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Once upon a time

My home was broken.

But I was used to it. For years, my parents clumsily taped up the holes with transparent truces, sucked in offenses and alcoholic avoidance. Still, the anger and disappointment always leaked through, pumping like contaminated air through the vents, infiltrating every aspect of our house.

Their fights played like music in the background of my life. When the end officially came no one was surprised or sad, certainly not me.

My father moved out, but still hung around, taking me and my brother out for a movie or to his racquet club. It was only when I passed my parents’ room and took notice that there was no lump in the center of the bed; no giant bowl of salad with smelly dressing on the night side table that I realized he was gone.

I was 10 when they divorced, by the time I was 12 my mother had remarried.

It was December and the wedding was a small affair at my new step-father’s house. It came up quick, somewhat of a surprise, although my mother will jokingly remind me how if anything the whole thing was my fault, she asked me if she should marry him.

He lived in a big house and had a pool.  I was 11.

I was given the option to finish out my 6th grade year and live with my grandparents in Brooklyn or move mid-year to Long Island. My science mid-term was coming up, and it terrified me. I was averaging a 75 in the class when all my other grades were up where they should be in the 90’s. I couldn’t handle the thought of flunking a test.  In a half a second I jumped on the move, deserting my friends, my grandparents, my life, all in the name of science.

We moved into our new home unceremoniously and awkwardly. None of us knew what we were doing; certainly not my mother or new step father; certainly not my younger brother or my two new younger step-brothers. The only person who rallied with contrived enthusiasm was the live-in housekeeper who showed off the house like it was hers.

I was shuffled off to my room and left with another young girl whose name was Gia. She was the housekeeper’s daughter who had apparently come to visit months back and never left.  She was a year younger and I was a year shyer, but we still didn’t even out.

“This is my room.” She said. “You can sleep there.” She pointed to the second bed. “Don’t touch my stuff,” She commanded and huffed out.

My brother and new step brothers were also trying to find their way in this new dynamic, while my mother and step father circled each other uncertainly, and the housekeeper kept us all in a tight divided line of us against them.

I looked out the window into the backyard. The pool was covered for the winter. It looked dark and dangerous.

My home was broken.

About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

51 responses »

  1. I love the way you write! I felt as if I was in the house with you. Beautiful!

    Reply
  2. Life turns upside down when your parents get remarried. I learned from my experience as a child and made sure that every decision I made regarding my second marriage the twins were okay with.

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  3. That sucked me in. Brought me right back to 6th grade and feeling lost too. Hugs mama!

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  4. I agree with Twin Daddy. When parents remarry, it’s a tough adjustment. I didn’t have to deal with half siblings, but dealing with a step parent can be a challenge unto itself. Sending you hugs and glad that’s behind you now. xx

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  5. My parents also split up when I was 10, which came as a surprise to no-one. When my mom remarried, that also was no surprise. The only real adjustment was trying to get the attention of my two older step-siblings, who tried to include my brother and I, but they were “us” and we were “them” and the cliques just never worked out.
    It still was better by far than if my parents had stayed married.

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  6. Your writing makes this story so vivid! My mom and dad are both on marriage #3… here’s to hoping “third time’s the charm” pans out. Seems to be working so far!

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  7. Funny how those things stick with you….and leave an imprint. I get it.

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  8. I know well the musty air of a broken home and you described this so intricately and with such deft.

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  9. I’m sorry you lived this. I cannot imagine the heartbreak.

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  10. This is so powerfully written…the transparent truces, the alcoholic avoidance….it palpitates tangibly of brokenness. Sad, but so well written!

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  11. I really enjoyed your writing style throughout this post – I felt like I was tucking into a good book more than reading a blog, and yet still you left us all with such a relatable message. I definitely would mind reading more about this part of your life. You do it so descriptively and you capture the innocence of your childhood with the wisdom of your life now.

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  12. Natalie DeYoung

    Reading this helps me understand a bit more what my friends from divorced families went through…

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  13. oh Mama. this hurts to read.

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  14. I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for you at this age. 😦
    Did you write more about it? I’m curious about how your room mate situation and everything panned out!

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    • it was difficult. but i’ve written very little about it. someday. but so you know – it was a very tough beginning, but now it’s 30 years later and we’re all good. (although i don’t know what happened to gia and i don’t care, so that should give you some idea how our relationship went) 😉

      Reply
  15. Blended families always take some work. BTW, small world, I was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island, Massapequa.

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  16. This is a very poignant piece, well written. I hope there was a happy ending for you all.

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  17. Shailaja /Doting Mom

    No surprise to see you on the grid 🙂 There was so much poignancy in this post. A veritable brew of emotions. How well you’ve conveyed that feeling of displacement and uprooting. Hugs to you and I hope things got better over the years.

    Reply
  18. That first paragraph after “My home was broken” got me right in the gut. This is a heart-breaking yet beautiful piece. Karen

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  19. This piece captured and held me as a reader. I felt as if I were along for the ride. Like Jen Brunett, I’m cheering, More! Tell us more!

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  20. “…all in the name of science.” man, i love that line. =)

    you’re not alone. i too come from a broken home (really, who doesn’t? everyone’s family is dysfunctional!) but it is “suffering that produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (romans 5:3-5) so although your past may have been broken, i’m sure you have so many more stories of character and hope. =)

    btw i love your screen name. i love ice cream. and probably have a double scoop every other day. =)

    Reply
    • thank you. and yes, we all have our own stories to tell. but it’s so true, it’s what makes us who we are…
      and hello to a fellow ice cream lover!! it’s my not so secret love. 🙂

      Reply
  21. I think this is one of the best things you’ve ever written, in a history of writing amazing things.

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  22. Your piece’s tone is solid. Lonely, not just from your perspective but from your mother’s POV as well. If you’re asking your daughter if you should marry this guy instead of whether it’s ok if you marry this guy, than it sounds more like an experiment. And that swimming pool image? haunting.

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  23. I love how you circled back to the broken home at the end. And I really enjoyed the glimpses into your 11-year-old perspective as compared to your current-day perspective. Very nicely done.

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  24. Kathy Berney

    Before my parents divorced, they asked my older brother if he wanted braces. He had a significant underbite, but he was eleven and said ‘no’. There are some decisions kids should not be held to. Your piece brings that all back to me. My brother ended up joining the Army 18 years after his orthodontist suggested braces to pay for the dental work he hadn’t had as a child.

    Reply

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