When my parents were separating, there was a brief moment when they discussed what do with my baby-sized hand-and-foot clay imprints which hung on the wall of our family room. "...A hand for you and a foot for me? Or should they stay together as one unit?..." The divorce followed swiftly thereafter. I was just a child in the 4th grade.
A divorce is a washing away of a promise, a plan, a shared life. Unfortunately, my life was already well underway when their promised plan was dissolved. The divorce made our family life for my first ten years a taboo subject. It made the creation of me as their child feel like a taboo subject.
All is well. They are both happily re-married (one perhaps more happily than the other), and civility reins. But *they* -- children of non-divorced parents -- will never know what it feels like to have the foundation pulled from underneath them and to have pieces of themselves scattered about.
Believe it or not, it's quite horrifying to watch your parents fall in love with other people when you're ten years old. And yes, it's bloody difficult to be "happy for them" when all you want is to come home to a house where all the pieces are in the right place, to not have sleepovers banned by friends' moms because they're "just not sure about your dad's new place," and to not be the only kid at school with divorced parents.
And even though I should long be over this, let me tell you want I truly want, at age 40. I want to come home to one house where both of my beloved parents live, rather than organizing schedules and moving between them like a shadow each time I touch down in my home town. I'd like to be able to ask questions about the past ("What was your first date like?" "How did Daddy ask you to marry him?") without immense discomfort and guilt. And I desperately want to be able to simply sit with them both, having the most trifling of conversations over a cup of tea. To just sit there, allowed to all be in the same room, without a step-parent fuming in the background, and without feeling that we're getting away with a crime.
A friend just spent a long holiday in Greece with her parents -- just the three of them. "I wondered if I'd be bored," she told me upon her return, "but it was amazing! They're such genuinely lovely people!" The sad jealousy inside me leapt up and caught in my throat. You know what? So are my parents. Both of them. Just two of the most amazing people you could meet. If you're wondering if I'd give my right arm to spend a holiday full of quality time with just the two of them -- yes, yes I would. But this kind of concept has become so very foreign that my brain can hardly take it in. The pieces just don't fit.
The truth is, I am a piece of each of them, and they dismantled me when they broke up our family. Can you miss something that existed for such a short time in the past? For better or for worse, I'm still struggling inside this tidy mess.