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Tag Archives: divorce

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.

The Brother in the Middle. #Imsorry

He was soft now, but he used to be wild.

Back before he moved to this new place, this new family, this new life.  Back when he was just a six year-old, with energy as untamed as his hair and freckles that danced happily across his face; but never touched the stitches in his chin from falling off the back of a bike, and the ones by his lip, for falling off a chair, and ones on his head, where a crazy lady hit him with a broom for sneaking into her yard.

His smile ran wide and mischievous, dashing through the streets of Brooklyn, without boundaries. Because it was home. Because it was safe. Because his parents were in the middle of a divorce and we were barely out of the free-living 70’s.

He had grandparents who’d walk over with a banana and a hug, and a block that watched over him with a smile.

But now he was in the suburbs with two step-brothers who sandwiched him on both ends – one a year older and one, two years younger. His new brothers, just as lost and scared as he, with the infiltration of two new siblings and a new mom in their home, space, lives; tossed him out, instead of taking him in. They were so young. We all were.

At eleven, I was the oldest and the only girl, finding my way in a dark new maze at the worst time in a young girl’s growing life.  Outside, was the jungle filled with mean girls and aggressive boys competing for dominance. Inside, where we  lived, was the lion’s den.

The union was not good from the beginning. The husband and wife struggled in their new marriage. The children struggled in their new family. But the fighting was still there, a constant, familiar background noise, with a stronger male lead.

We four little heads often lined the top of the stairs, listening to the voices below, filled with anger, mistrust and disappointment. It was when we were closest, sharing in the uncertainty, waiting for the end of them, of us. When the voices came too close, we scattered in fear, afraid to be caught snooping, even if they could probably be heard from across the street. We knew, getting caught would bring more anger instead of less.

I did nothing to help my brother or ease his transition, because as difficult as mine, or our new brothers was, his was worse.

From every hand, fingers pointed at him. 

So, he trudged through each day, slowly losing his spark.

This was not his home. Not a safe place.

The houses here were bigger and more spaced apart. The neighborhood kids, not so neighborly.

He gained some weight.

He lost his smile.

They called him Sloth.

He was soft now, but in a few years when he grew older, he would be wild again.

Back when he was wild, in a good way




His Name was Puppy

Today she had a done a bad thing. She knew she wasn’t supposed to open the door but her father was calling to her from the other side, cajoling her into acquiescence. “Come on, sweetheart, open the door for daddy.” Her mother shouting from behind her, “Don’t you do it! Don’t you open that door!”

She stood in the middle. Turning both ways, conflicted, afraid, overwhelmed. She couldn’t take it anymore, the pleading, the yelling… it was too much. So against her mother’s wishes she had opened the door, and then flew out of it, away from her mother, right past her father. Running. Running. Out of the house, around the block, until finally, panting, she rested against a tree. She took a few deep breaths, lingered a bit to pick at the bark of the tree and then walked slowly back to the house. Where else was there to go, really.

When she returned, her parents were sitting there in the yellow kitchen, waiting. “I’m sorry ‘bout that, doll-face.” said her father, tussling her hair and grinning sheepishly.
Her mother knelt before her, grabbing her arms with her hands, “I shouldn’t have done that to you. It’s okay that you opened the door. I’m not mad.” Her mom gave a comforting little smile, “Okay?”

She shrugged. She could take it. She could take it all. It was no big deal. “Sure. Okay.”

Her parents exchanged a strained glance, and sent her off to play in her room.

She sat there now on her bed with Puppy, her favorite stuffed animal since she was a baby, and “A Wrinkle in Time,” one of her favorite books, semi-listening to the angry voices billowing up the stairs. The voices were loud and full of hurtful accusations. At 10 years-old, she was well aware her parents were divorcing, but it didn’t make her cry or anything. In fact, unless the fighting was particularly hateful, she could block it out completely.

Years later, her grandmother would relate a story about how she walked into the enraged house to find the little girl coloring a picture on the floor, her parent’s screaming all around. The grandmother bent down and asked, “What’s all that fighting about, pussycat?”
The little girl answered, “I don’t hear anyone fighting, grandma.”

The little girl listened for just a moment, hugged her worn, torn, well-loved Puppy a little closer and returned to her reading. It was no big deal. No big deal at all.

Puppy lived till the ripe, old age of 17, when all the thread in the world couldn’t put Puppy together again.

He is lovingly remembered.