The documentation sits in files and folders, digital and paper, the evidence of years of skirmishes and outright battle on the legal front.
You’re less concerned these days with the digital traces than you are the dented cardboard boxes thickly layered in dust.
You can’t quite bring yourself to throw them away.
This is conditioning that has arisen out of necessity: records of finances, documents that prove infractions, years of receipts that bear witness to the cost of raising children – the dentist, the school supplies, the field trip, the ER in the middle of the night.
There are emails you printed out to show promises made and blithely broken. There are photocopies of shorted checks that you notated as you were told to do. There are formalized letters that bear witness to your attempts to fight back. There are memories, hurtful memories, that you’d rather forget.
When legal papers and related documentation are your currency for retaining hope, when legal papers and documentation become your intermittent stock and trade, when year after year these are your only means to prove to a growing child who challenges your “story” that you do not play games with the truth – you hang on to the boxes in the attic, the boxes in the basement, the boxes that are stacked in a corner of your closet.
It’s about defending yourself. Not losing yourself. Preparing for the next adversarial maneuver.
You know it will come. Or at the very least, you have yet to dispel the fear that it will come.
How long do you retain legal papers after divorce? How long until you reach a certainty that they won’t be required? How long until your children are well into adulthood and they decide for themselves – not who is “right” or “wrong” because nothing is so simple as that – but what it means to honor the title of “parent?”
You wonder how many more years until you feel safe – safe enough that no one will question your reality, safe enough that you will never again be David fighting Goliath, accepting enough that you surrender the odd shreds of desire for vindication.
You sense that you would feel freed by burning them all – each hanging folder, each labeled file, each tagged and clipped receipt – as some spectacular farewell to an era of warfare.
But for now, you tell yourself just a little while longer. You keep the legal papers in their boxes. You wait for the day when you can set them ablaze.