Half Woman, Half Beast
My ex-husband’s got my stuff—and I want it back!
-Anne Burt for Divine Caroline
I meant to write something deep this month. Really, I had all of these ideas about my daughter’s growing sense of her own family history, anecdotes about some of the sadness she’s been feeling. And believe me I’ve been very focused on the complicated emotional fallout that she’s experienced since my ex-husband’s move back to the town where I live with my current family. But there a few things that keep getting in my way when I try to write the deep essay.
One is a vase—a yellow ceramic vase with a matte glaze and cream-colored swirls, designed and made by an artisan potter based in Massachusetts, purchased to fit in the living room of the first house I owned.
And a rug—a graphic Oriental with deep burgundy and bold blue accents that I bought a dozen years ago from one of the vendors in Washington DC’s Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, not far from my parents’ home, where I grew up.
Oh, and a carved wooden box designed to hold betel nuts, purchased during an incredible vacation in Thailand, a marble ceiling light fixture from a little store near the Delaware River Gap, and two antique table lamps from a shop around the corner.
I picked all of these objects over the years and loved each one. Now they are all in the living room of my ex-husband’s new house, beautifully displayed and integrated along with his stunning new couch, brown leather chairs, impeccably painted walls and well-appointed throw pillows. And his wife. And, far more often than ever before in her eight years of life—my daughter.
I know there’s a deep essay in here somewhere if I could only focus on something that mattered—say, the wife and the daughter. But all I can focus on is the stuff. And, pardon my selfishness, but it’s my stuff.
Five years ago when my ex and I split, I was mature and selfless in letting him have all of the stuff he wanted. At the time, I understood that if we fought over objects as we dismantled the life we had built together, we could lose sight of the bigger picture: the need to rise above our anger and bitter disappointment in each other to keep our daughter as safe and loved as she could be given the circumstances we’d forced upon her.