IAN UNDONE: AN OUTTAKE (and thank you ROMANIAN readers!!!)

My wonderful publisher remarked to me recently:  “Well, they really love Broken Hallelujah in Romania!”  Since its Romanian publication, the book has enjoyed, almost continuously, top 25 or so ebook status (with roughly four months as a top ten contender), right up there with the Fifty Shades and Hunger Games trilogies!  This knowledge both blows me away AND makes me feel incredibly grateful to and thankful for my Romanian readers–THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU:)

With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to post on my blog a chapter that was cut from Broken Hallelujah right before its publication.  I decided not to include “Ian” because certain situations seemed too close to actual events, and I was concerned Ian would be thought to actually be someone he was not.  I have rewritten, cut, and reordered the events contained within these few pages, so–I think–I can safely share it here–ENJOY:)


Exactly why we, as rational and mostly intelligent beings, fall in love—sometimes desperately so—with assholes, is an age-old conundrum.  Jonathan Richman alludes to this phenomena in his early rock song, “Pablo Picasso.”  “He was only 5’ 3” and girls could not resist his stare.  Pablo Picasso never was called an asshole, at least not in New York,” he croons, suggesting that his womanizing ways earned him the a-word elsewhere.

Pondering this, I think of Ian.  It is not so much that he refers to his Ivy League educated wife and mother of his three children as “his maid,” or even the fact that he unabashedly admits that sex is a prerequisite for his listening ear at the end of her busy day, it is more the brashness and sexual energy and innuendo with which he infuses much of his daily interactions and banter…at least with me.  Granted, I am more than a willing participant in his salacious discourse, having, since our first meeting, found his inappropriateness a linguistic challenge I wanted to meet.

An example:  our youngest children, both boys, were graduating from their nurturing and all around wonderful Montessori school run by lovely young, and for the most part on the crunchy side of the granola equation, women, who pretty much found the honors of teaching to be if not the pinnacle of their existence, then their fundamental duty as those at the forefront of progressive education.  I have often envied both their absolute resolve and absolute certainty as to the order of their world and their indisputable place within it; this sense of themselves and their mission is what ensured that their students—each and every one—felt valued and loved as an individual.

“It’s a shame Severn is graduating,” Ian remarked to Eric upon meeting him, “I could use another year or two up close and personal with the staff,” he continued irreverently.

Eric smiled appreciatively, but I couldn’t help chiming in:  “I’m sure the teachers feel the same about you.”

“Hey,” he responded, “you don’t even know me; you can’t talk to me like that.”  But I already had.

From that time forward, Ian and I have enjoyed a relationship based on sarcasm, and—at least on my part—fantasy.  I mean, really, who could resist fantasizing about a guy who looks you directly in the eye and makes the perfect Freudian slip: “it seems Eric and I have parallel wives,” when he meant to say “lives,” in response to my observation (upon noticing his college t-shirt) that Eric and he had attended the same undergraduate university.  In addition, there is something about Ian’s crudeness that ignites my ire, and, consequently, my desire, the thin, at times imperceptible line between the two, providing the energy necessary for our heightened interactions.

Another time, at a family picnic taking place at our older children’s school, I took an almost sadistic pleasure in thwarting Ian’s game plan for the event.  “My goal,” he told me when I offered to introduce him to my in-laws who had accompanied us on this outing, “is to get through this thing without talking to anyone.”

“Well,” I thought indignantly to myself, “that type of misanthropy should be duly rewarded.”  Besides, I reminded myself, wasn’t it just last week that Ian had loudly “congratulated” me on my pregnancy as I entered a parents’ meeting at that very school.  I LOVED my bright green dress and found it infinitely annoying that its retro moo-moo quality was being so publically disparaged.

So, it was with no small amount of pleasure that I bellowed, “Ian, Ian,” as he crossed the lawn heading for the barbeque and sides table several yards from where I sat eating lunch with Eric and my in-laws.  He tried in vain to ignore me, but I had added an exaggerated, almost desperate, hand waving gesture to my attention getting theatrics.  He was not known to be rude, so he reluctantly changed his course and headed towards us with a somewhat tight smile stretched across his face.

“This is Severn’s father, Ian,” I announced triumphantly to my in-laws as they smiled and nodded appreciatively.

“Yes, yes,” my mother-in-law began, “I have heard how well the boys get along.  It is very nice to meet the father of one of my grandson’s good friends.”

“We think they were separated at birth,” Ian responded, nodding to my mother-in-law and shaking my father-in-law’s hand.

“Why don’t you join us,” I volunteered, smiling smartly at Ian.

“I would love to,” he responded, straining as he met my gaze, “but I need to get my daughter some lunch.”

“Oh, I’ll help her,” I chirped, almost tripping over my chair as I turned in the direction of the grills.  Eric and my father-in-law hastily rearranged the table to accommodate Ian, clearing my mostly finished plate and squeezing in an extra chair between Eric and where my mother-in-law sat.

