Moving back in with my parents during the divorce was helpful in many ways. They provided us with a safe and comfortable place to live while I dealt with the loss of a marriage. Initially it felt like a part of my chest had been ripped open, leaving me with a gaping hole where my love and trust had resided. I remember the exact minute I realized there could be happiness beyond the grief consuming me since the end of my marriage. Jessica and I were outside sledding down the hill in our yard after a typical December snowfall. We both flew off the sled in the middle of a bump, landing face-down in a pile of snow. We shared a burst of spontaneous laughter, and it was at that moment I suddenly recognized the true beauty of the experience. It had been many months since I felt a joy as pure as this.
With no teaching jobs available in the pubic schools and having a child I needed to support, I wasn't sure what direction to take so I could begin earning money. While in college I had been hired as an assistant in a Montessori classroom, and I returned to that position after my divorce. I had admired Montessori's belief of how young children learn, so I quickly accepted an offer to return to school for one year, earning a teaching certificate from the International Montessori Institute. It was a big commitment because the training center was located in Milwaukee, and I would be making a daily commute back and forth for a year. Upon certification though, I knew I would be able to get a job and follow by passion...teaching. After receiving the funds I needed, my mom and dad offered to pick up Jessica from day care and be with her until I arrived home each day from class. Everything was in place as the school year began. What a year!
Being a full time student and single parent was a challenge, but with the support of my family it all worked. The most difficult adjustment for me was leaving my young daughter at the day care every morning as I left for class. While saying our good-byes one day, Jessica very softly said, "Mommy, I know you don't want to leave me here, but you need to go to school far away and I can't go with you. I'll be okay, Mommy." I cried most of the way to Milwaukee. Keeping focused on my goal of gaining financial independence and being able to support Jessica made this short-term sacrifice worthwhile.
Upon completion of my classwork, I received a job offer in Minneapolis. I felt a mixture of fear and excitement as I was about to embark on a new job in a new city with my daughter. This was my first experience living away from my hometown and the emotional support of my family, but I felt this was the right choice for all of us. I laugh now when I remember the interesting set of furniture we used in our apartment. Looking around, it may have seemed as though we were hosting an indoor garage sale because there were random pieces throughout the rooms, with nothing matching or coordinating. We had assembled it from the donations made to us by our family or friends. None of that mattered though, because we had the most important piece any home could possess...love!
After arranging our living room, I was in the kitchen unpacking dishes when Jessica called for me to come right away. Horrified, she announced, "Mommy, the television is broken, and the color is all gone." I had to gently explain that Grandma and Grandpa had a color television in their house, but ours was black and white. Yes, we both had a period of adjustment, but we came to understand how special it was that we were able to make these minor adjustments together. That year our Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments purchased at the local Ben Franklin store. Today, almost thirty-five years later, I continue to use those ornaments on my tree as a reminder that the true essence of beauty is simply love.