My Most Memorable Move is the Recent One I Made Under Cover of Darkness
And it revealed the best gift of the whole year
The most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest… — Stephen King
Thank you, Stephen King. I’ll do my best to add the juiciest details.
I’ve been told this story will make great fodder, especially on Medium. It’s real and still proves to be painstakingly raw. There is no possible understanding the pain without a little backstory.
The truth is I received a prompt to my inbox and some will hate me for telling the story. Others have been waiting, rubbing their hands together in anticipation of its release. I’ve been aching to write it and just need an excuse to begin.
Those who hate will continue to hate and they will learn again that everything is a content opportunity. Thank you, Janet Murray, from Tribe Conference for the affirmation of what I already know:
Everything is a content opportunity.
It started more than 20 years ago, as we, my now husband and I, graduated from college. It was the first attack that we were better than our family because we were the first holders of college degrees. We hadn’t changed, but they changed and grew a hatred from their insecurities.
I won’t bother you with the details of the second attack some 10 years later, because it was uglier, more unwarranted, and we’ll never get to the current events of the last nine months.
The third blindsided us and, in retrospect, had been festering for 20+ years of being different. We’re weird. Different. Even got married on April Fool’s Day. Fools indeed. We won’t raise our family the way she wants and will never be acceptable to her. Love from her is conditional. As you read you’ll love to hate her.
I’ve been writing about it all along right under your nose, but I haven’t connected the dots for you. Now is the time to tell the rest of the story.
My husband took a sabbatical near the end of last year. That’s an oversimplification of actual events, but we’ll keep moving. We held our location while the girls completed their academic school year and downsized all physical possessions to a storage unit so we could leave the second the ink spilled grades on their report cards.
People cheered us on. They were excited about the journey and wanted to be a part of it. They begged us to share as often as possible. It was a delicate balance to share the journey while protecting ourselves so El Camino de Santiago could make its intended impact on our lives.
Our own definition of freedom was alive and thriving.
We grew even more comfortable in our own skin.
Life was simple. It made sense. We were living out of backpacks and could easily pick up and go any new place quickly.
While we were gone we had supporters and didn’t know we were also gaining haters.
A writer friend shouts “no matter what we always support the writing”. It’s a great speech filled with empty words because as soon as we got off the trail with dust still on the boots and sweat still in the clothes she withdrew her support and she’s been silent on my writing ever since.
Blind to her own hypocrisy.
We’ve even walked the same Camino roads and that hurts even worse.
After a while, it was time to head home, but the homecoming sucked. We felt displaced and confused because, honestly, we didn’t know if we would return. Our hearts, minds, thoughts, speech encapsulated everything we saw and learned about the culture of people living uncomplicated lives.
We flew budget airlines and had an 18-hour layover on the return home and a small shoulder rub with TSA.
“There’s no place like home”. — Dorothy
We were looking for our Emerald City and didn’t how to find it.
In an attempt to clear our heads we thought we would return to Indiana, where my husband and I were born and raised. All sides of our families mostly still reside there.
That is where the real bloodbath begins.
The biggest haters of all are a few people who should have been closest to us. The ones we’re related to by the blood that runs through our veins. Blood doesn’t make a family. Sometimes you choose your family.
Every share, picture, comment fostered the growth of their hatred toward us. They hated us for going, for having the guts to do something they would never do and they misjudged us more wrongly than in all the previous years combined.
If you think your Mother-in-law is hard to get along with then you should meet mine.
Her shortsightedness grows calloused lenses over eyes resulting in a blurry vision to match her slanted disposition. Ugly shades of rose-colored glasses color her life. Maybe it’s solitude of being single, by a husband deceased more than 12 years.
Live life her way, with her conditions, or be unwelcome, distasteful, unfit to be called family.
We want to fit in as we’re still processing the pilgrimage of a lifetime while looking to purchase a home and reassimilate to life in America.
The attacks begin as sneers and jeers, but quickly manifest.
Her grinchy heart grew three sizes smaller that day.
In retrospect, we should have seen it coming, but hindsight is 20/20.
Not the first of its kind, just the first this round.
The youngest asks me each morning:
Where do I hide Pinkie today?
Pinkie is the name of the baby blanket comprised of minty fabric dotted with butterflies and a pink sateen edge. The blanket is personified into human form by the rub of her little fingers revealing bare spots imagined into arms, legs, eyes. Pinkie, like The Velveteen Rabbit, has been loved into life.
Pinkie has been the child’s closest lovie since age 2 and traveled through every Spanish albergue and hostel we traveled through and managed to stay safe all the while.
Grandma threatened to cut it to shreds as punishment after berating the child for 20 solid minutes and calling her actions “unforgivable”.
Grandma, it’s your actions that are unforgivable.
Grandma wants to take Rachel from the hands of our oldest.
