The D Word
People always make sympathetic noises when I tell them that my parents got divorced during my childhood. “Aww, how sad for you,” they say. “Oh, that must have been hard growing up,” they say. “That must make holidays tough,” they say.
“Really? Because I get like four Christmases,” I say. When I was six, my parents explained to my sister, Nicole, and me that they were separating, what that meant, and that we shouldn’t feel guilty. We sniffled a little and then played with our Barbies. A few weeks later, my mom moves out to a little rental cottage. Three blocks away. Yea, what a big separation.
And that’s the story of their divorce. They barely talk, but they never live more than five miles apart. I’ve moved ten times, lived in everything from a house with private beach access to a duplex with a beautiful view of I-94, but always within ten minutes of my very first house. My dad’s dog ran away one time and we chased her all the way to my mom’s house. I didn’t even break a sweat.
For a long time, counselors and psychologists thought that divorce traumatized children. And, while this may be true for some families, new studies show that people had exaggerated the effects. “For children whose parents have hidden their problems, it is especially traumatic and inexplicable. However, children whose parents had high levels of conflict often found the calmer, more stabile single-parent home a relief,” according to drheller.com.
I think that’s why my experience turned out to be so calm, and I’m grateful they didn’t stick it out to the bitter, bitter end.
But then my dad remarried a year later. I gained three stepbrothers and the cliché evil stepmother, Sherry. She had dry, platinum blonde hair, fake boobs (she claimed she had them removed), and a desire to be praised by everybody. Sherry took my sister and me to see “Stepmom,” a movie that features Julia Roberts as the misunderstood stepmother who just wants to be a good wife and a kind mother. Too bad the bitchy ex-wife makes life so hard on her. Sherry loved this movie. Sherry hated, however, that my sister and I refused to call her mom, and that we loved our mom more than her.
Nicole and I arrive at our dad’s house for a weekend stay. Nicole goes straight to Dad and gives him a hug. She completely skips Sherry. “What, don’t I get a hug?” Sherry asks. “You’re here to see me, too.”
“No I’m not,” Nicole says in her cute little voice. “I’m here to see my daddy.” Sherry throws a fit, stomping up the stairs to pout in her room, as befits as a 32-year-old.
Nobody pouted when that marriage ended.
And now I’m 22 years old. My mom’s been engaged for the past ten years, content to keep the diamond but not take on the title. My dad remarried again last June, to my elementary school counselor and a lovely woman. I have a collection of hilarious Sherry stories, can give friends a tour of my town by showing them all of my former houses, and always look forward to a few very merry Christmas celebrations.