It was a slow unraveling while inside the tapestry but in reality it was rapid, just a few short months. Once he moved out I realized I couldn’ t keep up with the chores involved in a wood-heated 5-bedroom farmhouse and maintain my full time job, mothering, and my sanity. Not to mention the bills would be too much for me to handle now while paying child support to him.
Even though I knew it to be inevitable, it was hard to imagine downsizing. We had dreamed of buying this gorgeous home on 20 acres, even signed a contract. I loved the quiet of the country and the space. We had picked up a new puppy just a week before I asked for a divorce. I loved running each day on the back roads and watching the kids play for hours in the yard on the trampoline, skidding up and down the long country driveway. Friends came to play and the children adored their home too. It was idyllic. It was part of a larger dream that had crumbled.
Eventually I realized that liberation would rise like a bird in the wake of letting go, and so downsize I did.
I moved with the kids into a small 2-bedroom ranch duplex one block from where I worked. We were 4 blocks from the elementary school and one block from the daycare they attended afterschool. No more stoking the woodstove at 5 am and 10 pm to stay warm and survive in the frigid Wisconsin winter, no more hauling kindling from the yard and firewood from the deck in my robe and gloves. All I had to do was push the button on the thermostat and it was warm. It made sense. I could actually afford it, and the lifestyle would be much easier. Here the kids shared a room and our furniture was sparse, and I slept on a single bed for the first time since college.
On the other side of the house was an aquaintance, a single mom whom I had met months before through work and had coffee with a couple of times while the kids and dogs played. She was almost ten years younger yet had been raising her daughter on her own for five years already without much support to speak of. She had fled the city after an abusive relationship, lost a job then found another, and hers was one of the most stressful jobs one could possibly have as a mother, in child protective services. I admired her strength and tenacity, her faith in herself and her ability to keep going under more stress than I had ever known. She had already learned how to reach out and ask for help, even from people she hardly knew like myself–it meant survival. The night I kept her daughter after school last minute when she transported a child to detention far away I was amazed she asked and I was glad to help. I didn’t know then just how much she would eventually help me, and the many ways her friendship buoyed me in that ocean of uncertainty for months to come.
Within a short time after I moved in we were cooking meals together, having wine on our shared back patio late nights after the kids went to sleep, and I found she had a shoulder I could cry on. The friendship we formed took the sting out of the loneliness of raising my kids on my own, and if I needed to run to the store or work late, I knew I could count on her. We laughed until tears streamed down our faces and watched bad reality T.V. together. We connected in a way I had never experienced before, and within the four short months we lived next to each other I swear she saved me.
Soon she would be married for the first time and so happy. I watched her realize a dream she had had for so many years and find a man who would erase the bad memories and disappointments of her past relationships, a man whom she could finally trust. When my kids and I moved away to Ohio we both cried, and I realized for the first time that what we had given each other was a community amongst ourselves when we needed it most .
Now she has a new baby and we talk less on the phone, I know she is enjoying her sleepless nights and her beautiful new family. But that’s okay with me. We got through to the other side by holding hands and laughing, emerged anew as sisters who helped each other shine.