Today is the anniversary of the day my French mother married my American father. They not only married on the 4th of July but had their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. Welcome to America.
Dad must have thought this would be a good introduction to Mom's new life. Of course she didn't know the part about him being frugal and intimidating, not to mention taciturn for most of our lives. My mother tried to leave him when she discovered she was pregnant with me and only got as far as the front door with her cloth suitcase before he caught her.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Back to France."
"How are you going to get there?"
"It takes money to travel; do you have any money?"
As I am fond of saying, end of chat.
My mother told me that story a long, long time ago. Then many years later I brought it up and she denied it. Then many more years later she said it was true. My Mom is one of those people who puts a happy face on a train wreck. But if you don't acknowledge your pain you can't get past it. It has to come out somewhere, all that misery. She didn't have a happy life as a child, living under Nazi Occupation for four years. Her mother favored her younger sister and the family lost three more children to diphtheria. It was my mother who found her 4 year old sister dead in the bed with her. My mother was 5. How do you paint a smile on that?
So Mom married my father because her mother made her leave the guy she was seeing. That man came from a wealthy family and my grandmother said he would never marry my mother because they were poor. She told her to marry my rich American father. Only he wasn't rich but Mom didn't discover that until she arrived in the United States.
My parents never talked about splitting up. They never exchanged one hostile word between them. I remember my father raising his voice to my mother once and then never again.
Then one year my Dad ran into an old high school friend at a reunion while my Mom, sister and I were in Paris for the summer. He asked my mother for a divorce and married wife #3.
And eventually that wealthy French boy married my mother, in the late 1980's. My stepfather told me the first time he heard my mother had moved to the U.S. he had to be restrained by his friends from throwing himself in front of an oncoming metro.
I've always felt enormous sadness for my parents. Neither was happy yet neither had the courage to leave. Which is worse? To stay miserable or to start your life over not knowing what lies ahead? And the even bigger question for me was why does the Universe keep two people apart for 40 years, only to have them find each other again? They never lost touch over the 40 year span. Never. I wouldn't have been born if not for their separation. Sometimes I wonder if my life trumped their great love. It would explain a lot about how my mother treats me.
Recently a friend of mine, also a child of divorce, said that he didn't believe in it. He's married with one child and believes a couple should try and stick it out for the children. I didn't agree. The entire time my parents were married, my sister and I knew they weren't happy. I wrote my friend saying it was far worse for children to see covert unhappiness. That it would take its toll on them because it took its toll on us. Neither my sister nor I married. The bottom line is that children know when something isn't right. And it will mess them up far more than a divorce.
So the moral of this story is never marry on an important holiday because your children will always remember it, especially in the case of divorce. Even in death my father's memory looms. And I no longer speak to my mother. But on this day every year I think of them both and what was, and what might have been.
End of chat.
4th Of July Wedding Anniversary Divorce