When he returned from his many months in Europe, he unpacked two boxes from his luggage and set them on the kitchen counter. I recognized them immediately.
I admit I’d hoped he might do this. He’s thoughtful that way sometimes, or perhaps he simply knows me better than I realize.
“Is one of those for me?” I asked.
And he said no.
Delight turned to disappointment. When he told me who they were for, I was angry, and I puttered about at the sink so he wouldn’t see how upset I was.
“I’ll never get back there again,” I said.
He was quiet.
“If you want one of them, just take it.”
Then I was quiet.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, putting the boxes in the freezer.
They aren’t just any chocolates. They are the chocolates, from one well-known shop, in a picturesque town, in a beautiful country. A country I love, and that I miss. Another life, that I also miss. It was, at least for me, all about family.
Each trip overseas involved a pilgrimage to visit an assortment of uncles, aunts, cousins; even an elderly grandfather with a broad toothless grin and a mischievous sense of humor. He was still living on his own well into his nineties, in a small farmhouse he had shared with his wife, where they raised their children.
Each trip also involved a pilgrimage to the chocolatier shortly before our departure. The painstaking selection of the most exquisite “pralines” left the four of us, literally, kids in a candy store. The last time I saw this Euro-Style Willy Wonka House of Marvels was a dozen years ago, before All Hell broke loose and life changed, irrevocably.
It was a time when my world felt safe.
Safety is an illusion.
I didn’t ask. Rather, I stated my desire clearly, telling my son I wanted to keep one of the boxes. He didn’t hesitate, and said fine. When he returned to college, one of the boxes remained in the freezer, with me.
Two weeks ago I needed… something. I’ve been struggling with my schedule, with conflicting matters demanding my attention, and worries beyond the usual. I wanted comfort of some sort. A touchstone. A speck of safety in an unsafe world.
For some of us, divorce is an ongoing source of ache and complexity. It catches us off guard over the years with its power to resurrect what was once good, and what was ultimately destructive. Loss is often filled with contradictions.
Divorce is more than the end of a relationship between two adults, more than battles over custody, child support, visitation, assets. It is more because marriage is more. Naturally, the undoing of a marriage leaves its mark.
Perhaps that’s only right.
Opening the Past that Never Quite Closes
Twelve years disappeared in the aroma, the layers of gold foil, the stream of images that came flooding back – my boys, little and laughing, kicking a soccer ball in a small yard with their cousins; afternoons wandering bustling cities with my sister-in-law; coffees on family visits, coffees in town, coffees and conversation everywhere.
I picked out three chocolates, and let them defrost. I bit the first and savored, taking my time. With the second, I made an espresso, to enhance the experience. As I finished the third, I allowed the grief to flow through me, and also, the pleasure.
The box remains in the freezer and knowing that it’s there is comforting. It is a connection to people I loved, a place I loved, and while those memories are bittersweet, what I choose to hang onto is good.
© D. A. Wolf