New Year’s Day: A Divorce History

On New Year’s Day 2011, the year I discovered that my NPD/sociopath ex-husband was living a double life, I woke up at a friend’s house with a hangover and the discovery that my her sweet puppy had died during the night.

After hot coffee and tears, we all trudged out into the January rain, probably a dozen of us, to bury the dog in a field behind the barn. I had no proper shoes with me, and my toes froze, and red Virginia mud covered my fancy party boots.

It was a grim beginning to a grim year. Back in the city, my ex-husband would become more elusive abusive and stranger than ever, disappearing on business trips where hotel operators could never locate his name on their guest lists. Distracted by my two little children, I couldn’t keep up with all his lies. By September, things would reach a fever pitch, until the day I opened up his secret email account and everything became perfectly clear.

2011 was not a good year, and it was followed by several agonizing ones.

***

But by 2014, things started turning around. On New Year’s Eve, a friend turned to me and announced it was going to be a good year. I smiled. “Perhaps,” I said. “Life is mysterious.”

Several hours later, at midnight, this friend received some big news. Her 47-year-old bachelor brother had gotten engaged that night. This was an event no one predicted. “Life is mysterious,” we laughed.

For him, I suppose, it was a year filled with love and light. And for me, it was a good year, a good start to a good new life.

***

This year, New Year’s Day didn’t start out well  – my brother and his family left for a tourist attraction without us. I was packing our car to drive 250 miles home, and I took too long. They did not offer to help as I took trip after trip up and down the stairs of my parents old colonial, carrying my children’s suitcases and toys and hair dryers and stray boots. It took me forever to load our little SUV, and I got angry and raised my voice and said a truthful but not very kind thing about my brother.

And then I couldn’t fit everything into the car. I started to cry.

But then I looked at my children’s faces, teary like mine, but because they were missing this precious time with their cousins. So I took a deep breath and pulled everything out of the car. I placed suitcases and winter coats and piles of gifts on the snowy driveway and slowly started all over again until everything finally fit.

We salvaged the day by skipping the tourist attraction and meeting my brother and his kids after all – for lunch in the city before setting out for our long trip home. I did not say a negative word to my brother. I knew it wasn’t worth it.

***

The drama wasn’t over. As we pulled into our driveway in the dark that evening, I noticed a light in our garage.

And then it went out.

We all gasped. We had been away for a week, the house should have been empty.

Very reluctantly, I called the police. On New Year’s Day, I thought. What did this foreshadow for 2017?

One officer arrived, listened, and told me that others were on the way. Out here in the suburbs, the officers park up and down the block, no flashing lights,. I started adding them up then lost count. They brought a dog. They fanned out across the yard and finally went into the house. I sent my children to their friend’s house. And I sat in the car alone and watched the flashlight beams in my house. Ah, they’re up in the attic, I thought. They’re in the basement. My bedroom. My closet.

And finally, laughter, as the officers came outside, ducking under the plastic sheeting protecting the newly painted door from the rain.

Was someone in there? We don’t know. The officers said it could have been my painter, and I could have just missed him by a moment or two – the light stays on for exactly 4.5 minutes. Or it could have been a thief who slipped out the back door and jumped over our fence and into the darkness.

I thanked them, and it was over. My children came back, a friend came over, we poured wine and ordered pizza, and somehow the evening was saved in our bright, warm house. The first evening of 2015.

 

 

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“All cities are mad…

“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.”
― Christopher Morley

Halloween in the City, 2013

Harry Potter, the cat, the soldier and the monster went trick or treating tonight in the city. At the first house, they forgot to say trick-or-treat and thank you. At the second house, Harry Potter rudely asked how many pieces of candy he could have. At the end of the first block, the soldier dashed out into the street without looking to see if any cars were coming.

Six blocks later, it started to drizzle. The monster decided to go home early. The soldier just got more determined to fill his bag to the breaking point, and he began to run between houses. The cat got lost. And found.

It was a night of excess. Harry Potter and friends ran down brick sidewalks, filling sacks with candy. They chomped on fresh Krispy Kreme donuts outside one famous historic mansion, and paused at a popcorn machine outside another. They accepted huge Hershey bars from a strange taciturn man, and light-up necklaces from a lovely old couple who wanted them to stop and chat for a while.

They never thought it was odd that grown-ups were trick-or-treating alongside them, and they didn’t notice any public intoxication. They were indifferent to other people’s costumes. They took the decorations and noise and lavish excess in stride. It was really just about the candy.

They finally split up and walked home. The cat realized she had lost her tail. The soldier wanted to count his candy. They  took baths and got into their pajamas. They talked about donating candy to real soldiers. Then their room was filled with red, white and blue flashing lights and sirens. The cat and the solider ran to the window to watch police fill their little street. They watched the police throw a man up against a police car. The police parked their police cars and motorcycles on the sidewalks and talked loudly about a missing weapon.

The cat said Halloween was a 10 out of 10. The soldier said it was a 30 our of 10 because he got to see an arrest. He is going to tell his entire class about it tomorrow.

This is Halloween in our mad, gallant, beautiful and grim city.