It was 1999, and I was planning a wedding at The Cloisters. Everything was set; the RSVP's had been taken. A month before, I called it off.
I would share with you the painful particulars about what went down, but I wouldn’t want my lawyer ex-fiance to sue me for libel. It wouldn't surprise me, even after all these years. Let’s just keep it vague, and say it was not a good period in my life.
Anyway, the reason why I am bringing up the past has less to do with him and more to do with Claire and me.
Moms all have a past. Claire doesn't know mine.
When I learned my mom had a life before me, I remember experiencing major cognitive dissonance. In the egocentric world of a child, it’s hard to understand that your mom existed before you. After all, your mom is your world.
And, from a mom’s side of the fence, giving birth is like being reborn. Becoming a mom is nothing short of a complete identity transformation. I do mark time as “before Claire” and “after Claire”.
This clear-cut definition of time and identity makes it tempting to put the bad relationship on the "before" side and be done with it. I have a desire to tuck away my almost wedding into a locked compartment in my brain. I would like to join Claire in a place with no history. She’s oblivious to my past, she lives in the present, she represents the future.
But it’s tricky. On the one hand, I want to be with Claire in the moment, living as if the world was born when she was born. I want to believe like she does that The Cloisters was made purely for us.
Yet, I had her at 44. When her life started, I had already lived one. It’s impossible for a child to take away the experiences of my life.
I wouldn’t want her to anyway.
When that relationship ended, I felt like a turtle turned upside down, vulnerable with my soft underbelly exposed for everyone to see. It took me a year to right myself. I found I had the ability to surrender to feeling raw and lost. I found I could survive still. I found just how much the love of friends and family can feel like grace.
I walk with Claire as her mother, because of who I was before I was her mother. She doesn't need to know what has brought us to this place, but I do.
Still, it’s fraught to be at The Cloisters. Somehow, Claire seems to make me feel more present with both the pain and the beauty of life, of my life.
It's like I'm unearthing my past in an archeological dig. Claire has added another layer to the excavation.
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