My husband and kids went out of town for the weekend. For twelve years, I’d neither traveled alone nor stayed at home alone overnight, and here I was with a whole weekend of quiet, responsible for no one but myself.
I knew I would like it, but I thought that pleasure would be tempered by a feeling of being unmoored with no husband or children around to define me and shape my days. I thought that by the time they returned on Sunday, I would be thrilled to see them and hug them and settle back into our routines. But when the car pulled into the driveway and I saw them all sitting there in their steel box, I did not feel like hugging them. My heart dropped, and I realized that my quiet was over, my time of being responsible for myself alone had been an illusion.
It had actually started when I woke up that morning with the lines of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” reciting themselves in jumbled order in my mind and I realized that the road not taken isn’t the other path but both of the paths, that the narrator in the poem stood and stood and stood and could have just kept standing there not choosing either path. Both paths were the road not taken until he took a step down the one. The significance wasn’t in which path he chose but just that he made a choice.
Had I chosen to marry and have children so that I could remain at that fork in the road and avoid choosing a path?
With that thought in my mind and my smile fading on my lips, I greeted my family. As the day wore on, the conviction grew: I had made a mistake.
I started this blog as a place where I could be “me,” where I could express the person I am outside of my roles as wife and mother. But I think it’s telling that I went six months without posting. My husband and my children own me, not in the sense of technical or legal possession but in the sense that they hold my identity. After nearly twenty years of allowing my Self to be subsumed into my roles, I’m not sure there is a “me” there anymore.
I say “anymore,” but I’m not sure there was one to start with. I was seventeen when I met my husband, a precocious seventeen, but seventeen nonetheless. With forty now nipping at my heels, I think that maybe when he broke up with me in college that I shouldn’t have fought so hard to get back together. When we moved three thousand miles from one another, I should have let that distance stand rather than getting on the plane and insisting on moving in with him. When he was uncertain about getting married, I should have left him to his uncertainty instead of letting my decisiveness carry us both.
But I didn’t. Instead I wove myself into his life and then into our children’s lives to the point that I can’t find myself among the interwoven threads. If I were to pull away and try to be someone separate, I would create a rend that could never be repaired satisfactorily. There would always be frayed edges. The pattern would never match up perfectly.
And suppose I rended it all asunder and stood, alone, at that fork in the road, gazing at those two paths. I fear that the wind would blow right through me.