The Anniversary


Meredith stood in the door, one foot in, one foot out – the same way she’d been in her heart for the past twenty-five years. She turned for one last look inside, almost afraid that with this glance, like Lot’s wife, she’d turn to a pillar of salt. Every memory that rose crushed her battered heart as if she were living it once again.

She could not, would not lie to herself – to God – there were good times. There was joy. Laughter. They raised three beautiful children in this house… Well, she did. She birthed them and nursed them. Fed them and bathed them. Laughed with them. Cried with them. Read them the Bible. Taught them to pray. Sat up late helping with school projects and then got up early when they still weren’t done. Mourned lost loves and shopped for that first special dress. Had “the talk” when the time came. Had other talks when they messed up. What did he do? He paid the bills. He taught them anger. That it’s unacceptable to make a mistake. And he taught them all how to walk on eggshells. It seemed their floors were covered with them.

He taught her things, too – like how to be alone – even when you’re with someone. Alone until the sound of nothingness echoes off the walls and even the voices inside your head begin to startle you when they speak. Until finally you’re alone so much that you don’t know anything else. Until the idea of being together is like little bugs crawling underneath the surface of your skin. Until your stomach drops to your toes when you hear the car pull up in the evenings and you realize he’s home. Alone has become your safe haven.

He taught her human value – who had it and who didn’t. She didn’t. Nor the children. They were… an interruption in his day, an inconvenience. The Master Puppeteer, everyone and everything kept in his control, on his strings, under his thumb, dancing to his song.

It wasn’t always this way. They were so in love in the beginning. At least Meredith thought they were. She had found her soul mate. So often she would hear them (whoever “them” is) talk about how women marry expecting that they will be able to change their husbands. But, that wasn’t Meredith. She didn’t want to change him. He was perfect for her just the way he was – The yin to her yang…the peanut butter to her jelly…the milk to her cookies.

And so they married. Perhaps too young. Perhaps too fast. The first two weeks were a flurry of busyness. They moved into a new home and had such fun picking out furniture and painting walls – just being newlyweds. But, as soon as the last box was emptied, the last dish stacked in the cabinet and the paint dried, the honeymoon was truly over.

One morning Meredith awoke to a stranger in her bed. His features were the same, but the essence of his being seemed to be swallowed up in someone she did not know – nor did she want to.

When the children came along there was new hope that he would soften – how could you not when you looked into your child’s face? But, no. He became more controlling, more angry, more withdrawn.

For twenty-five years Meredith danced on his puppet strings, trying to be the “good” wife, the “submissive” wife. She spent her days tip-toeing across eggshells so as not to disturb the giant – teaching the children how to tip-toe around them, as well.

But, now the children were grown and gone. Kyle and Eric, the twins, are both married. Julia, the baby, is a senior in college living half-way across the country. And one by one Meredith began to feel her strings starting to snap.

Those eggshells she tip-toed across have become a nest-egg. It’s not much, just the little bits here and there she could stash away from the grocery money.  But it’s enough –  enough to get her to Julia’s in New York. She has a small apartment just off campus. Meredith feels a little twinge of joy at the thought of leaving the Arizona temperatures. (Dry heat, indeed! Ha!) Her mind races with possibilities. Maybe she’ll see a white Christmas for the first time this year! Wouldn’t that be magical?! But, what will really be magical is that it will be HER Christmas, HER choice. Maybe she’ll even go back to school in the evenings – and get a job during the day…

Her heart starts pounding wildly! The excitement is almost too much.

It’s getting late and the taxi pulls up. She doesn’t want to miss her plane. She reaches into her purse and takes out a small package that she sets on the table by the door. It’s addressed to her husband – one last anniversary gift before she’s gone. Inside there’s a small box filled with eggshells and a note that reads, “Dear Dan, From now on you’ll need to clean these up yourself. – Meredith”

She turns and closes the door. Unlike Lot’s wife, she doesn’t look back again.

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