In preparation for the launch of When We Were Sisters on May 31, join me for brief excerpts from the autobiographies of the three major characters, Robin, Kris and Cecilia.
Kris Lenhart: Last week we heard from Robin. This week we’ll hear from her husband Kristoff Lenhart. Kris and Robin are at a crisis point in their marriage, and when Robin leaves to film a documentary with her foster sister, Cecilia, Kris has to look back on his life to evaluate the man he has become and why. Here are some of his thoughts.
In Kris’s Own Words:
Childhood Memories: My first memory? I was young enough to be in a crib but old enough to resent it. I remember pulling myself up and gazing over the bars at my parents and sister sleeping just a few feet away, my parents on a pull-out sofa and Lucie on a blow-up mattress beside them.
The smell in the one-room apartment was familiar throughout my childhood. Cooked cabbage. Onions. Lilac toilet bowl freshener because inevitably there were problems with our plumbing. The smell of my father’s work clothes.
My parents and sister emigrated from Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1969 after the Communists instituted full censorship and ended free speech. They left with nothing, and we had nothing for many years.
Financial security became something of an obsession, which Robin has pointed out to me on numerous occasions. She has exaggerated my lack of involvement in our family, built it up until it’s an insurmountable wall between us. But maybe the difference is this. She had nothing and there was nothing for a girl in foster care to have. My family could have had so much more if my father had put income above art and politics. But both are holy to him in a way that God and possibly family are not.
Falling in Love: I’m not a romantic guy, and I’ll admit it. Real romance for me is taking care of my family, working late to be sure I’m providing well enough, and being there for them whenever I can. But the night we got engaged was romantic on any scale. After the meal we went upstairs and stayed overnight in a lovely old hotel. By then she’d already said yes, but I made certain she was glad she had.
We also had a rare heart to heart. I told her that I knew she might want to work, but I hoped she would find a job with less danger associated with it. I also silently hoped that when we decided to have children, she would only stay home with them.
The next weekend I took her to meet my family. She loved them immediately, and particularly loved my father. As a photographer she understood Gus, an artist, as I never had. More than that, she loved that we were a family, something she had never really known.
I’m not sure I understood, but I grew to with time. Robin was badly cheated, and there was a hollow well inside her that needed filling with love, security and acceptance. When she told me that she, too, wanted a real home and a family she raised herself, having missed both, I was sure we had been made for each other.
My Job, My Life: When I started law school I was idealistic. I thought I would always be on the right side of every issue, that doing a job I felt so good about would be fun and energizing, and when I came home I would be ready to fall back into my family.
That didn’t turn out to be true.
Life would be great if everything we did was fun. It’s not. I’m not having fun at work, but I’m going into the office anyway.
I can’t do more than I’m doing. I told Robin that on the telephone, the night I had to back out of my commitment to take care of the kids so she could attend her monthly dinner with our neighbors. I had planned to come. But something came up at work, a client I couldn’t slough off, and I had to stay in town to entertain him.
She should have lined up a babysitter just in case I didn’t make it home. I don’t know why she didn’t.
She says she didn’t because she trusted me to keep my promise.
I hung up and stared out the window that had been my reward the first time I made partner. Would a bigger one be worth everything I would have to do to earn it?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the lives of the characters in When We Were Sisters. While I write these for myself, I enjoy sharing excerpts with you.
Next Wednesday: Cecilia, Robin’s sister.