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Letter from a 12-year-old

December 12, 2008

An eye-catching article in The New Mexican, recently, detailed havoc wreaked by one disgruntled man on his estranged wife’s home. Apparently, the man let himself into the home when his wife was gone then proceeded to open the gaslines and, oddly enough, poke his fingers in the pies she had set out on the counter.
The final insult.
Of course, the story isn’t funny. People could have been killed, including, presumably, the couple’s young daughter.
But the pies … there’s something so petty and immature about sticking your angry fingers into baked goods. It made me laugh in spite of myself and then it reminded me how fortunate I am.
Not that I’d forget.
Nearly eight years ago, I went through a particularly painful separation and divorce. For months I felt like I was dying. I lost 30 pounds, started smoking and cried constantly. At the lowest point — just after 9/11 — my estranged husband lost his job because he just couldn’t care less, and in a moment I became a single, unemployed mother of three under age 8 living with my mother and being dragged into a divorce I didn’t want.
On the afternoon that he was fired, I felt my last scrap of sanity disintegrate. The nuances of my life were threshed away entirely and, suddenly, everything came into sharp focus.
I went out and got a job. In retail. And though I was relieved, I cried when I got my first paycheck. Meanwhile, my headcase of a husband was spending the days with our children and partying at night.
This inequity made me angry, and my anger simmered below the surface all wrapped up in guilt and confusing grief … I told myself I shouldn’t want to reconcile such a poisoned relationship, yet I did.
In the face of our split and subsequent divorce, everything I believed to be true about myself was shattered. Most profound for me was the fact that the enduring image I had of the man I married didn’t hold true anymore. The dream was over.
But the simple truth beneath all the pain and tears and blame was this: the two of us had children together, and their happiness eclipsed everything. Somewhere in my understanding of this was the knowledge that we had to somehow find a friendship amidst the ruins of our marriage. I knew in my heart that the kids needed for us to be kind and respectful of each other — at the very least.
Flash forward and things look much different now. I am happily divorced, and very happily remarried. I have another kid (that Graysen character who, on Sunday, offhandedly asked his talkative new playmate to shut his piehole). I also have a career, rather than just a job.
And I have happy kids who, on Thanksgiving, had the distinct pleasure of sharing a meal with both of their parents. My ex and his new girlfriend came to our house that day, and the eight of us sat down over a non-traditional meal of salmon and chicken. We drank, we reminisced and we watched the very slanderous video of my ex on the Leeza Gibbons show circa 1994. the topic: “Manny for Hire.” At the time, he was a nanny whose face was mostly hidden by a huge red beard. On to the stage he wore Birkenstocks — with wool socks — and in the introductory sequence he forgot, for two beats too long, where he was from.
His girlfriend seemed to find it highly amusing, which delighted the heck out of the kids, and it was the best Thanksgiving we’ve had in a long time.
Embarrassing videos notwithstanding.
I didn’t quite realize how moving it all was for them until last week, however, when Mira wrote her dad and me a letter.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done for me. I am so happy you’re my parents, and if I had to choose I would choose you. I am VERY happy you’re still friends, because a lot of divorced parents don’t stay friends. I’m thankful for the shelter and food you have given us.
I remember the day at the Oregon beach when a wave came up behind me and Soren and knocked us down, and you guys came to get us.
Love, Mira

I, too, will always remember that day. The kids were little, their dad and I were still together and I was pregnant with Chiara. The wave took us all by surprise. It got Soren first, and pulled his feet out from under him. Then it bore down on Mira, and I scooped her up as her dad ran to grab Soren. There’s a video of this which captures the moment that the wave topples Soren, then records the beach at sand level, pointed away from us as we ran from the rising water, capturing only our voices. We are a team, working together, bringing our children back to dry ground.
Our job now — as co-parents and friends — is to ensure that they stay there.

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