It’s the Monday morning after Thanksgiving weekend. I was up at 6:30 to dress three of my kids for school. We let my 16-year-old daughter Rachel sleep in.
Rachel is my daughter from a brief fling in college. She’s visiting from out of town, so no school for her.
I cabbed the kids across town to school then walked back home through the park. It’s a crisp, beautiful morning. I’m having coffee now, as Rachel slumbers. The kids are back with my ex tonight, so Rachel and I have another day to hang out in the city before she heads home.
Thanksgiving was spent with my ex, Lucy, at her home, our former home.
Months ago, I foresaw that I would have the kids on Thanksgiving, and Rachel wanted to come up for the holidays. I invited Lucy to join us. She got up in arms immediately, saying that because I have the kids on Thursdays, I will always have them on Thanksgiving. Why can’t she have them this year? Why can’t we alternate holidays?
There was a lot of discussion. We agreed to alternate a number of holidays. I agreed that she can have the kids on Thanksgiving.
A few weeks ago, we are talking, and she says, “Oh, I hate cooking Thanksgiving. You enjoy doing that kind of thing—why don’t you take the kids for Thanksgiving?” Okay, I say. Do you want to join us? No, she says, it will be too many people in your apartment.
By the end of it all, I was to cook the meal at her home, our former home.
I haven’t spent too much time at the house since she dumped me last year. It still feels odd, a bit like going to your parents’ house. You instinctively know where to find a screwdriver or corkscrew if you need it, but you also feel like a guest in a very familiar place. I feel obliged to fix cabinet doors or replace light bulbs, but I wouldn’t dream of changing a CD without asking permission.
Lucy was unusually cordial—friendly, even. As the day went by, as I cooked or we talked, I actually enjoyed spending time with her. It was the first time I have felt at ease with her in over eighteen months.
There were ways that we have a rhythm together, as we moved around the kitchen, or sat reading a newspaper, a way of being established through so many years together.
I’m sure anyone seeing us together would see us as married. It’s in the way we talk, the way we dress, the way our bodies move.
I took some comfort that those rhythms are still there. They could be unnerving, though. We decided to watch the evening news together, as we always did. She comments that we’ve adopted that ritual from her mom, which is true. There are things I do without thinking that are inherited from Lucy and her parents, just as I do things inherited from my birth family.
Watching the news meant joining Lucy in her room, our former room. It meant sitting side by side on her bed, our former bed. It meant petting her cat, our former cat.
I kept one foot firmly on the floor.
At one point in the afternoon, as we lounged around the living room, our five-year-old daughter was teasing me. “Why did mom marry you when you are so old?” I was holding her, and she was studying lines on my face.
“I wasn’t always old, silly. When your Mom and I married, I was very young.”
Lucy said, “You know, I always say this, dear: you are still a very handsome man! I work with a lot of guys our age or younger who look awful. But you look great. I always say that I will never find another man as handsome as you.”
What does one say to that? She had a man as handsome as me, and she dumped him.