I read the following at the Happy Homeschool, a great blog post on the pain of divorce as seen by a grown child of divorced parents:
Bittersweet Magnolia Memories
As an adult, I find myself assured that I have endured enough painful events to have a heart for others' sufferings. On the other hand, I have had the privilege to live out enough joyful times to be able to say I have had a pretty happy life. I believe most of us move about doing the chores of our everyday living without being aware of how complex the journey was to getting us where we are now. Even so, every once in awhile, some small thing can jar us to a full awareness of some long-ago painful or bittersweet event that made us who we are.
Yesterday, I drove my teenage son to his weekly piano lesson where I normally go inside, sit at a dining table and read while waiting for his lesson to end. However, yesterday was so lovely and sunny, with the owner's garden just beginning its spring showing, I felt compelled to just sit outside to wait for the lesson's end. The idea was perfectly fine with our piano instructor. Thus, my son disappeared into the house for his lesson and I went out into the garden and found a primitive-looking bench in the shade. Paying attention to the overall beauty of the yard, I was not really focused on any one plant. So it was not until I was comfortably seated for a moment and fully appreciating the scent on the breeze that I realized I was being shaded by a huge magnolia tree not yet in bloom. The scent of the tree filled me with an instantaneous flood of memories. It only took seconds for tears to sting my eyes and for me to be transported to another time and another place.
The "happiest" years of my childhood were played out in an old house whose yard was graced by one of the most monstrous magnolia trees I have ever seen. My sister and I had spent countless hours hiding in its branches. We had used its big, brittle, brown leaves in the fall to make hats and baskets, "sewing" them together with twigs. We made "perfume" in old bottles with its beautiful white blossoms which we would grind up and mix with water. We peeled back petals to reveal what looked like matches to play with in our pretend house under the magnolia.
Sitting at the foot of that strange magnolia yesterday, enveloped in a scent I had not smelled in years, it was as if I had hit an air pocket during a plane ride--my stomach was in my throat. I wanted so badly I could taste it to go back and somehow claim all my childhood memories left laying strewn beneath that magnolia tree. I wanted to go back and make a happy ending to something that ended in tears. I wanted to go back and tell the neighborhood children who used to come play with us, we were happy there one time. We really were.
Though the "old house in the country" was the first real house my parents bought together to grow their family (after years of living in what they knew were stepping stones to get where they really wanted to be), it ended up being the place where their union together fell apart. Children have a way of being able to keep playing even when pieces of their lives are falling down around them. So it was with me and my sister. We played in that tree right up until the day we left, without the foresight or wisdom of age to say some kind of goodbye and make some kind of peace with the giant that had been the center of our world for several years.
I didn't cry yesterday. I almost did, but not quite. It was startling to realize that this strange magnolia which had awakened in me a sleeping memory capable of producing tears was not even in bloom! It was simply the smell of the bark and the leaves. Had there been blooms on the tree, I may have truly cried.
Though painful, somehow there was a lesson in the piano teacher's garden that I needed to find. I am a grown woman now, happily married with children. My husband and I found "our house" on the first try many years ago, though I didn't always see it that way. This house we live in would NOT have been my choice, but it was all we could afford. Eventually, we went from being renters to owners of this old house we live in, and now we have four children who have only known this one house as "home." I felt almost ashamed yesterday as I sat in the breeze under that magnolia thinking of all the times I have complained about my current house and life--a leaky faucet, ending up in town versus being in the country, not having big enough closets, and other things. What matters most has been before me all along. My husband and my children. The half-hour under that magnolia tree further solidified a resolve that was born long ago, probably in part out of my own parents' sad estrangement from each other. As long as I am breathing and able to stand by my vows, there will be no scattered, abandoned memories that my children will have to look back on with sadness and longing. Though storm clouds may gather over the union I have made with my children's daddy, I want my children to witness and be strengthened by our endurance of the storms.
I do realize, as I have learned that life does not deal all hands equally, that sometimes a union must end for reasons beyond a person's control, no matter what their resolve. In the end though, how many times could vital repairs have been made to a marriage if pride, anger, self-pity, and jealousy had been removed from the table, or if someone had only been willing to get some help?
My husband and I don't have a magnolia tree, but we have some pretty magnificent maples. It is my dream and hope that one day my husband and I can sit under these maple trees with our grandchildren and say, "your mom spent some of the happiest years of her life playing under these trees." I want to be vigilant and guard my children's happy memories which are living under our maple trees. They'll need these memories one day. I know they will.
You may reproduce the above article on your website with the following byline: Lynn Wilson, mom to four delightful (and perhaps challenging) children, is the eclectic and nature-loving owner of The Healthy Homeschool (http://www.thehealthyhomeschool.com). She welcomes you to visit her any time at her website!