Rachel is her clarinet. They’ve only spent about two years getting acquainted through school band. She’s a budding clarinetist and she’s damn good, but make no nevermind about all that. Grandma wants to rip it out of her hands and replace it with a flute because it’s too noisy.
“Woman, if you wouldn’t ask your other grandchild to play soccer instead of football, or your other grandchild to do ballet instead of play softball, then leave my kids alone”.
As the last few minutes of school morning hustle and bustle come together she launches her attack.
“Girls, socks, shoes, lunches, we need to be in the car in less than 5 minutes…”
“Y-e-s-s-s…” Clay and I turn our attention to her.
“I’d like to talk to the two of you while the girls are at school today,” she says.
“Well, I have timed appointments and calls all day. Lovely of you to mention this now, just as we’re about out the door,” I say.
We drop the girls off at school and decide to return because it feels as though it will be better to get this over with sooner rather than later.
Her hatred is palpable. She dresses us down like toddlers at the table we had just finished eating breakfast not an hour before.
“Do you have anything to tell me”?
Nothing that matters, nothing that’s any of your business because we’re not children. We don’t owe you any answers about anything. We’re adults living our lives. Lives the two of us have agreed on with certain principles and we can’t be the parents we want to be under this roof.
She hates our principles and she respects none of them, even promoting our own children to hide the truth from us and lie to us.
She reveals the hatred she and “her family” have for our pilgrimage. Demanding answers as to why we have made these choices and how we have ruined our children and our lives.
She yells, she demands to know about an envelope addressed to me and when I tell her it’s about an appointment I need to keep for the girls she proceeds to rip it apart and throw it in my face.
Clay stands up slowly and addresses that we’ll be gathering our things and leaving immediately. As we move to gather our things she proceeds to follow us.
“You’re being silly”.
“We’re being silly”?
She proceeds to tell me to shut up while calling us each evil, both individually, and as a couple. She has no love loss for the likes of us, threatens our freedom, and that she’ll sue us for our kids.
In less than an hour, we’re gone, but she’s not through with us.
Over the course of a silent two days, we realize she still holds a few essential keys.
She held our keys while we were gone and since she blindsided us with her sneak attack we weren’t thinking about the keys we needed to leave. She had the key to the storage unit which contains our remaining material possessions, the keys to the safe deposit box, and Clay’s tablet which has our banking information and access.
Clay sends a text outlining the necessities we need to collect, as well as my winter coat and a couple of small incidentals the girls would like to have back. We set a time to collect the necessities and box it in by school pick up. We allow 10 minutes for a handoff and make sure to leave no time for an altercation.
She stands us up. Then later sends a text:
Are you ready to talk yet?
She wants my husband, not me, for another round of intervention. My husband declines.
I have nothing to say to you.
We seek counsel from a variety of people who have known us as a couple for more than 20 years. Some of them recall other attacks. Our heads are reeling with pain and emotion from this woman. All counselors come back independently with the same advice.
This isn’t you, it’s her and your family is at risk there.
The kids are resilient.
All analysis is the same.
Get out of there as fast as you can. Return to Texas.
We contact both schools, blacklist Grandma and all family from any contact with our children. We quickly assess school records and details necessary to return. We left out of Dallas and that’s where our storage unit is, but Clay has been interviewing in Austin.
To where do we return?
Will she give us our keys or will she continue to hold them hostage?
She attacked us and who we are as people.
I fought back by metaphorically killing her.
She is dead to us.
She’s revealed the best of the worst of who she is, unprompted, and there’s no denying to any one of us who she is and what she’s done. We all feel the pain because a small town is too small to hide from people who we can’t escape. Holiday meals and gatherings are nothing we want to attend.
We can toss salt over the left shoulder, but there’s no holding the devil at bay. There’s no escaping you unless we return to whence we came.
We leave under cover of darkness, vanishing from you and “your family” without a word so that we can protect our family. We’re all in danger if we stay. There’s nothing good for us here.
There’s room for a whole other piece right here about our comeback story, but we have to advance quickly to get to the best gift of the whole year.
It gives new meaning to there and back again. As I re-read what I’ve written I see a decent outline for a book. Writer friends will tell me if it’s one worth writing.
Wrapping it up
I hate the pain she’s caused us, but there’s the door-window thing that seems to be true about life.
When one door closes, a window opens.
We were on the wrong track. We thought going back to Indiana was best for our family and we had to go there to get the best gift of all.
The gift is in the revelation of where we can never grow. We’re meant to be in Texas. The homecoming is sweet because we know we’re on the right track.
The job offer came through.
We’ve collected our things from storage.
We’re slowly rebuilding our lives with the revelation that we’re on the right track, doing the right thing, in this place and time.
We’re reconnecting with our chosen family, the ones who we can tell the true story and the ones who held us up when we were emotionally weak and strong enough to act.
Is the story worth telling?