“Thanks,” he responded resignedly to my receding form.

“Don’t mention it,” I answered, looking back to where they were settling in, my mother-in-law having already begun her eviscerating and extended verbal dissection of the barbeque, the school, and several other relevant and not-so-relevant topics.

“Do you want me to get you anything?” I called.

“Oh, no thanks,” he said somewhat grimly, “you have done enough already.”  But I swear I caught a glimmer of something that resembled amusement in his eyes.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to see Ian that often and actually didn’t think too much about him (out of sight out of mind) when he wasn’t in cheap-shot range, I must admit I experienced a certain thrill when it was settled that he, along with my dear  husband, would be in charge of the inaugural neighborhood basketball league.  But thrill or no thrill, I did have my own set of reservations, questions rather, regarding the arrangement: was I up for the weekly verbal gymnastics or, in this case, jump shots?  Would we both grow so weary of trying to outsmart the other that seeing each other would fall more heavily on the pain—as opposed to the pleasure—side of the court?  Would familiarity revise the terms of our banter, so much so that we would flee to the entirely non-titillating confines of civility?  This last option being, of course, the least desirable of them all…

So, it was not without a kind of perverse pleasure that when Ian, before an early evening meeting mid-season, flexed his right arm for me as I walked past him, and said, “they’re called biceps…something to think about later,” I can honestly say, I did.



“We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.”

–Bruce Springsteen  No Surrender 

It’s the most wonderful time of year……for mothers (and fathers?) EVERYWHERE!  September is most definitely the most anticipated month (yes, T.S. Elliot, April can still be the cruelest) when we as conscientious, screen averse, organic food obsessed, activity particular, overzealous, helecopteresque, mothers (and fathers?), can send our loud (though articulate), argumentative (though Socratic), messy (though cerebrally preoccupied), opinionated (though individualistic, forward thinking, and original) progeny into the more than capable hands (and, if not, who at this point really cares) of institutionalized education.  I know I personally participated in the mass hysteria induced exhale that took place within moments, nay seconds, of the ubiquitous Facebook picture posting of our youthful ranks–well scrubbed, lightly tanned (though not too tan as a result of an entire summer’s worth of careful sunblock SPF 100+ application; the light tan a result of the fateful day dad was left in charge of UVA and UVB blockage), thoughtfully dressed, dutifully happy, diligently excited–as they headed off to another year of……well, we survived it, didn’t we?

Remember, in the chapter, “More Than Camp,” from Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, when Lauren admitted that her family’s summer vacation “cost less than the ‘rest cure’ and therapeutic meds (she would) require if she had one more schedule-free kick back day of summer at home” with her three children?  Well, I believe that this is not an uncommon sentiment come August, when the tensions are high and no conflict is too small, no issue too trivial, NOT to incite a sibling rivalry which, at this point in the family’s togetherness, could induce a level of chaos which may potentially and problematically interfere with a parent’s commitment to daytime sobriety.  At the end of the summer, it is as if no amount of conservative Christian value infused Froyo could provide the SWEET glue that families everywhere crave to (F)ully (R)ely (O)n (G)-d.

In addition to providing a much needed reprieve from each other for parents and children alike, the public school system, to its credit, introduces its charges to many of the very ideals that form the philosophical foundation of this great country of ours.  Last school year’s sixth grade graduation ceremony provided a perfect example of how democracy and individualism could be flawlessly woven together to create an inspirational backdrop for the roughly 200 eager young students as they officially transitioned to the seventh grade.  All sub-groups (general education, gifted and talented, arts magnet) of the graduating class were grouped together as one, gracing the stage as they faced, in the semblance of a single democratic unit, this tremendous milestone.  Yet, they were given the opportunity to be seen and appreciated as the individuals they were, had become, throughout their brief seven years of elementary school.  They were called up one by one, as the announcer read each name and provided three accomplishments for which the diploma receiver should surely be proud.  For example, Abigail Bright (from GT 314) was lauded for “being a state chess champion for the third year in a row, playing piano at Carnegie Hall-twice, and competing as part of the winning Odyssey of the Mind team, which had been given the unique opportunity to travel to South America for the final competition,” while Charlie Dundun (from Gen Ed 101) was loudly applauded for “enjoying reduced fat milk with lunch, conquering his fear of the playground slide, and winning his class neat desk competition no less than six times.”

Of course, as the school year wears on, and the former carefree days of summer melt away like Sweet Frog on a child’s tongue, many once ecstatic mothers (and fathers?) worry as they witness, in the words yet again of that oft-quoted great American statesman and philosopher, Bruce Springsteen, “young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold.”  So, in closing, it is incumbent upon us, the parents, to stoke the embers of that cooling fire–before the specter of standardized testing wipes away any and all remnants of free thought and creativity from our children’s minds and souls–and help instill for our frustrated, overworked, and sleep-deprived young, an experience of education which provides “a wide open country in (their) eyes/ and romantic dreams in (their) heads,” without, of course, resorting to homeschooling.