“I want the bookshelves.”
“So do I.”
Jaws set, eyes narrowed. I perched on the coffee table I bought at Naked Furniture a million years ago for $600 and Avy sat on the overstuffed chair-and-a-half that I bought before I met him. He wrote bookshelves at the top of the notebook page with a question mark.
“Humor me,” he’d said in the kitchen earlier. “We need to make a list of everything we’re each taking and sign it.”
I laid out the blue glass plate with the dragonflies etched into the perimeter. Mine. He chose the tablecloth and napkins that his mother bought for our anniversary last year. His. I get the mixer. Mine. He got the Cuisinart until I gave up the dairy and meat dishes (but got the china and crystal) and potentially gave him both sets of pots and pans.
An hour later, two notebook pages filled and the bookshelves still in question, Asher came tearing downstairs.
“What were you just talking about?”
I knelt to his eye level. “Have you been listening to us the whole time?”
He nodded, his skinny legs and little-boy body in green shorts pajamas from the Gap. I sat cross-legged on the cork floor and pulled him into my lap. “Divorce is upsetting,” I whispered in his ear as I rocked him back and forth.
It amazes me that after eight years of marriage, I remember who gave us which present. Last night, as we divided our belongings, I heard myself saying things like, “Well, my sister gave us the toaster so I’ll keep it.” Petty. Stupid. I can buy a new toaster. I hate that toaster in fact and tried to get him to take it but he only wants something when I want it, too.
In a few months, this house will look very different. I’m painting the basement bright primary colors in June and moving a lot of the kids’ toys down there so they have their own dynamic space. I’ll buy a flat-screen TV (if I can afford it) and put it in my bedroom -where there will be new linens and new bedroom furniture and much more space. Avy is taking the blessed cedar chest we bought at the Ann Arbor antiques market years ago and which I hate in its heavy-grained wood, the way it blocks so much floor space.
Soon, I will be able to breathe in my own house. I will stretch my arms out and spin in a circle and not crash into anything. I’ll feel the cross-breeze on summer nights with the windows open.
It hasn’t taken long for me to learn to love the quiet. I hadn’t expected to enjoy being solitary or to embrace being alone. I’m sure I will feel the pit and roll of emotions that comes with divorce, especially a not-too-acrimonious one, but I am loving the possibilities in the quiet.
Yesterday, I took Asher to Toys R Us and let him pick out two things – a movie and a toy – to have at his father’s house. They are in a bag on his bedroom doorknob, awaiting his father’s move. Now he has something to look forward to that isn’t horrible.
Yesterday, he took the phone from my room and dialed my mother from the list of names and numbers I taped to the wall beside his bed. “He was so excited about his new movie and rock garden,” my mother told me later. “You did a good thing.”
I hope so. I hope this divorce is a good thing in the end, as I expect it to be. As I want it to be. All I can say is that from where I stand, the sun sparkles on the water and the trees are barely moving in their serenity. It’s another day and the air is sweet, if cold.
I’m feeling particularly reverent for a change, thinking of the Hebrew prayer that begins Modeh Ani, thanking God for giving a person a new day, another chance, a beginning with the sunrise.
I’m even tempted to let him have the bookshelves.