Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Was this my first divorce?

I walked past a neighbor’s yard and saw the prettiest clump of daisies today. My first impulse was to pick them and take them home. But then, I remembered that you’re not supposed to pick the flowers in your neighbor’s yard. I learned this when I was five years old. That’s when Fritzy and I picked a neighbor lady's flowers and presented them to our respective mothers, thinking they would be appreciated as gifts from the heart. Instead, our moms asked us where we got them and insisted that we take them back and apologize. First, we hid behind a giant blue spruce and only pretended to go to the neighbor's door. But apparently our omniscient mothers could see through trees, and they sent us back.

I may not have known better than to pick the flowers, but I did know how humiliating it was to confess my transgression. It may have been one of my first experiences of shame. Another one was when I got caught under the bed playing you-show-me-yours and I’ll-show-you-mine. I couldn't understand why it was such a big deal, but, believe me, it was! That incident also involved Fritzy.

As far back as my memory will take me, Fritzy and I were buddies. He lived across the street from me in a neighborhood of tiny, two-bedroom, one bath, post-WW2 houses. This was back in the day when, in the evenings, all the grown-ups on the street would gather their webbed lawn chairs into a circle in someone's front yard to visit. I can still hear the sound of their muffled conversation, occasional bursts of laughter, and the constant rattling of the ice cubes in their drinks. I also remember how they were always watching us, even when it seemed like they weren’t, and how they all acted like they were my parents, even when they weren’t.

Fritzy and I were together every day. One of us would go to the other one’s porch and we’d holler, “Oh, Frit-zy!” or “Oh, Nan-cy!” I don’t recall ever ringing a doorbell or knocking on a door. We played army, we solved mysteries, we climbed trees and swung on great-vines in the woods. To my recollection, we never fought, although we did get into trouble on several occasions. Mostly, we just had fun.

And then, it got weird. Fritzy was a year older than me, and after he started junior high, we never spoke to each other again. We still lived across the street from each other, and all the way through high school , we would pass one another in the hallway at school, but we never spoke. Not a word. Ever. It was like we became strangers overnight. I remember feeling a little awkward with the situation, but it didn’t really bother me. I wasn’t angry, or hurt. I never felt slighted. Never once did I go over to Fritzy’s house and holler, “Oh, Frit-zy!” on his porch and have him come to the door to tell me that he didn’t want to play with me anymore. Our parting was just something that happened. We used to live in a little world that included each other, and then our worlds expanded and we moved on.

Now, I wonder, was this my first divorce? Isn’t that the way it happens? You share your life with someone and then, suddenly, you’re strangers. Well, sort of. But this couldn’t have been a divorce because it wasn’t painful. When you part ways with someone as an adult, there’s always pain involved. It feels like it’s personal, even when it isn’t. With Fritzy, it never occurred to me that I might take it personally. It wasn't about me. His journey simply took him to another place. As did mine.

Why can’t it be like that when adults part company? Why do we have so much of ourselves wrapped up in our relationships? Why do we expect so much of the ones we love? Why can’t we just enjoy the dear people who have joined us on our journey without holding on for dear life? Why does so much of the way we feel about ourselves depend upon the validation  we receive from someone else? And when our relationships end, why do we anguish over them for months, or even years?

I wish my relationships could be as easy for me now as they were back in the Fritzy days. As I journey through life, I would like to enjoy the people I love and appreciate the moments we spend together along the way. And then, if necessary, when the time comes, I would like to wish them well, and move on. Pain free.

Oh, if only it were that easy.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Perfect. That's what comes to my mind when I finish reading your blog today. Perfect. Perfect because it's such good writing. Perfect because it's such a simple, good idea. Perfect because I will ponder this for a long while and try to incorporate your suggestion into my life. Perfect because I am a perfectionist and what you're saying is let go of perfect. Perfect. And, thank you.