Home: The Journey Within
(dedicated to Joey)
By Iavonne Roberts
Sometimes when you have it all, the only thing left to discover is what you need. After a dotcom IPO windfall, marriage and two children, I embodied the American dream. When I filed for divorce seven years ago, many whispered that I was crazy. For a girl from Duncanville, Texas, whose father gave her up for adoption and her mother dropped off at a bible college with one suitcase and a note saying you can’t come home and we can’t pay, I had defied my Dickensian story beyond society’s expectations. We bought exotic sports cars, yet we weren’t happy beyond the purchase. We threw lavish parties celebrating our rising stock, yet I felt my personal stock falling. What no one knew, including myself, was that no amount of commercial success, nor lavish lifestyle could fill the bottomless hole of a child that feels unwanted.
Becoming a mother changed everything for me. I wanted to give my children the home I never had; yet I had no experience. Self-made financial success should have been the ultimate quantifier, but all it did was enable me to temporarily outdistance my past, placating and escaping. Knowing I couldn’t blame my husband, nor change our dynamic, I departed telling myself that I would not squander something that I had never had before – choices. My divorce was an exodus from my marriage as much as my contrived self. To this day I sense others frustrations when they can’t assign my departure to a specific malice or maligned party. Perhaps I was crazy, or maybe rather than assign blame, I chose to look deep within. Either way, I had come too far to not be at home in my life.
Without two homes and a villa in the South of France, but with divorce in hand, I dove into my new life totally disconnected, firmly focused on rewriting my story both metaphorically and functionally. I chose to live inManhattanwhen not with my children; I ran halfway across the country to find redemption and save my soul. I wanted to live authentically; I wanted to live the life I had been chasing but never found. One summer vacation, I spent a few weeks inEast Hamptonwhile my children were with their father inFrance. I walked past famous restaurants and boutique designer shops, yet nothing held my gaze or enticed my appetite. Refusing to let my children’s absence swallow me whole, I explored off the beaten path areas by bicycle. I started a daily ritual of visitingEgyptbeach hidden behind an exclusive residential enclave, often wondering about the stories behind the hedges. Digging my toes into the sand on the edge of the mainland, it was the sunset that often reminded me that hours had past without a single thought, where the ocean’s movement made stillness possible. Soon the time that my children were away grew longer than the time remaining until their return.
One hot July afternoon I drove toShelterIsland. Arriving off a three minute ferry ride I saw hundreds of red, white and blue flags plastered across a bucolic landscape. There’s something magical that happens when you drive on the ferry and realize that you are leaving the mainland to connect to a community sheltered on all sides, that can only be reached by water. As I drove off I passed under an enormous flag dangled above the ferry, hung from the fire department’s aerial ladder. I parked and set off to jog, passing a tiny cottage selling honey, a victorian home selling fresh cut flowers, a farm selling local produce, and a seaside mansion offering eggs, each with it’s own honor jar. Unlike the Duane Reade and Starbucks anchoring each street corner inManhattan, the individually owned hardware store and soda fountain pharmacy marked a town center. Jogging past a hodge-podge of architecture, I heard other joggers greeting residents by name.
ShelterIslandparalleles my life in many ways. Contracting and expanding with it’s annual summer residents, it showed signs of loss and growth. I wondered if the island wore it’s self sufficient independence masked as pride like I wore designer clothes to put layers between my inside story and the outside world. It’s beach front estates owned by primarily wealthy Manhattanites lined the perimeter of an island sheltering generations of residents on the interior who managed multiple jobs to maintain their autonomy on an island that felt more like a lone country than another hamlet.