Eight years after that breakup, people continue to ask why the marriage ended. Among the possible answers: We were the right fit at the wrong moment. We were the wrong fit. We didn't try hard enough. Fate. All I know is that at the time, leaving felt like the only thing to do. I've lived with the yoke of that decision and its collateral damage: relatives who never had the chance to say goodbye; close friends who mourned our breakup as if one of us had died; Harry; an apparently intractable sense of loss.
Meanwhile, my ex moved on. A few years ago, he and his wife sold the last of my things at a yard sale (after kindly asking permission), and voilà, I was gone.
For the longest time I believed that getting rid of sentimental objects amounted to a sort of denial. I told myself it was braver to face the presence of old sorrows than to put them out of sight. Now I wonder if it's braver to let the wounds finally close. In giving up the rocks, I would be doing more than letting go of painful memories; I would be denying them the power to stand in the way of future happiness.
Last summer my friends Pam and Charlie let part of their backyard grow into a wild and gorgeous meadow. Massachusetts wildflowers sprang up alongside butterfly bushes and tall silky grasses. Pam and Charlie and their 8-year-old son, George, love being able to see the meadow from their flagstone terrace and from the broad windows of their beautiful house.
I no longer have the marriage, the home, the life I once lived—the life I believed I should live. But I have this life, in which I love my work, my family, my friends, my city—and in which, thanks to this purge, I'm starting to like my prospects for getting on with things. Maybe, finally, it really is time to dwell on the pleasures of now instead of clinging to what is gone.
And so right around the time the wild meadow begins to bloom, I will bundle up the Italian rocks, my companions for nearly 15 years, and take them on one last journey. I will toss them into the overgrown loveliness, beneath swirling thermals that carry red-tailed hawks, in the company of two good people raising one good boy. The rocks will return to nature, where they belong, and I will be that much lighter, readier to reach for whatever comes next.
Paige Williams has won a National Magazine Award for feature writing, and her work has been anthologized in The Best American Magazine Writing.
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