Four years ago my husband and I had our first child and bought our house. In that time we went from average grass-growing Americans to small-scale urban farmers. Our home is in what could be considered a low-income area with a significant amount of gang violence. Still it is an oasis in the sprawling San Francisco Bay area.
We grow everything from heirlooms to subtropical fruits. I specialize in the vegetables, pollinators and poultry while my husband does the rare fruit (meaning it does not grow here, is not a commercial variety or it is an “old world” variety). Very few parts of the year do not involve planning, planting, grafting, watering, weeding or harvesting. Once you start, it consumes you. No wonder people buy the hybrid and patented plants — being an organic heirloom farmer is hard work!
Three years ago, our marriage hit the rocks. Two years ago we had our second child.
We still got on okay. We still “gardened.” We didn’t just garden, we farmed. We took the girls to every scion exchange, fruit tasting, garden work day and expo we could. Then last year he filed for divorce and many tears were shed. Three months later he withdrew his petition — back to the fruit hunting to went.
We went to Florida and Hawai’i in search of fruit adventures with our kidlets. We did the same round of exchanges, classes and tastings — it was amazing. The baby learned to walk and ate a starfruit nearly as big as her in the same week. She learned to chicken wrangle and how to pick ripe cape gooseberries while our older girl helped revamp a huge community garden and learned to plant seedlings this last year. I chased a woman down like a crazy person in the farmer’s market in Hilo to buy her rollinia deliciosa (lemon meringue fruit) so we could add one more fruit to our 60-plus pounds we were already trying to consume.
We were in the clear, right? Nope.
Two weekends ago we were sitting talking and he stopped me mid sentence, just like in a sappy movie. “I want to separate.”
Four days later I called my lawyer. I filed for divorce. Not for the reason you think, but he is right. It is just time. I have felt like I have been the only one holding up the sky for so long. This way, we can still be awesome parents — apart but together. I still love him and he cares for me and we can be friends. We will still chase fruit together and teach our girls about the magic of botanical diversity, but we cannot be married any more.
We have chosen to be amicable. That is a lot harder than you might think, but not because of us so much as those we know. We have these two girls and we want them to be able to love whomever they want of our friends and family without worrying about what mom or dad thinks.
So, here we are: doing it differently just like we always do. We started by giving what I call the “We’re getting divorced and we still want you to love us” talk. We sat a few of our close friends down at dinner. We told them we were getting a divorce and that we don’t want anyone taking sides and that we are trying to maintain all of our friendships as they are now. If anyone has questions, feel free to ask, but some we may not be ready to answer.
Then we approached my husband’s family. We gave them our mini-speech and waited for the questions. The biggest one was expected but clearly our answer was not. Who lives where? I will be staying in the house since I am the primary caregiver for our children and it would not disrupt their lives in a great way. Being that my husband has put so much love into our mini-farm though, I cannot tell him that he must walk away from it.
So on our division of assets list when we thought we were nearly done last night, he asked me if we should list the plants. I said, “Just list fruiting plants and chickens — joint custody.” He looked at me for a moment. We just argued over folding chairs and now I say this? He burst out laughing, and so did his family when we told them.
No one we know has ever seen a divorce like this before. We hope it will be the kind people talk about for years and model theirs after if they need one — the kind no one will ever forget or believe, and the kind that our kids will be thankful for.