a more complete picture

Fred appreciating the "flip side" of the blanket

A friend and I were talking the other day, as we drove to The Women’s Exchange, in Williamstown MA (another great thrift store), and she was just casually talking about a trip that she had taken with her daughters; showing them the place where she met their father, the places where they had first gone as a couple…nice stories for her children to hear. What really struck me as remarkable though, was the fact that she is no longer married to her children’s father…they have been divorced for some time now, and even though there were plenty of reasons for not-so-good stories to come out, she chose to also share with them the good, to give them a more complete picture.

I was deeply impressed by this. What a gift for those girls to hear good things about their father.  It made me wonder how balanced a view my own sons received from me about their father? It also made me question why I felt reluctant to do something like this now. It’s too late for me to take my sons on a ride like that, but I can do it on paper, and in my mind. I had planned on doing this as a writing exercise the day after our trip, but haven’t yet. I generally don’t write about things, here on the blog, in “theory”, but just hearing her story, and making the effort to think in this new way, changed me and made me open up to something that I didn’t even know was closed off. I am looking forward to getting out a notebook and writing down all of the good, happy, powerful and positive experiences that I had with my ex-husband, my children’s father.

Our judgments judge us, and nothing reveals us, exposes our weaknesses, more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.” Paul Valery

19 thoughts on “a more complete picture”

  1. Dear Mary,
    Once again a powerful lesson to consider. Along with reconstructing good memories of your sons’ growing up experiences, your might want to consider asking them to write down their positive memories. So often I am hearing that situations I considered very negatively at the time and forward into the future, my now grown children either don’t remember at all, or perceived as positive or at least neutral at the time. We may spend a great deal of time agonizing over circumstances other people were just fine with. Meanwhile the more happy memories shared, the better.

    I love the picture of Fred! He is one happy, happy cat!
    From Fran

  2. Not just a gift for your friend’s daughters, but for herself. Such openness and generosity of spirit must stand her in good stead in all aspects of her life.

  3. Yes…what a gift to herself as well. When love sours, or turns to indifference, or even to hate, to be able to eventually look/get past the negative and the ugly, and recall, if only for a moment, what we once fell in love with in the first place, can be a good place to be…in our own hearts. Happy writing, Mary!

  4. This was a powerful post, Mary. It made me look back on, and question my own way of handling this same situation some 40 years ago and I certainly wish I had been as emotionally evolved then as your friend seems to be. I never spoke badly to my children about their father, but then, I never spoke of him at all which “speaks” volumes in its own right!

    Now I will have to find the courage to ask my kids what their take is on this aspect of their lives. I’m kind of scared to hear their answers.

    P.S. I think I might want to steal Fred!

    1. Thank you for that Suzanne, it sounds like you and I are in very similar situations!
      ( Fred is a trip isn’t he!?…I just adore that cat!)

  5. We all have Fred to thank for showing us the flip side of things! Think of all the clothes we used to wear, in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s – much of which is now outdated in style, or, gulp, we couldn’t fit into anymore anyway! But it served its purpose at the time and we delighted in them. Relationships can be like that too – our first crushes, our first serious boyfriends may have never turned out to be husband material, but we were nurtured at the time. And long relationships? Sometimes, and I hope this doesn’t sound callous, I think some marriages, like canned goods, come with expiration dates! They simply have gone stale, not that there isn’t a long and deep respect and love – we just grow and change, and we need to be in tune with what will keep us growing and changing for the better. Thank heaven the pain of failed relationships or friendships fades with time. But I think we can resurrect a good memory or two, and that does us no harm. But do sweep the bad memories away like cobwebs lingering on the periphery of your memory. I loved Garrison Keillor’s poem today – an Emily Dickinson jewel. How passive Mother Nature seems to be here, but in her quiet way, how vigilantly She watches over us.


    Nature — the Gentlest Mother is,
    Impatient of no Child —
    The feeblest — or the waywardest —
    Her Admonition mild —

    In Forest — and the Hill —
    By Traveller — be heard —
    Restraining Rampant Squirrel —
    Or too impetuous Bird —

    How fair Her Conversation —
    A Summer Afternoon —
    Her Household — Her Assembly —
    And when the Sun go down —

    Her Voice among the Aisles
    Incite the timid prayer
    Of the minutest Cricket —
    The most unworthy Flower —

    When all the Children sleep —
    She turns as long away
    As will suffice to light Her lamps —
    Then bending from the Sky —

    With infinite Affection —
    And infiniter Care —
    Her Golden finger on Her lip —
    Wills Silence — Everywhere —

    “790” by Emily Dickinson.

