A Destination Wedding: A Mother's Journey
Prologue - Jenny’s Getting Married
The invitation arrived in the mail exactly ten months before the wedding:
Jennifer Curren and Idalino Rocha Gonzalez
invite you to celebrate their wedding
Friday, the sixteenth of July,
two thousand and four
at half past nine in the evening
at Hacienda Los Angeles
Alcalade Gaudaica, Spain
Of course, I knew about it. But the invitation made it so. With this marriage, I would not only lose a daughter, but my dream of family unity, broken by divorce, was, I feared, about to die. Both of my children were leaving me for good. Although they have been leaving me in bits and pieces for years, circumstances still allowed me to live the fantasy that one day they would both come home to me. Jenny had been in every country she could get a visa for or sneak into, in the last several years. She had studied and lived in Spain for seven years but had always come home for summers and holidays to renew her visa and work for US dollars. We had at least a quarter of the year with her. When she marries Idalino, she will live in Spain full time and seemingly forever.
To make matters worse, my other daughter, Mary, announced to us all that she would be leaving for a job in New York City after the wedding. I’d had my conflicts with Mary and hoped for some reconciliation before she left home for good. The truth is I did not prepare for them leaving. They won’t go away, I thought. They love me, don’t they? We have a bond, don’t we? Of course we did when they were young. As time went on, a bond became a battle for autonomy. The natural pulling away by my children had been complicated by divorce. I had made them my life but they preferred their father’s more prosperous lifestyle. John had many of the holidays and vacations with the kids, and he had the money to spend on them. They began to see him as Santa. He was the fun parent. He bought the ponies. He paid for the cruises, the rental cars, the trips abroad. I did not see their actions as trying to break away and grow up.
I just wanted them to show up for dinner again. Talk about a mother in denial.
For years after the divorce from their father, I stayed cooped up in my house, not believing I had any future. I had internalized the failure of my marriage, and my ex husband did not discourage me from it. He had had two failures, and I think he hoped to pass this one off on me. To make matters worse, I was a clinger. I never gave up on a relationship, even after it was dead. I carried dead carcasses around with me. When someone said they want out, I followed them around, searching the reasons why. I never let go. To my shame, for years, I lurked around the edges of my ex-husband’s life. At the time of my divorce my friend, Suzanne, and I were having coffee and reminiscing over past Christmases.
“I remember I dropped the girls off at John’s place that Christmas,” I told her. “It was his turn to have the kids but I did not want it to be his turn,” I said. “I stood outside in the cold near a window watching them open gifts until I almost froze. As I drove home, the ache in my heart cannot be described. When I got home, I looked in the mirror and asked, Who is that pitiful woman?”
“Do you realize,” Suzanne asked, “that in taking on the failure of your marriage, you lost hope in your future?” Suzanne asked.
“I didn’t think of it that way,” I said, making a mental note to go home and think that over.
I tried to get back in the swing of things, work wise. I thought if I made money I could compete with John and provide fun and prosperity for my girls. It’s easy to fantasize about job opportunities before you have gone on an interview. It turned out I was obsolete. I was twelve years older. Computers had gone way past me since my programming days. I could teach, but even that demanded I go back to school, which I couldn’t afford. By then, I hated my body and thought I was too old for anything. I had no current skills, unless you count whipping up three different spaghettis for three picky eaters a skill to peddle. (Maybe it was. Maybe I missed my calling.)
Finally, I chose the easiest way out – subbing in schools and temping in offices. Because credentials were not required and no one paid much attention to me, my lack of skills and screw ups went virtually unnoticed. The flip side was, I was invisible. I was still no one. Temp office work was the lowest of the low. I spent most of my time defending and lifting up women who were either verbally abused by competitive women coworkers or sexually harassed by the men. And when I did defend someone, I was given the boot. On one assignment, I spent one whole afternoon counseling an attorney to not go home and kill herself because the company had just cut pensions. Although these moments did little to help me climb out of my abyss, they did cause me to begin to realize maybe my life was not quite so bad after all.
As I got ready for Jenny’s wedding, I pondered my current options. I had finally got a job at the local university, a pretty good one – but too late to compete with John for parent of the year. Yet I was still gray-headed, out of shape, and alone.
I know you are thinking – why didn’t she find a new man? I didn’t believe I could. For one thing, women past 40 don’t get whistled at much or asked out on dates. Dating scared the life out of me anyway, and pursuing men online was, to me, akin to placing my head in a guillotine. Remarry? I’d rather have joined the Iraqi army. The kids’ father was not my only mistake - I had another marriage before him - and many misfortunes of the heart before that. No thank you. Yet in my deeper heart, I would love to see someone look into my eyes and say, “I love you.” I might even settle for a short lived but passionate love affair.
Now the truth is, I couldn’t blame my kids for all that aloneness. I am a loner by nature. I feared failure then and let it get the best of me. Stubbornness also ran in my veins as well as a degree of stupidity.
I knew very well I couldn’t make my girls fill that hole in my life. I knew I had to find a life for myself. Over the years, I dreamed a lot but did nothing. Once lethargy sets in, it is so tough to break out. When the girls leave for their own lives, I told myself, I would try harder to find a richer existence – put the dreams to work. After the wedding I would launch on new adventures. But now, by God, I had to get my everlasting rear in motion to show up at my daughter’s wedding, meet new people, and ward off an ex husband who still thinks I’m a fruitcake.