Permanent Marker


I’d like to say, after nearly three years, that I hardly think about my divorce at all. But it wouldn’t be true, because when you share a child with someone to whom you are no longer married, there’s rarely a day you aren’t affected by it.

Most of those days, it’s just a reality that acts as a low-level annoyance, making the Broady Bunch schedule just a little more complicated. It’s little negotiations made with people you wouldn’t believe you were once intimate with if the proof wasn’t standing in front of you making fart noises. It’s something you just get used to: the shared custody, the new step-families, the separate parent-teacher conferences.

But then there are days when the divorce dragons you once thought would eat you alive rear their ugly heads to burn you anew with their fiery breath. Those are the days when I’m asked to fill out kindergarten registration forms that required my son to have a “primary residence” and ask about his siblings as if they were all blood relatives living in the same house. Those are the days when my son’s questions from the back seat of the car nearly sends me careening off the road.

“Why can’t you and Dad live together, like you did when I was a baby?”

Oh sweet Jesus. I didn’t even know he remembered those days. Turns out, he knows that we were married too. But, he didn’t know what divorce meant, so I had the terrible job of explaining it to him.

There were tears (his, not mine, though I was barely able to hold them back) and there was anger (his and mine, though I tried not to show it). And there continue to be questions from the back seat, though I’m better prepared for them now. Divorce is a part of who we are, inscribed across our lives like the permanent marker on the playroom rug.

And on those days when I feel that inscription most keenly, I remind myself of the other permanent marks on our family.

The stretched marks in my skin that proclaim my permanent place among mothers.

The blessed circles of our new wedding rings, which remind us that we are committed to forever in this second chance.

The cross mark of baptism emblazoned on all our foreheads as a promise that death can turn to life.

We are a marked up family, first broken, then remade in the image of the one who makes all things news. I’m learning to bear these marks proudly, letting them testify to where we’ve been, letting them point to what we might yet be.

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