Chainsaws, Seeds, and Ex-Spouses

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.

I think it’s a great thing when you can laugh about your ex-spouse. There’s got to be something that’s healed when instead of anger, you feel amusement.

Flying By Night novelYesterday, I spent a glorious Sunday afternoon in my garden. I haven’t spent much time there in the past few years. Last year, I was ill during planting season and swamped with re-ordering my household. The year before, I was in divorce-mode and didn’t even know if I’d keep the house. So several years have passed without an investment of my own sweat in the gardens.

Shrubs had overgrown. Vines were taking over. And of course, The Evil Home Repair Company’s roofers had destroyed anything and everything that bloomed.

So there I was, chainsawing down overgrown bushes and little trees that blocked the view of half the house—and striking fear in the heart of my daughter, who thinks Mom-With-a-Chainsaw is somewhat more fearsome than Mom-With-a-30#-Sword. I don’t know why….

I’d just put the chainsaw down when my ex arrived to take Shannon shopping on his weekend. He totally surprised me by asking a favor: could he have his grandmother’s step-stool that I’d left on the front porch while hanging baskets of purple and orange flowers.

Color me confused because I didn’t see any step-stool belonging to his late grandmother. He distinctly remembered his grandmother’s step-stool and how rickety it was and he wanted it

Except that the 3-foot tall step-ladder he was pointing out is one I bought at Kmart many years ago when the kids were little, and his grandmother’s stool had never darkened our doorway. It’s a stool I’ve stood on to paint the dining room, to hang pictures and mirrors, to put up blinds and curtains, to open AC vents and replace air filters, to hang flower baskets, to install light fixtures, to retrieve things from a top shelf after my much-taller spouse put something away. Try as I might, I don’t recall him ever standing on this metal stool that stays hidden in the space beside the fridge

I have to laugh when he leaves. This isn’t the first time he’s returned to our former home together and spotted something he suddenly wanted.

Last time, it was an ancient metal bookcase I’d put in the garage to told ceramic pots I intended to use in the Spring. I’d salvaged the old bookcase in 1991 when his mom was about to throw it out and I needed some narrow shelves in my office on Eglin AFB. I strapped the bookcase into the backseat of my convertible, top-down, and then carried it up 3 flights of stairs in the Armament Lab to my office. When I moved from there to the AMRAAM missile office in 1999, I wasn’t allowed to have what was considered junk furniture, so I took it to my home office and used it for stacking books on.

When my ex moved out in August 2004, he told me he didn’t want any of the furniture. That later changed to include three pieces—a gorgeous china cabinet bookcase I bought him for Christmas, the table I used as my altar, and some other piece I’ve long since forgotten. Even then, they sat in my garage for months until he finally came to get them, along with all his other furniture and his mother’s furniture that he’d initially refused to take with him but would have counted against my half of the balance sheet.

That salvaged bookcase was among the items in the garage that he didn’t take. Eventually I got rid of all the old furniture he didn’t take, except for the bookcase, and only because I found a use for it as a gardening shelf.

But the night he came over to bring the girls home and found me fixing the fluorescent lights in the garage, he spotted the bookcase and remembered that it meant something special to him one time and suddenly wanted it. No big deal. Take it. I’d planned to haul it to the curb in the Spring, a solid 15 years after I’d salvaged it from his mom’s intentions to toss it out.

I’m not angry or anything over his sudden desire for things that remind him of his younger years. I can understand that and I applaud him for a sudden sense of sentimentality I rarely saw in 23 years. I am, however, quite amused at the way he seems to spot little items he wants to reclaim, even when they’re not what he thought they were or when he’s snubbed them in the past.

Then again, how did I spend my afternoon? With a chainsaw and seeds.

Cutting down the old, the outdated, the overgrown…culling, even drastically, so that the shades that covered my house before are mostly gone and sunlight strikes it brightly. And in place of and around where the shades used to be…planting new seeds and new flowers of raspberry-ruby red, tangerine orange, bright purple. Making room for the new and the lush. Welcoming spring.