She had a corner on the sidewalk near our bank. I was drawn to her raggedy rice hat and crumpled up face, like a dollar bill that had gone thru the wash. She squatted on her store, a blanket spread on the ground, her wares a basket of frogs, each the size of a baseball mit.
Her small hand would grab a green monster, and with a quick flick of her paring knife, she’d slice away nature’s wet suit, placing the skinless frog on her blanket for a customer to buy.
The heart was beating and exposed.
I gaped. I was disgusted at the voyeur in me, my eyes connecting with the tiny black pearls. So different than the ones in Mr. Bendnarowski’s biology class that reeked of formaldehyde, not life.
The frog monger felt my stare, or did she feel my judgment hovering over her sun hat? I gave her a smile even though I wanted to take the knife out of her hand. She didn’t blink. She just grabbed another frog and slit it open.
Nobody wants to be that frog.
Nobody wants to be the monger.
But I’ve been both.
A few months ago, I was the frog, making it public I was getting a divorce. Not exactly the way anyone wants to update their FB status. It was humiliating, the post of shame, making me empathize with the who had shared she was pregnant before her belly resembled a Jiffy Pop, or the mother of the guy arrested for another DUI, or the contestant on the Price is Right who made an outrageously wrong bid.
I had to strip away my not-so-thick skin and make my private life public.
How else would I find a lawyer other than one advertised on a faded billboard? Asking for a friend for a recommendation is a lot harder than asking a stranger for a tampon in a women’s john.
My heart was exposed. My tough skin discarded in a basket with others.
But as the divorce is underway, I have morphed into the frog monger skinning plump wet toads. I have the terrible task of separating memories with the paring knife in my mind.
Is it taboo to keep pictures of my wedding day? Can I still smile when something reminds me of one our inside jokes? Am I allowed to wear the charm bracelet that once belonged to his brother, with a sterling buffalo ? I want to hang onto the magic that we had– fearing if I don’t–it will be remembered as smoke and mirrors.
At first, I thought this was a question for my attorney. I wanted to have custody of our memories along with the Hobart mixer.
In February, I had to make the pilgrimage back to our storage unit for legal documents for the divorce and coveted ice cube trays for China. It’s in Chicago, and the five by seven foot space has become a shrine of sorts to the marriage that once was, holding sacred memories as well as winter sweaters. The pull-up door was my wailing wall, placing the key in the padlock, a new ritual.
I did not take off my shoes or genuflect. I did not see a neon shrine blinking like the ones in Vietnam or a stained glass Jesus. But the alter to what we had was as thick as incense, starting with his block letters marking a banana box, “KITCHEN”.
Lucky for me, my friend Sue offered to come with.
“I won’t need help lifting boxes,” I said.
“It’s not the boxes I’m worried about. It’s the memories,” she warned. “You’ll need help with them.”
As we sorted through what to save and what to donate to the shelter, I’d stop every now and then to cry. Sue would hand me tissue.
I pulled out a rolling stool to sit on while I blew my nose,”I know what to do with old ornaments and poultry scissors, but what about the fifteen years of memories? What do I do with them?”
Sue gave me a hug. “Oh, don’t part with them. Forgive him instead.
Sue reminded me that I made a commitment to God to take care of my spouse through thick or thin, better or worse. Divorce isn’t the end. It’s the worse. And the forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight, as if it were ordered on Amazon prime. It takes a while.
But by honoring the vows and praying for my X, I can cherish the memories and focus on my commitment to God instead of bickering over who gets the blender.
Forgiveness allows me the freedom to move on, and not have to worry about which thoughts to keep and which to skin away.
If I forgive, I won’t have to forget.
Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32