As you know if you’ve read my “About Me” section, I’m happily divorced and good friends with my ex, Dave. Although I can’t speak for him, I believe he would say the same thing. We mutually agreed to end a marriage that needed to end, and it allowed us to save a great friendship.
One of the interesting things you go through in a divorce is wondering about all the people in your life and how many of them will still be in your life. In most cases, I figured the people who really cared about me would still be there, and I knew some would drop off, and that would be ok.
A great issue in my case was the potential loss of the family I’d been a part of for more than 26 years. That’s a lot of births, deaths, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, divorces and other life moments. Throw in a lot of great parties, trips, sporting events, tough times, new homes, kids moving away, kids moving home, job changes and health issues, and you have a lot of living. A big portion of my world was about to potentially disappear.
I’d been Aunt Andee as long as Dave had been Uncle Dave. We’d both welcomed each niece or nephew coming into our world. We’d both mourned the two little girls who were born too early. We’d celebrated the celebrations (the Chestnuts do love a party), and we’d shared the tough times. There were so many more things to come, whether good or bad, but I didn’t know if I’d be a part of those moments. And, of course, I knew that if a choice had to be made, I would be the one on the outside.
There was a family wedding approaching, and I knew not to assume anything, so I tried not to get my hopes up. I just waited.
And then a lovely thing happened. My invitation arrived in the mail. In hindsight, I think I may have been the only one who worried it was an issue. My father-in-law, who likes for people to think he’s a grump (and to his credit, he’s very good at it), told me that even if Dave or I remarried, I would always be a Chestnut. That’s probably the biggest speech I’ve ever heard him make. It may not be a lot by most people’s standards, but it was a major statement from this man of very few words. Then my mother-in-law (never a grump) said pretty much the same thing to me, that no matter what, I’d always be a Chestnut.
Shortly after that, I was at the wedding shower, and we were supposed to introduce ourselves and say how we knew the bride or groom. I remember saying, “Oh boy, how do I respond to this one?” I thought to myself, “Well, you see, Dave and I were married for a very long time, and even though we’re getting a divorce, well, we’re still friends, so….” My sister-in-law interrupted my thoughts and said to me, “You’re his aunt.” Wow, that was simple….and so very sweet.
Then a few nieces posted to me that I’d always be Aunt Andee, and one niece said something like, “if you’re not going to be at (whatever function), why would I want to be there?”
These all seem like very simple statements; but when you’re in the uncharted waters of life after divorce, they are huge.
Now, keep in mind, there was a time that going to any family function brought on lots of heavy sighing, gearing up for any potential insults, practicing what to say and what not to say, and then keeping a close eye on our impressionable young children because of some of the inappropriate comments that would more than likely fly at any given moment, especially as the night went on. It could be a lot of work back in the day.
When you start with seven children (the original Chestnut seven), and then add spouses or significant others, making it 14, who through biology or marriage bring in 15 more children to the family, and then (so far) maybe 12 of those “kids” now have marriages or partnerships, and from that generation, nine more little ones have entered the family (so far). And that doesn’t even cover the two original cousins, their spouses, their kids and future partners. I lost count somewhere along the way, but you can see that is one big bunch of ‘Nuts! (Oh yeah, we’ve heard them all.)
Of course, there’s always a little bit of drama, but nothing that ever amounts to much. Everyone still speaks to everyone else. There are smaller groups that hang together because there have to be with that many people, and some of us are closer to some of the others, but it doesn’t mean we love anyone else any less.
Coming up soon will be the annual Very Chestnut Christmas. Here’s what I know. Someone will say something inappropriate. Someone will probably drink too much. Someone will make me double over laughing. Sometimes that will even be the same person. There will be a lot of food, a lot of drink and a lot of laughter. It’ll be loud, it’ll be crowded, and there will be a lot of dysfunctional fun, which is bound to create some hilarious family stories that will then come up at every future family gathering.
I’m almost afraid to say this, but yet, I feel I must. Especially coming from a small family whose family gatherings were much less animated, this family means a lot to me. I have to admit it. I’m grateful and honored to still be one of the Nuts.