We wanted to tell our sons
about the divorce
in a gentle way. Seven and nine
were impressionable ages,
so we planned our strategy well,
rehearsing every line,
carefully not leaving out the part
that we still loved them
and nothing was their fault.
Which, of course, it wasn't.
He said he wanted it made
perfectly clear
they would not be losing him.
"They can visit Lil and me
as often as they wish."

Ironic how we picked our bedroom
to break it to them.
We were strangers on opposite sides
of what used to be our bed,
and I held the Kleenex box in my hand
like a gavel.
He, in his starched shirt, sat upright,
as if at attention, his spit-polished shoes
ready to bolt at the last bugle's note.

They, like overstuffed teddy bears,
stood in the doorway of the room
where they were made,
their suits dripping cold
from winter's early snow.
Politely they listened
as we mouthed the words
that we'd rehearsed,
and suddenly I realized what fools we'd been:
all those years of lies,
those years of feigning happiness
for their sake,
because truth glowed like a lone ember
in a bed of ashes
when, without fanfare
of shock, of surprise,
of tears, of sadness,
they asked nonchalantly,
"Can we go back outside?"

I guess children
can tell the difference between
their land of make-believe
and the grown-up world of pretend.

Copyright 1994 Ruth Gillis

Previously published in the Fall/Winter 1995
issue of Mobius

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