When Divorce Evicts You from Your Home
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Wherever my body goes, I am home
After weeks of dogged negotiation, my soon-to-be ex and I have made a decision: when the lease is up on her temporary apartment, she’s moving back into our family home, and I am moving out.
God I’m going to miss this place.
Actually, the house could swirl away Wizard of Oz–tornado style, and I would care very little (not that I’m asking for that to happen—at least not while my kids are in it). It’s the backyard I hate to leave.
Check out this view:
Yep. That’s my soon-to-be ex-backyard.
Since my wife moved out nearly 16 months ago, this view has brought me extraordinary solace.
The 18 varieties of trees I can see from here have felt like companions, witnesses, and confidants. Especially the redwoods, which stand like guardians at the end of my—excuse me, the—property.
At the moment, I can hear at least five distinct bird songs—a sound that reminds me to keep my heart light, even when things feels heavy.
Out here, I have chuckled over the antics of the burgeoning squirrel population, and I have calmed myself by watching shadows creep across the barn siding.
When my children spent their first weekend at “Mama’s new apartment,” I met my cavernous grief on this porch, playing Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” on repeat, tears streaming down my face, reminding myself to breathe.
And I made it through.
Again and again, this backyard has healed me. No, scratch that. The backyard didn’t heal me; I healed myself in it.
I’m no longer playing “Good Morning Heartache” as I sit on the back porch. Instead, as I prepare to leave this space, I look at the yard as if watching a movie screen, and I let memories from the past 10 years stream by:
The birthday parties, the playdates, the ends of impossibly long parenting days when I had zero energy left, so I’d lay a picnic blanket on the lawn and ask my babies to watch the sky with me.
The days of novice bike riders wobbling around that path, the epic water-gun fights, the nights we bundled up in sleeping bags and waited for shooting stars, the summer evening baseball games we played until we could no longer see the ball.
And the fence. Oh god. I can hardly look at the fence right now.
For years, what separated our beloved neighbors’ property from ours was a 50-year-old, sagging grape-stake fence with a hole in it large enough for my two children and the neighbors’ three children to pass through.
Our families agreed: when the fence falls, we’ll rebuild it with a gate between our homes.
During a windstorm last winter, we heard it: a loud crack followed by a series of crashes. The fence came down; the children cheered.
The gate in the new fence symbolizes the connection, love, history, trust, and welcoming of our two families into each other’s lives. For 10 years we’d raised our babies side by side.
And now I’m leaving.
At least my children get to stay. At least, during the time they spend with their other mom, my children get to stay. Somehow that makes my departure less devastating.
And now I need to reality-check that word: devastating. Leaving a park-like backyard in an affluent neighborhood in a fancy suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area? No, that’s not devastating. Hurricane Katrina was devastating. The lives lost while crossing the sea in search of a safe place to live—that’s devastating.
This move? It’s an unanticipated, unwanted change. That’s all. It’s just change.
Preparing for my move, I’m reminded of a revelatory experience I had in yoga class a few months back. In a restful moment, my yoga teacher invited us to lie on our sides with our knees hugged into our chests.
As I held this pose of self-contained wholeness, my teacher said, “Remember, you have been with you, all along.”
Meeting the truth of that statement, I burst into tears.
Yes, from my life’s first breath, through the myriad experiences that brought me to this moment’s breath, I have been the one and only constant in my life. I have been with me all along.
Yes, my body—not my house, not my backyard, my body—contains my full history.
Yes, wherever my body goes, I carry that history with me.
Yes, wherever my body goes, I am home.
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
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