A Love Letter: Post-Divorce Family & Place

A Love Letter: Post-Divorce Family & Place


20 years ago I arrived at a cabin, my newish boyfriend’s extended family cabin, for my first 4th of July visit. Friendly, curious new faces greeted me and aunts scrambled to determine appropriate sleeping arrangements.

I’ve returned each year – twenty straight, arriving as a new version of myself: high school graduate, college student, career woman, wife, pregnant, new mama, mama of two, separated, divorced, lost, in finding.

The door remains open, accepting me however I arrive.

How do you write a love letter to people and place that expresses a feeling of gratitude that pulses too deep and rich to be confined by words, the goodness magnified by its contrast to what you’ve faced in darkness?

You try to offer the words time and time again, never quite feeling accomplished. The tears spilled during each attempt hold volumes of expression for every sentence spoken.

Family that remains family through separation or divorce is a rare treasure, I’m acutely aware. There have been casualties, leaving etchings on my insides.

Divorce siphons tradition and blurs your bearings.

I arrived a week later this year after spending the holiday solo for the first time. By opening up this cabin to me, they gift me security; a lifeline to family that fills me, grounds me, and anchors me. The landscape after divorce can feel patchy and undernourished. These people and this place offer a grounding, a resting place; an exhale. I was held that week. I am held by their presence.

Visiting over the past few years, there were times when I sensed a hollow space present, like something was missing – maybe the parameters of my little family and my identity from so many years prior, familiar patterns deeply imprinted. Maybe fresh wounds keeping scars from healing over until the work is done and the lessons have been embraced. We hold tightly those hollow spaces serving little more than honoring the feeling that some of our understanding and growth has yet to take shape. It’s a decision over and over to slowly hold the hollow space farther away from your body until it blows off into the wind and is replaced by entirely new nows.

This is now. This is good. It’s good because I choose it.

It was the first year in the 20 that I didn’t ask for road direction reminders and just felt my way instead. Remaining responsible for all the workings of my little family’s life is not new to me and yet somehow, silly as it sounds, this represents a sort of graduation or growing-up, not relying on anyone to get us where we’re going. We created new traditions on our trip. I hope to slide blocks of foundation in place for these babes. These landmarks will serve as a compass for their yesterdays.

Headphones cup little heads leaned on backseat windows watching the space grow between the place and us. I work to wrestle the slight shredding sensation I associate with departure into a pull drawing us toward home. The music carries us there.

When I offer a final misty-eyed root beer float toast and gratitude to the people in the room, they take it in quietly and reply, “You’re family. That’s it.” And these words stream through my mind on repeat throughout the year.

Words that trigger emotion and memories in me serve as shared experience between those in a love relationship with this place. My love letter…

Lengthy welcome hugs transmitting understanding.

The sound of the craft garage door railing open signifying a session of art and silent, content engagement.

Smoke streams rising above the tree line along the shore’s length noting circular connection. Gathering.

Waking in a sun drenched porch, taking in the contents of the room as if they were new each morning.

Echoes of birds bouncing off glass-top water drawing us back to our roots.

Sun streaked hair caught dancing in the wind of the boat-parted flow.

Eerie yodels of loons circling and filling the lake’s bowl.

Witnessing lessons imparted between generations: legendary fishing spots, fish cleaning, lure selection, worm stringing.

The unfamiliar feeling of being cared for.

Storytelling. Identifying with those we never met, with whom we share an ongoing history.

A first-hand lesson in gracious hosting. Deciding you want to be like that when you grow up.

The delicious comfortable silence in the company of others.

Moments frozen in time with the click of a camera capturing missing-tooth grins and tiny hands holding up slimy fish.

Indeed finding the edge of, “Is there such thing as too much candy?”

A wine bottle leans in a pontoon cup holder near a stack of fish painted glasses.

The security and sounds of waking with company.

Surveying small concentrated faces peering up from Bingo cards wishing a specific number into existence.

The smells of a breakfast that you didn’t make yourself.

A first swim in crystal-clear water, a smooth bottom sandbar, and iridescent coated clamshells – vacant mouths wide open.

Admiration of women wiser than I.

Giddiness the equivalent to your children’s experiencing a first.

Cabin Rules: Do what you want when you want to.

Tiny, “I love it here(s),” whispered in the dark from adjacent airbeds.

32 steps – one with stick-engraved date in the concrete – take you from dock to cabin.

Feeling a bit more whole than when you arrived.

Traditions mixed with firsts in perfect proportion.

Tear dripped cheeks, skin taut at the apple from a grateful smile.

Thank you, Family. Thank you, Place.


  1. Truth, beauty and gratitude. What an open heart…the only kind to have.

  2. Came across your blog this morning and so grateful that I did. This post is so humbling and fills me with so many emotions.

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