Back when my world was ordered into segments, back when everything had to be cut and measured and divided equally, I found a short story by Amy Bloom entitled Love is Not a Pie.
For my short story class, I had ordered The Best American Short Stories of some year, maybe 1991 or 1992 or even 1993. I don't remember now, having loaned out the book never to see it again. But I still have the story. In fact, it is on my desk right now. back in the early nineties, I was reading through the stories in order and found Bloom's story.
As I read, I looked up from the pages amazed. The world can be different, I thought. People don't have to be so solid, so drawn in the lines. There is possibility that things can be different.
After reading that one story, I read everything by Amy Bloom I could, including her novels, and while I love her work, nothing spoke to me like this story. In it, Ellen--the oldest daughter--is at her mother's funeral. She is engaged to be married and unhappy, about life as well as her mother's death. She goes home after the funeral and recounts for us her childhood, one where her mother and father had a marriage that was different. In fact, her mother had a lover acknowledged and loved (maybe really "loved") by her father as well.
When Ellen's sister Lizzie asks her mother about this relationship, her mother says, "'Love is not a pie, honey. I love you and Ellen differently, because you are different people, wonderful people, but not at all the same. And so who I am with each of you is different, unique to us. I don't choose between you. And it's the same way with Daddy and Bolivar. People think that it can't be that way, but it can. You just have to find the right people.'"
I wasn't in the market for a polyamorous relationship, but I was in awe of the way that people could go past and over and through the lines of what was normal. There I was, a young mother with two children, a tenured professor of English working five days a week, a married woman trying to make a go of my life and actually not always doing so well. I was trying to stay in the lines, but I kept messing up. Here, in this story, was a life of "grace" (as Ellen's mother Lila calls it). Here was a made up world that was different than mine but one that made more sense.
What her mother's life taught Ellen is reflected by the end of the story. Ellen breaks off her engagement. She can't live in the lines any more, not with the evidence of her mother's fully lived life. She realizes that "[she] wasn't ready to get normal." She knows that "[she] couldn't tell him the rest [of the story about her mother] and that [she] couldn't marry a man [she] couldn't tell the story to."
I lived in the lines for another 15 years, and then one day, I was tired of normal myself. My life was not full of grace at all, and I had the feeling I would have to go through some kind of hell before I even saw the shore of grace. But from this story, I knew that love was not a pie. I could love my husband and love him differently than I thought I had to. I could leave and love. I could have more love for others. I knew I had to find the right people. I could cut the pie into tiny bits or I could eat the whole thing myself with a spoon. I wanted the spoon and the pie, so I left.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org