Rebecca and I, happily married for fifteen years with two great kids, had watched smugly as our friends struggled, separated, and split up, never dreaming we might join the ranks of the divorced. We had always enjoyed the kind of marriage that, if tested in a reality-TV show with our married peers, would have been voted "least likely to break up." The cameras would follow us into our bedroom, voyeurs would see that after seventeen years of living together, we still told stories about our day, about our kids, laughing so hard the toothpaste slush squirted on the mirror, finding passion in our familiar bodies, tenderness in each other's touch.
When the marriage did disintegrate, we at least had a slightly unusual way of cleaving apart. Yes, she fell in love with somebody else, a story as old as dirt, but that somebody else was another woman, which seemed a novel, fin de siècle, Baby Boomer, post-feminist way of going about calling it quits. Even in the face of a potential change in sexual orientation, we didn't give up easily and spent a year or more trying hard to trim the wayward threads and hold the marriage together: marriage therapy, a reconciliation after the first affair, a promise and sincere effort to break new ground. But slowly, inexorably, our marriage, our family as we knew it, came apart.
We both sensed the confusion in our kids. They had certainly seen their friends' parents in the active stages of breaking up, heard about the fights and the lawyers and the confusion. Our kids obviously felt a little like I did: How could their parents, who always appeared so happy, divorce? Didn't we start our marriage with a three-year honeymoon traveling around Asia, hadn't we just taken adventurous trips to Pakistan and Costa Rica together? Kolya and Zoe knew the creation myth of their parents' relationship like an ancient Greek child knew about Earth and Sky and Zeus and Athena: how I had met Rebecca while wearing black tights in a modern dance class when we were both undergraduates at UC Berkeley; how I had come home that day and told my younger brother Steve that I had met the mother of my children. How it came to pass that we were married and the kids were born, wanted, and loved. And they saw that it was good.
Like their dad, they wondered how it had all unraveled so fast.
And like their dad, they had to figure out how to make sense of their lives again.
Confusion or no, Rebecca pronounced the marriage dead, and when one person comes to that conclusion it's a decision for two. Or in this case, four. After we split, our lives took even more unexpected turns. When Rebecca left, I assumed that we would become another of the ubiquitous couples who, after a predictable period of being insufferable toward each other, find a modus vivendi to pass the kids back and forth to each other's houses on alternating weeks. In time, we would accommodate each other to allow for a special weekend away with the new boyfriend/girlfriend, to attend a workshop or a class reunion or a ski trip with old friends.
I was completely surprised, then, when she informed me she planned to move to the West Coast. "You know, you can't take the kids if you move there," I told her, armed with a vague notion of Colorado law that made me think that she couldn't move out of state with the kids simply in order to move in with her new lover, whatever the gender.
She surprised me again. "I know. I'm moving there anyway."
Then I panicked. Her living at that distance would preclude, among other things, the possibility of her picking the kids up from school if they fell ill in the middle of the day while I went on an assignment for Newsweek, where I worked as a roving Rocky Mountain correspondent. How was I supposed to make a living covering breaking news from Montana to New Mexico with a seven-year-old and an eleven-year-old at home?
Copyright 2003 by Daniel Glick. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher PublicAffairs.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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