[img_assist|nid=4284|title=The Artist as Vase by Ernest Williamson III © 2006|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=150|height=254]
If summer was breaking plates, what then was spring?
A time to keep moving. One deliberately placed foot at a time. A left step followed by a right. Learning what the phrase “going through the motions” means.
Begin with the occasion. A blue linen cloth covers the table. Your mother ironed and starched the embroidered daisies into submission. The candles flicker. Small, pastel, foil-wrapped eggs are scattered artfully amid the individual saltcellars and pepper shakers, the pot of jonquils, the butter sculpted in the shape of a lamb. I can see now that its peppercorn eyes take it all in. An oversized chocolate rabbit flanks the table setting of each grandchild. Even though they are too old for hunts, there is one for eighteen-year-old Phillip, one for thirteen-year-old Emily. The candy figures are hollow—the chocolate, chalky. Later, they will be discarded.
Or should I correct myself—the beginning was Good Friday.
Actually, an interesting day to tell me that you were leaving.
And in the time that it took for Jesus to rise, there I was swallowing bites of glazed ham. Helping myself to spring peas and a dollop of mashed new potatoes. All the while waiting for a plank in the wooden floor to open up, vaudeville style, and drop me out of the scene. For a scene it is. And I am the greatest performer of all. Amazingly—showered, styled, coiffed, even articulate. Chit chatting with your parents. Catching up on the latest family news. Helping in the kitchen. Passing plates of hors d’oeuvres. Sipping white wine.
Now keeping myself upright in the Hitchcock chair, I lean against the painted frame for support. No one sees the slightest crack in my smile. No one hears the slightest cry in my voice. I appear fresh, but on the inside the stain spreads.
You said you were unhappy.
Playing over and over in my head like a classic hit gone wrong. You were going through the motions. Needed to do this. Looking for your own place. But, still, somehow, you didn’t want to throw away almost twenty-seven years.
And how was I feeling?
Too shocked and scared and panicked to have made such a decision. That, indeed, you should stay until Phillip graduates, until Emily and I take our trip to Spain and France, until the season passes for you to leave.
And was there even a spring?
For there must have been daffodils poking through the matted winter mulch in the rock garden. Their thrustings like small fingertips reaching for the warmth, the light.
And what about the lavender curling over the rocks, choking every little plant in its way. A shock of purple, a symphony of bees. That must have been later in May.
Spring was a time of pretending. It was a time when my spirit whispered, barely audibly, all will be well, and all will be well, my chant, and all manner of things shall be well against the sound of your voice droning on and on, gaining strength and momentum about your ever-present unhappiness like so many worker bees.
The vernal equinox must be slightly out of kilter.
The sun sets. Each night I listen to the rhythm of your breath as you sleep. Your eyelids flutter as you plan your move, gather your energy, your resolve, while I grow exhausted, deprived of rest but driven, somehow, to stay awake, to worry, to plot out scenarios.
How exhilarating it would have been to take a rain check on Easter. Bag the singsong greetings, discard the bouquet of tulips, throw out the dessert. For the holiday set the precedent when there should have been an announcement: the spring performance is cancelled due to lack of interest.
And because there is no communication between us, has in fact never been, we busy ourselves planning the menu for the graduation party and painting the sun-porch woodwork. I pull the faxes out of the machine, page by page, of the houses on your list. Shake my head and murmur a wistful no. I do not wish to help you look for a new home even though you respect my opinion.
And so the season, like everything else, passes. We sit in the living room, the children wondering what they did wrong now, when you tell them your news. Your desires. Your needs. Your plans sketched out for them. There is silence and then Emily runs out the front door, slams it shut, to find a friend around the corner while Phillip, on his way out the back, tells me through his tears that everything is going to be all right.
So I return to planting my summer hostas in the bed near the kitchen. I see you standing, watching me, through the den window. The light is fiery and illuminates your figure in the late part of the day.
The children will not return for dinner. As it turns out, it is the last supper of sorts but no one realizes this now. You will be gone in the morning before Phillip and Emily even wake up. I ask if you would like to eat in front of the TV. A sitcom will do the talking in our house tonight.
I prod the pasta salad with my fork. Suddenly, the tomatoes, the black olives, the green peppers confuse me. I rest my fork carefully on the ironstone plate.
“This is very good,” you comment. “You’ll have to give me the recipe when I leave.”
My silent rage grows, spreads, but has nowhere to go. I pick up my plate. When I open the backdoor, the early evening air washes over me. As I throw the plate against the shed, I imagine the pasta salad scattered amid the ivy and pachysandra. It takes several tries to break the heavy plate, but when I succeed, the smooth, glazed shard reveals its chalky inside.
Betsy L. Haase teaches eighth grade Communications. She is a Teacher-Consultant for the National Writing Project and a candidate in the Master of Arts Writing Program at Rowan University.