Separation before the age of story

The world, it occurs to me, is woven together in story. We create our context and our identities through the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what our lives are meant to be and mean. Family, too, is a net of story.

When ours gave out, our son was a year and a half old. His life then was a perpetual dream-state of immediacy. Adults who loved him revolved around him like planets. Because we had never spent time together as a family, even when we were a family, but instead each took turns “on duty” so the other could get his or her deluge of work a little more done, the precedent was already established.

When the experience of Mommy-with-child and Daddy-with-child just stretched out a bit to include two different households, the experience was qualitatively not much different for any of us. We renamed the house where he lived with Mommy “Theo’s house” and the apartment where he lived with Daddy “Theo’s clubhouse” and that was all the story modification necessary to give context to our family relocation. Pete and I made sure the transitions were smooth and friendly. Just as they had always been.

A few years later when my son was age three and a half,  I started a sentence with, “When Daddy lived here…”

“Daddy lived here?” My son interrupted me with mild curiosity, as if he was confirming that once before we had eaten the same cereal we were now eating. “Yes,” I explained, “Daddy and I were once married. We all lived here together.” He met the news of my prior marriage to his father with the same neutral and brief interest.

My child of two households was once a story of heartbreak for me. These days, I have the same mild curiosity that my son has been modeling. Who are we becoming? I ask into the absence of absolute, into the merciful blank page. I let the story answer.

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