feeling alone in the marriage. With his decision, she saw her wishes and hopes for the New Year dashed. She had become vocal and verbalized what was really important to her. She had made a list and it was ignored. Fortunately, she derived much pleasure, fulfillment and happiness from giving to and doing for others, because for Christmas she got tears.
Karen Ann DeLuca