    1. I love this poem too, Susan! And I love your comment about sweeping away the bad memories like cobwebs…that is perfect. The ease of sweeping them away often belies what went into building them…the cobwebs and/or the bad memories…again, I’m so visual…so I love the picture you’ve created. Thanks!

  6. Mary – I have had a similar experience with my Dad’s second family. We only discuss it when he’s not around though. Both his second wife and my half-siblings are curious how me met my mother, what their marriage was like, what he was like as a younger man. I keep it positive and it has been a great way of sharing his life before he married a second time. They also hear stories about the grandparents whom none of them knew very well.

    His second wife is my age and my half-siblings are the age of my daughter. He didn’t change much with the second marriage, so the problems with his marriage to my mother are not a surprise even though we don’t discuss it much. I think what was a surprise to him was that his second wife had less tolerance for it and is much more her own woman than my mother was.


  7. Interesting to note that time does heal wounds, or at least lessen the charge around past events. Even as much as an ass my dad was, time teaches that he did the best he knew how as a husband and father and even though that best wasnt very good, its what he learned from his parents and upbringing.

    I like to remember Maya Angelous comments, (not exact)”you do better when you know better.’ Some people just never learn better. Seeing parents as people like you and kids are like you just younger puts everybody on the same page of compassion and understanding, makes it easier for me to forgive and let go of others and my own past mistakes and bad behavior.

    I wish we had such great thrift stores, my fur kids would love a cashmier blankie!

    1. Thank you Kate…I love that quote too. You have given me an idea for another give-away (maybe in the deep winter I’ll be making a kitty-size cashmere blanket!)

      1. Hey Mary, – watch out DKNY! Here comes KSCB! Kitty Sized Cashmere Blankets! for all the stylin’ East Coast Kitties!

  8. Dear Mary, thank you for your wonderful, insightful, and spiritual blog. I also had a first marriage and raised my 2 beautiful daughter alone. Their father decided not to be part of their life only once or so every few years or so and only for one day or one evenng event. But I never wanted to be bitter about it because I felt that I got the amazing chance to raise my children the way I wanted to. Also knowing some other teachers that I taught with was a real eye opener about how bitterness can ruin your life. Both of these woman died young of cancer and I somehow think that all that bitterness caused it. Last year around this time we received a phone call from my first husband’s sister telling us that he was dying and he didn’t have much time left and if his daughters would want to see him. They hadn’t seen him in maybe 20 years. So the girls wanted to do it only if I would go with them. So my husband and I paid for the plane trip and the rental car and the hotel room and my daughters and I left 2 hours later that day. I f was a very cold and rainy time and we had to went a car and travel 2 hours on the freeway to get there, We enter the room and he was so surprised to see us. I sat right next to him and the girls who were 41 and 38 sar to the side of him. He was so surprised to see us and we talked alot and laughed alot. He couldn’t get over that I came and we had a great time.I did alot of the talking because I am go at that and he talked to the girls to. But it was like a family reunion and we told him we would pray for him and if he got better he wanted to come down to the beach where I live. I toldhim I would fly him down and he could stay with us. So we said our goodbyes and he actually lasted 5 more days until the Lord sent him home. So God is good and he gave my daughters the time to say goodbye.

    1. What a lovely sharing, Joan. It made me cry….much more than I should have….so now I have to figure out why. Perhaps it was because it presents a wonderful example of lack of residual bitterness and a true “moving on.” Shows us what we are capable of if we just decide on taking that path.

      Thanks for your honest and open lesson.

    2. Joan, what a beautiful, beautiful story~ profound gifts of the spirit for everyone involved. You showed your girls the power of grace and courage in forgiveness: you will all likely remember that day for the rest of your lives. Saying goodbye after difficult times can be hard, but saying it well *anyway* is a gift to savor.

    3. Joan, I am so profoundly moved by your story, and I hadn’t read it before I posted above, my rather silly and trivial reply about DKNY and what not. Suzanne remarked that you were able to move on and what a wonderful example of lack of bitterness it sets, but I also have to take my hat off to you because I sense for you it was not about moving on, but making yourself go back, back to where you may have not even wanted to go, but you did it for your former husband’s sake to allow him, him! to move on. And your daughters also were willing to step back into time for him – I never cease to be amazed by the woman/mother in us females, even girls who have not yet been a wife or a mother. I still think of us all as being the stair or step forward that needs a hand from the one behind us, which also allows us as the one ahead to reach out behind and lead a step more. Love to all!

  9. Beautiful post today,Fred is awesome! Fur kids,never thought of that. Another reason for my kids to think I am becoming a crazy cat lady!

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