OK it was TWO years ago. Two years, not 100. Jeez, why so literal all of a sudden?
Two years ago, I was doing yard work at my home in Mobile, Alabama. This type of thing was a dicey affair for me, what with the blistering heat, but I think the experience taught me a lot about Southern accents and how they have been used so effectively by women through the ages when they needed to play the Girl Card to get out of back-breaking physical work:
Me: (with obvious fake Southern accent) Lawd...this heats about to take me home to Jeezus! (I fan myself with a non-existent fan)
Husband: (Not buying it. Ignores) We just need to finish (insert projects that sound like an awful lot of work).
Me: (both the accent and I are dripping at this point) But I...I'm not sure how much further I can go on!
Husband: (says nothing...looks at me with the look that says "Who is this person? She can't be my wife--she's acting too much like a girl")
Eventually, I finished the morning's labor and proceeded to the back patio where my seat next to the refrigerator full of grown-up beverages was waiting for me.
You sit hard, after yard work.
I had a particular pair of tennis shoes that I would always wear when actual foot protection was needed, and the filthy look of them screamed of their purpose. These are gardening shoes--no question. Now my sad, overworked, achy self reached to untie them, having failed to get out of anything with my phony-baloney "But I'm a GIRL!" fake accent attempt. I released my feet into air that was not much less hot and humid outside the shoe as it was inside and peeled off each sock, depositing it, inside out, into it's coordinating shoe, sole pointing out in a vain attempt to dry the sock in some way. Thinking about it now, I'm not even sure why I do that--it's not as if I'm going to wear that same pair of socks again the next time I put on those shoes. Tucking the sock back in the shoe must be an "I'm too exhausted to go to the hamper right now" thing.
Two years, we have lived away from that house in Alabama. Almost two years to the day. As I write this, it is July 15th, my husband's birthday, and when everything in our marriage fell to pieces and I was planning to leave, July 15th was the original date that I was going to drive away. It was not meant as anything vindictive--July 15th just happened to be the day of the week that worked best that year. He asked us to stay another day, to spend his birthday together as a family, and we did. It was, without question, the saddest birthday "celebration" ever.
Earlier this week, I saw him for the first time since we left. Live and in person. Neither of us were safely ensconced, 1500 miles apart from each other--I could literally reach over and touch him, because he has decided to, at least temporarily, return to Minnesota. To say that this has stirred up all kinds of thoughts in my head would be understating things. I was able to re-visit the reality of what we were, though--of what I was to him--by digging through the boxes he had handed me on Tuesday. These are the things that I had left in Alabama that he thought I might want, all packed up and returned.
Among the CD's and DVD's and pictures of the children, there were those shoes. The filthy gardening shoes, with the socks still tucked in them. Two years untouched. I was stunned. It was as if everything about me had just stopped, for him. Just stopped. No forward movement at all--no, "I'm going to get rid of everything that reminds me of that bitch" or "I'm just going to clean these up and put them away". None of that. It was almost like he was operating as if eventually I would pick up the shoes, toss those socks in the laundry where they belonged, and put the shoes on again to do whatever project he had determined needed to be done outside.
I can't tell what would cause a man to do that. On the one hand you would think, well, "To hell with her," and that's understandable, but that sentiment doesn't lend itself to, "I'm just going to shove all of her crap in a box and not care what's there and put it in storage."
Why hold on to these things?
So I am sad today. I am sad, and I feel bad, again, for how it all went to hell. But while I think of how I must have hurt him and think of things returned to me in their "as I left it" state as evidence of that, I also find little reminders in the boxes of how I was hurt, too, and why I left. That mantle clock we bought together that I loved so much, now carelessly shoved into storage and arriving with pieces broken off--the handling of it says just about everything. Or odd, random pieces of clothing that I never wore, or that weren't even mine, but he didn't want it so he packed it up and gave it to me. That kind of thing. Funny how my guilt makes me forget ever having been told "Get your shit and get out". Funny how it fails to remind you of how crappy you felt just two short years ago.
Ultimately, this is just stuff. Junk. Well that clock wasn't junk, but it is now. We don't really have any more shared junk--now we're two different households, acquiring new junk of our own. Would I have acquired that crazy-colored lamp shade if we were still together? Or a pale blue living room rug with wavy brown and green stripes? I'm not so sure I would have. When we were together, I held so tight to structure, probably because everything else in my life was so out of control--or at least out of my control. The decor was decidedly geometric and orderly, then.
I'm much more light-hearted now, if only in the art work, with soley my pleasure influencing my choices. My life, and stuff, is like this today because I was willing to walk away from things. Things--even that clock I loved. In truth, I thought about bringing that clock along when I spent those four days packing boxes in the heat of July, in between the sobbing, but the memories attached to acquiring it made me leave it behind--it was "our" clock, after all. I thought that owning it, or taking it, would break a heart. Well I own it now. Turns out I was right.