In my life, whenever I had been confused or distraught, I had returned to my grandmother in her hundred-year-old house, perched on a tiny peninsula of land jutting out into the Long Island Sound on the Connecticut side, and found instant comfort with her among the familiar furniture and smells -- it was coming home.
My grandmother was as solid and constant as her house and I still missed her.
There were others I missed too: my father, who had died when I was nineteen; the man my estranged husband had been before he betrayed me; and my mother, who -- though still alive -- had always been just beyond the reach of my arms.
"You don't even make an effort to like Cooper," Lilly finally said, bringing me back to the present.
"That's not true, sweetheart. I just worry that he has so much influence over you that you are losing yourself in him."
"That is not at all what's happening. I'm still who I was before I met him; I'm just in love now."
It wouldn't do any good to remind Lilly of the male friends she had forsaken because Cooper was jealous of them, or the extracurricular activities she had abandoned since they'd met.
My knowledge of psychology had never helped when it came to raising my own daughter. Only my grandmother's sage advice had guided me through the minefields of motherhood. But she was gone -- dying only weeks after my mother had moved her to San Francisco. I had fought to keep her in her own home, suggesting we hire nurses to help her navigate the maze of senility that was confusing her mind, but my mother and her second husband had moved her out west to be near them.
It had killed the little that was left of my grandmother to be away from her gardens, her beach, and her chintz-covered couches. How could she have been comfortable in a house that was a stark reflection of the Oriental culture my mother had embraced since moving out to California?
Lilly poured herself more tea and rearranged her legs beneath her. She was restless in the one place I never was. When snow covered the ground and dusted the evergreens that sheltered the house from the winter winds coming off the sound, I found solace there. Lighting fires in the great stone fireplace, making spiced cider, and reading mysteries was as satisfying an escape as basking in the summer sun on the small private beach or getting dirty working in the extensive English cottage gardens.
In the winter, the house smelled of pine and burning wood. In the spring the scent of lilacs filled every room until the roses took over in June. It was a house for all seasons. But Lilly, who was a junior in a private high school in New York City, had not been here for months. When Cooper was in the city, she stayed there to be with him, and on the weekends Cooper remained at school, Lilly preferred to be with her father and work with him in his darkroom.
That late March weekend, since it was my birthday, Lilly had acquiesced to come to Connecticut with me.
As a child of separated parents, Lilly's life had been less complicated than most, since her father and I still lived under the same roof, just on different floors. Robert and I owned a brownstone in Greenwich Village on West Ninth Street, and when we split up, he just moved upstairs to his studio, while Lilly and I continued living on the second floor. The office where I practice psychotherapy occupies the first floor.
Even though Robert and I had been apart for five years, neither of us had remarried, so Lilly had not yet felt the full tragedy the dissolution of a union can cause a child. Where he and I slept had less of an effect on her than a divorce would have. At least that was what I hoped.
It had taken years for our separation to cease having an effect on me, but I was over it finally. Cured, healed, and pain free, I had finally called a divorce lawyer to schedule a meeting and begin proceedings.
Copyright © 2000 by M.J. Rose. For permission to reproduce this excerpt please contact the author at http://www.mjrose.com
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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