When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves...
I thought Valentine’s Day would feel a little tricky. A stay-off-Instagram sort of day. But it wasn’t. Remotely. Once you have love in your life, then you are Hallmark-celebration proof. Unless you are going to start weighing the validity of the sources of love, which is just foolish.
But it wasn’t just that that made Valentine’s Day “a lovely day,” as my daughter said that evening, having carefully squirrelled away the no-sharing box of Ferrero Rocher her father had given her that morning. To anyone currently engaged in the torturous rigmarole of choosing starters, deciding over favours and testing out wedding bands like it’s the stuff of life or death, go for it. I did it myself and loved it. But even before I separated, the whole wedding thing had come to feel a little…juvenile.
When you have a kid, or you go through the difficult stuff of life, all that wedding palaver can seem, well, slightly indulgent. Lovely, and everyone should get a go at it if they so desire, but in a weird way (given the commitment you’re making) not one of life’s most important things. A good marriage isn’t really founded on having the perfectly orchestrated Big Day. That end of things feels more like playing.
Love is love
As is everyone’s prerogative, I blame my parents for this attitude. Their own wedding was the most casual of affairs, as much to please their parents and my mother’s employers, as to fulfil a desire for public declarations of love. When we were kids, my father gave my mother Valentine’s Day cards, but even as a child I could see that this was more for our benefit, than for themselves. Really, my mother giving us homemade cards with funny poems she had written was the main event.
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On her wedding day, she wore a floral dress, and there was a house party afterwards (I believe the police were called, they will no doubt deny this). Wedding rings, originally purchased in Woolworths, have been lost, and replaced, many times over the years. Nothing showy, or gushy; a relaxed approach, although one that recently saw in a forty year anniversary. The big day out wasn’t a part of our family’s lexicon.
Either way, the point is that post certain things happening in life, or maybe because you grew up that way in the first place, you become a little less sentimental about love. But also a little more savvy. Love is love, whether it’s the romantic kind, or the family and friends kind.
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And of course, the love of your kid.
Asserting a right to a picture-perfect happy ending can seem like tempting fate sometimes.
Maybe it’s just me, but when you have a child, all the romantic gushing over a spouse seems a little Hollywood. Not that you can’t love a spouse deeply; I haven’t turned into a complete Scrooge. But if you are going to get lyrical about anyone, to use the awful My Love hashtag, if it’s between a child, in all their squishy, edible perfection, and a grown adult, the child seems like the obvious choice, every time.
At home one day my daughter walks over to beside where I am sitting. Oblivious of me, she stands in front of the full-length mirror, and places a sticker delicately on the tip of her nose. “Perfect,” she whispers softly to herself, and turns to leave, back to the game she is playing with her dolls.
Two minutes later she is back, to announce “we are a cheetah reindeer family.”
“You are magnificent Mommy. Good night,” she calls as her father carries her up to bed.
My happy ending.