I admit, I used to hate you. With the heat of a million suns, I hated you. The first moment I saw your photo on your Facebook page, and figured out who that pretty girl with the big brown eyes was to him, the love of my life (or so I believed at the time), I hated you.
“Why?” I asked him. “Why her and not me?”
“She’s nice,” he said, simply. Most of the exes, upon finding the next woman to love, have sought the same thing. I wasn’t nice, then. No, I wasn’t. I can see that now. I couldn’t then, even with him being so clear. She’s nice. He wanted nice. And I hated you.
I hated losing him to you. But even more than that, at the start, I hated that you were going to meet my son. My son, who I never wanted to come from a broken home. I never wanted my son to have another mother. I hated you.
But life moved forward, unconcerned with my feelings. You moved in with him. You married him. You met my son. I cried myself to sleep alone. Then I picked not one bad man to fill that hole left in my life when my best friend chose you, but two, then three, sliding toward the center of my destruction, pulled along by the gravity of despair.
Slowly, slowly I got over him. But sending my son to you was still a knife to the gut. You were outgoing, fun, always happy, never took things personally, measured in the way you spoke, smarter than I’d realized, funny as hell, kind to others. You sang karaoke. I was never going to be the girl who did that. I was the one in the corner, drunk. You were the one onstage, who knew everyone’s name, who cared about everything and meant it.
My son, at first, said nothing. He did not want to give the appearance of liking you, because he knew I hated you. I never said it, but children can read the inner workings of their mothers’ minds from the slightest lift of an eyebrow, the tiniest tightening of the mouth. Over time, he’d come back from his weekends with you guys, and he’d be happier than when he’d left. You did normal things with him, barbecues with your large and loving family, whereas my family was tiny and not prone to interacting with one another. My son began to feel a pride in having stepsisters, as he’d always wanted siblings and was never going to get them from me. I met your daughters, and they were beautiful, kind, intelligent.
I saw from afar, at the basketball games and other events, that you made him happy, my ex. Happier than he’d ever been with me. I saw that you two loved each other as though you were born to be together. I was finally over the anger and I could genuinely be happy for him. And for you.
You were never anything but polite to me. You were kind to me, even when I was mean to you. He was right, of course. You were nice. You were organized. You always paid your bills on time. You were responsible, far more so than I. I began, to my surprise, to like you.
It began to be more comfortable to co-parent with you than it was with him, because, well, because you are nice to me and he isn’t. I realized, as I got to know you, just how admirable you were, taking care of your mother and grandmother, holding your family together, being a good friend to me and others, being gifted, brilliant really, in the realm of emotional intelligence, the one area in which I was not smart. I began to study you, to learn from you. I looked forward to sending my son to spend time with you, because I realized you genuinely, truly loved my child. You loved him, because you truly loved his father.
I realized, with a shock, that the more people in the world who loved my son as you did, like a mother, the better for my son. And that was all I wanted, in the universe. That my son be loved. I realized that sometimes those things that we think are the worst events in our lives, like a husband leaving you for someone nicer than you, are actually the best things to happen, in the long run. My son’s world got bigger, and warmer, when you came into it. His family grew. The circle of people who would be around to love my child once I was gone got larger, his safety net, bigger. I didn’t hate you at all, anymore. In fact, I didn’t just like you. I was starting to love you, like a sister.
What made me love you was that day at the baseball game. It was chilly out, and the game was long, too long for parents sitting towards the setting sun. I’d brought the coffee for us, from Starbucks, and you? You’d brought the kahlua minis, in your purse. We giggled as we poured them into our white cups, and giggled even more as they began to work their magic. I watched you, the patience with which you spoke to your daughters, and I felt nothing but a deep and radiant love for you. You were not my sister wife, but you were my SOULSISTER mom. Nowadays, we coparent so effectively and with such mutual respect that people at one parent meeting assumed my son came from one of those “two mommy” households.
Tomorrow evening, we are hanging out together, just me and you, for the first time outside of my son’s sporting events. Like real friends. Real friends. Yes, we are. You are my dear friend now, Alana. I am sorry for ever being mean to you at the start. You are, more than anything, living proof that sometimes the most painful things become the most obviously good things, with enough time. It’s all about patience.
Thank you, Alana, for loving my son. I love you.