|BWS Stories - "Born in the U.S.A."...Childhood Memories|
"Born in the U.S.A."...Childhood Memories - Learning the Definition of a New Word
Robin Svedi lives with her husband and two sons in North Carolina. She is a freelance writer who has had dozens of essays and articles published online. She is currently learning the meaning of another new word, tenacity, as she tries to complete her first novel.
Learning the Definition of a New Word
I was in the comfort of my own little bedroom the first time the hard reality of life came crashing in on me. Tired, from a long game of freeze tag out on the lawn, I had gone in there to lie down on my bed. Mom came in with something to tell me. She said it was important and that I should sit up. I could tell it was something serious by the look on her face. She didn’t even notice the pile of toys I’d left on the floor earlier. She sat down beside me.
“Your father and I are getting a divorce.”
It was 1969; I was nine years old and had never even heard that word before. I sat staring at my Beatle’s poster while she explained the concept. The Blue Meanies sneered at me from across the room. I had trouble comprehending the fact that parents could actually do something like this. I had never even seen them argue. What could be so bad that would make them decide to separate forever? I looked down at the mess I’d made.
She told me there were a lot of reasons. She told me she was no longer happy. I noticed that Barbie and Ken were laying with their backs to one another. I’d played with those dolls at least a million times. I always thought of them as a couple. I turned my attention to the blue-green and yellow, psychedelic pattern of my bedspread. I traced the swirling lines and flowers with my fingertip. My head was full of questions, and my heart, full of fear.
“What about me? What’s going to happen to me?”
You’ll have to decide which one of us you’d like to live with.”
I fell backwards onto the bed, closing my eyes. This was just too much. It had to be some sort of a bad joke, or maybe it was just a really vivid nightmare. I didn’t know anyone that didn’t live with both of his or her parents. I opened my eyes to see the life- sized image of Sally Fields dressed as the flying nun thumb-tacked to my ceiling. We had placed her there months before when my parents and I worked together redecorating my room. I imagined myself flying away with her, out of this room, away from this insanity.
I loved them both, but they didn’t love each other. I needed time to think. My child’s mind needed time to let things fall into place. I needed an answer. I thought I had a great one.
“I’ll decide when the time comes.”
That’s when Mom told me she’d met someone else. She was going to remarry. It was her new doctor. Finally… the tension was broken. Now I knew this was a joke. I’d met him before. The doctor. He wasn’t nearly as good-looking as my father. She must be kidding. I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop. I laughed, and laughed until I got a bellyache. I laughed until I cried. My mother left the room.
I got up from my bed and put away my toys.
That night Dad moved into the basement. Several weeks later he moved out of the house completely, alone.
Mom got remarried almost immediately. I have to admit that after cutting through all the emotional red tape, he was a great guy. About six months later, Dad also found a wonderful new partner. Things were not back to normal, but in time we created a new sense of normal. Looking back, I guess we were trendsetters. Weekdays were spent living with Mom. Weekends I stayed with Dad. The situation was considered weird by my friends at the time. Today it’s accepted.
In the dictionary, divorce means to terminate a marriage contract between two people. I learned the actual meaning of the word is change, big change. Although terrifying at first, the change turned out to be good for all of us. Both halves of my family grew to include many brothers and sisters, great stepparents, and a lot more people for me to love. Today, I couldn’t even picture Mom and Dad living under the same roof, never mind being in love with each other. One thing that never changed was their love for me, and in turn, my love for both of them.