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Hold This Dream

By Cynthia Harrison

Recently the woman who has been married to my ex for 20+ years e-mailed me. She's been a great step mom to my sons, Mike and Tim, but I can count the times I've spoken to her on one hand. And I've met her exactly once, at Mike's college graduation. But Tim is getting married this summer, and she thought it would be a good idea to get his four parents alone together in a room before the big event. I thought so, too. Our husbands were less enthusiastic, but they went along with it.

Which is how I found myself across the table, eating pizza, with a man who bitterly disappointed me many years ago, and, who, despite attempts to do so, I had never quite forgiven. I can't speak for him, but feel confident that the feeling is mutual, as I was not my best self back then, and did a lot of shit to piss him off. Still, it's time to let go of all that and be friends again. Or at least take photos together without exploding the camera.

It wasn't as uncomfortable as I'd envisioned. He smiled at me! He asked my husband, Al, about his job! Since I knew that Dawn had always been a loving mom to my kids, and sweet to me the few times we talked, I knew I'd like her. With the help of chardonnay and Long Island Iced Tea, we caught each other's rhythms right away.

We talked about the kids, sports, work, and the wedding. Then, long after dinner was finished, my ex asked if we had anything more we needed to say. He had a cold, and it's funny, but even after all these years, I could tell he just wanted to go home and curl up under an afghan.

But he asked, so I talked. I'm not much of a sports person, and I don't work for a corporation like the three of them, so my input to this point had been limited. My business is people. Fictional people, to be sure, but still, I'm an expert on dissecting emotion, dysfunction, relationship dynamics, and conflict. I'd just finished Hamlet with the college class I teach (now there's a dysfunctional family for you...) and had sent Publisher's Weekly my latest book review critiquing another fine mess a group of mostly well-intentioned characters had gotten themselves into. I wasn't about to leave the table until we at least discussed some of the stuff family and friends had been quacking about since we announced the wedding.

When we'd exhausted all possible issues, we went our separate ways, and at least I was feeling warm and fuzzy about our cooperative planning and the fact that these two kids really seem ready for The Big Step. I thanked Dawn for making the move toward the long overdue rapprochement between the parents of two (out of three) people I love most in the world.

I dreamed about Dawn that night: she came to my house to tell me she'd finished the water garden in my backyard. In the way of dreams, I hadn't known she'd started one, but gamely followed her out to my yard. Between our houses (because of course in this dream I at once understood that we lived next door to each other) flowed a glittering oasis of clean, clear water. It cascaded down decorative rocks on either end, it pooled and eddied in the middle, it made wonderful soothing water sounds. I cried as I said thanks. Which is when I woke up, and thanked her again.

Along with being a life-long student of all things symbolic, including the redemptive, renewing qualities of water, I'm an avid gardener. With more enthusiasm and energy than green stuff, be it thumb or money, my backyard  has gradually grown into one big garden, and I've done every bit of the back-breaking, dirty, sweaty, work myself. Well, Al plants the trees, and cuts the tiny patch of lawn that still exists between all the flowers, but basically that yard is my baby, and I've always dreamed of adding a  water element to it, but never believed I had the resources or the stamina to make it happen.

But sometimes, a heart's desire comes from unexpected places, in magical ways.

Cindy Harrison 


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