I felt silly thinking twice about what to wear to dinner at the home of my former husband. It has been over thirty years since the holiday season when Benjamin was our newborn baby. This year, Ben was on break from grad school at NYU and throwing a dinner party at his father’s. I was on the guest list.
I love to dress up for parties of any sort, but for this soiree I opted for my comfortable gray sweater, the sparkling jeweled necklace from my stepdaughter, and my newest red lipstick. Ben asked me to bring extra forks. I volunteered to bring linen napkins for the sufficiently auspicious occasion.
Two lawyers. Two children. Two marriages each. Our children were six and eight when we divorced, so we had many years of shared parent teacher conferences and soccer games. Nowadays, opportunities for us to be with our children at the same time are few and far between. As the noodles crackled in the wok and December snowflakes began to fall, we found ourselves in the kitchen with our first born directing the mincing of garlic and chopping of peanuts for pad thai for twelve.
There was a shared history at the table, despite the years of separation. Cousin Andrew reminded me about being godmother to his younger brother. Alex boasted about being a friend of the family since first grade. My son Jack’s girlfriend quietly took it all in. There were toasts for the chef, an impromptu karaoke moment, and a rousing game of ping pong.
My children’s father tried hard to make it a great night for them, and to make it comfortable for me. He succeeded at both.
In the darkest moments of my marriage, my divorce, and my life after both, I did not hold visions that matched the reality of this warm winter evening. My children were beautiful and bright, not broken. My former spouse and I could feel comfortable in the same room for more than a passing moment. We all knew how to laugh and share a meal with loved ones, appreciating the simple joys of life despite the path it had taken us on.
On the eve of this new year, I want to remember that when my days are dark it makes it difficult to see. To remember that there are endless possibilities hidden from me. To start my new year, trusting that they will be revealed to me in places I could never imagine. Like the kitchen of my ex-husband.