There was a time of heightened marrying, and among those unmarried several equivalent partnerships. You know at the time that they can't all last, perhaps, in some cases, you already know they shouldn't.
Then there were children. Parenting is by necessity myopic and distorted, everything appears behind the lens of a world that so completely envelops your time and energy. You mingle by mutual interest: mother's groups switch everyone's attention to a group of others in the same place, and even within existing friends fathers seek each other out to compare notes, reassure, share an understood release over beer-soaked conversation from quarter to quarter.
Now a succession of separations and divorces. I should not overstate it, there are only 3 on my mind although a couple of other unions are clearly on the rocks. They all have small children. In at least 1, probably 2, it is a result I might have predicted if I were forced to lay down money back then. The couples, indeed the children, may be better off, and having brought wonderful children into the world through those unions there must be a caveat on any regret. In one case they are working well together to share responsibilities and avoiding vitriol.
None of which reduces the general melancholy I feel when I look across that landscape of friends and imagine the disappointments, the sense of failure most would feel, perhaps deep down the speculation - no doubt quickly suppressed out of guilt and love for their children - as to how things might have been different.
Happy photos now weigh heavily in albums, threatening to push through pages. Smiles seem strained, sunny beaches a prelude to storms. I want to hold mine close and never leave the afternoon in the back garden, grass, gently-clunking toys, Beloved with a handfull of snippings under the olive tree.
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