I just came out of the long tunnel of religiously observing the beginning of Passover. This year, that’s three straight days of no car, no phone, two decadent meals a day, made that much weightier by the obligation to gather ’round the table at night and read the Haggadah, the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
This year, we began at sundown Friday, lighting the candles on brass knobby candlesticks that my mother’s grandmother brought from Russia. I light five candles – one for myself, one for my husband, one for each of our three children. My daughter, Eliana, lights her own, a Chassidic custom (though we’re not) that she began at age 3. And even though in a mere few weeks I will no longer be married, I will still light five candles every Friday as the sun sinks below the trees.
This year, we observed a tranquil sunshiny Shabbat, followed by two days of yomtov, or holiday, the first two days of Passover. In Israel, religious Jews observe one yomtov day, they lead one seder. I believe our prolonged observance, our enforced repetition, is God’s way of punishing us for living outside the land of Israel.
There have been times in the past when I’ve found serenity and inspiration in a three-day yomtov, as it’s known, but not this year. This year, my holiday was preceded by, finally, my husband and I agreeing to the final terms of our divorce.
And so Friday night, as he walked to a neighbor’s house for dinner alone, and I remained here with our three children, as it will be in just a few weeks, I felt very, very sad.
Sad for the death of a dream.
Sad for the end of a marriage.
Sad for the departure of a person in my life who I had hoped would be my forever-partner.
Sad for the endings of things, even if they are right.
Sad for my children to grow up with two parents in separate houses, in separate lives.
Sad for the questions my eldest, Asher, asks quietly in the gray-dark of his blue-blue bedroom: Why did God make divorce? Why did God make THIS divorce? What good can come from divorce?
I swallowed the lump in my throat each time and answered with quiet words.
Because sometimes marriages just don’t work.
Because now we can have an end to the fighting, two happy houses, and parents who focus more definitely on the children when we are with them.
I told Asher that I believe some people are meant to be together for a short time while others are meant to be together for a long time. And I told him that I believe Avy and I were meant to be together to have these three amazing children. I told him that I couldn’t have better children, that I am the luckiest mother in the world.
The lump in my throat sits there, not large but firmly in its place. Not because I’m not certain; I am. But because for the first time, ever, I will be truly alone.
You might say I’ll never be alone now that I am the mother of Asher, Eliana, and Shaya. And you’d be right. But they will grow up one day and have wings to fly away with and I will happily urge them on their way, when they are ready, when they have chosen good paths.
So I’d better start figuring out my own, right? I’m 36. I’ve lived with an illusion for eight years. Now the illusion, the dream, is dissipating, and I have no idea what I’ll see in its place. I grip the armrests of my desk chair, my knuckles whiten. I am tempted to close my eyes tightly in fear. But I won’t. I have to keep my gaze straight, to see what remains when the smoke clears. And hope that it won’t be half-bad.