Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve Eve

We're two days into the visit of the Favorite Son and Favorite Bride. It's been interesting learning how to be together in this new relationship of married adult son, daughter-in-law, and mother-friend-mother-in-law. It's a configuration I have not experienced before and I confess I was a bit tense during the first hours we spent together on Friday.

I waited for them at SeaTac's Concourse C/D spillway, where passengers from flights using those gates pour in a steady stream to enter the main terminal. And when I saw the two of them coming down the ramp, I couldn't hold back a little squeal and eager hand-wave, even though I could see FS grinning a little self-consciously at my uncool behavior. But he is a good guy and if anyone was looking at us weirdly, it didn't matter a bit as we three hugged and moved out of others' way.

It was only midafternoon and we intended to go to the Pike Place Market so that Jayde could check out a shop she wanted to visit, so that was our first stop and then on to Saba, an Ethiopian place on 12th to enjoy a little enjera and lentils, greens, lamb, and beef. By the time we were finished with supper, it was almost 7 and traffic had abated so much that we had a smooth ride north to the ferry terminal at Mukilteo.

It takes awhile to find conversational ease, for me, in exploring a new relationship. I felt uncharacteristically quiet at first, with the lightweight news shared and the heavier topics unbroached, yet hanging there, ready for consideration. When to bring up the new topics that his marriage and my aging suggest? How to do it?

Eventually, once we were home and the cats had done their preliminary circling of the new laps and legs, I brought out one set of topics---the few jewelry pieces that have sentimental or monetary value and the stories behind them. I find that, now that he is married to a woman I love and whose children I have taken into my heart, I have entered the stage of "what do I want my son to have for his memories and possessions from me?"

"This brooch is, I think, silver or maybe pewter and belonged to my Tante Caro. She gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. It is Swedish and at least 100 years old. I would like you, FB, to have it someday and perhaps pass it along to your daughter, my new granddaughter (would that be FGD?), if you think she would value it."

Murmurs of appreciation from both FS and FB. (It is a beautiful brooch, heavy and intricately designed, but very out of fashion and too heavy to pin on anything lightweight.)

"This is my wedding ring from your dad's and my marriage of 13 years. I don't know what it might mean to you, FS, but I'm grateful for the good years we had together and especially for you, who were the most important and most valued outcome of those years. Do with it whatever feels right."

FS takes the ring, slips it on and off his little finger, looks inside at the inscription, sets it down. I pick it up and look inside at the inscription, remembering it as having had a serious mistake in the etching. There is no mistake glaring back at me, only a slight scratch. My memory is faulty, perhaps the result of my long agonizing over this marriage. Today, December 23, would have been our 41st wedding anniversary.

"This box holds the Navajo turquoise jewelry that I got at a garage sale before you were born, for $35. I have no idea what it's really worth but it will be yours."

We sit in silence at the table. I want to talk with him about my life, about how my life will go in the future and ask him to be good to me. I don't say any of these things yet. Perhaps I will before the visit is over.

Yesterday we spent the day touring the island, as our trip to Port Townsend had to be postponed because of high winds on the Strait. We hope to go tomorrow, but today we are resting, going to church for the children's pageant in the afternoon, and enjoying ertasopa (Norwegian split pea soup), our traditional Christmas Eve meal for supper. Only it is Christmas Eve Eve and tomorrow will be our Christmas feast, since they have to leave on Christmas Day, too early for a big dinner.

Yesterday was a good day. My tension has ebbed considerably. We are again at ease and when I mentioned the "spiritual autobiography" I was writing, FS said he'd like to read what I've got so far. So I printed it out for him and both of them have now read it. I've only gotten to the place where his father and I have parted ways and I don't know how to write this piece. So it will take me awhile to find the words that will describe the breakup of our marriage without casting too many aspersions at either of us and yet be honest and true.

It is early morning and they are still sleeping. We will go to Neil's Clover Patch for crab benedict in a little while and we will see what this day brings, in the way of conversation.

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