Giving and Receiving

This is the first Christmas since my divorce was finalized. Nothing is really all that different. We separated ten years ago and have navigated our way through the messiness of pulling apart two lives that we once tried to entwine so intimately. We are comfortable in our separateness. It’s just another year. Nothing more.

But this year my ex gave me a gift. It’s the first one since we separated. For any reason.  It’s the first one he bought on his own – maybe since I’ve known him. It wasn’t some extravagant gift meant to stir me. It was a mere box of drug store chocolates. He handed it to me through the car window as I dropped our son off for the afternoon. He told me he was picking up his prescriptions and saw them and thought I could use a treat. I chuckled, said thank you as I set them on the seat next to me, and drove away.

I then pulled into the first parking lot I came to and sobbed.

It was a $3.00 box of cherry cordials. My favorite kind. After 25 years did he finally remember this?  Suddenly there was a torrent of memories from a quarter century. Years of loving a man who often kept me at arm’s length. Years of literally asking if I mattered to him because I wasn’t sure. I was plunged into our early years when he smiled each time he saw me. I remembered the feel of my hand in his and how safe I felt from that loving gesture. Treasures of talking and laughing until 2 am flashed in my mind. I remembered the way he cared for me when I was pregnant with our son – like I was the most fragile thing he’d known. My mind wandered to our struggles, to our silences, to our anger, and to our defeat. The ebb and flow of our life together played out through my heart.

I took a deep breath and looked up. Coming back to reality from reliving my life with him and finding myself alone and crying was a little too ironic and made me laugh. What else could I do? I dried my tears and went on with my day.

I won’t tell him how his gift affected me. I won’t ask why he never bought them for me when we were still married. I won’t question why he chose this year to do this. There is no point. I know him enough to know that he couldn’t answer any of those questions. There was no forethought. He didn’t decide to get me something. It was truly a spur-of-the-moment purchase. I will still wonder what clicked in him to remember I like these cherry cordials. There will always be a part of me that wishes he could have remembered it a little sooner. Perhaps a box of my favorite chocolates now and then would have made it harder to take that final step away from him.

No. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t live in ‘what-ifs’ with him. I played that game for many years. That may be part of the reason it took us so long to finally get divorced. We parted for a reason and a $3 box of candies wouldn’t change that. But, I am thankful for his gift. It is possible this $3 gift without thought means more to me than the $100 necklace he bought me one year. He helped me remember the softer side of our history – the part before the pain. I got to see him in my heart as the caring man I first fell in love with. I always knew there were many good years in our relationship. But I hadn’t felt them in a very long time. I couldn’t remember them with my heart. They were pictures to look at, as if they were someone else’s life. Today, I got them back. That was my life. And it made me very happy at one time.

I’m not where I thought I’d be in my life now. The family I once treasured is scattered and fractured. I’m still trying to start over at a time when I thought I’d be winding down. But I had some wonderful years getting here. And a little box of chocolates reminded me of that.

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