It’s Saturday. I’m having my morning coffee. My husband is in a sailing navigation class with a good friend and fellow sailor. Our two boys are playing video games in the cozy basement, and soon, they’ll come upstairs asking for breakfast. I’ll gladly make it for them — even though they’re both old enough to pour their own cereal. Once it’s been served, I’ll take our daughter to sell (yet more) Girl Scout Cookies.
Life is good.
I say this not to flaunt or boast, but to remind MYSELF how lucky I am. I am a child of divorce, and like many of my fellow children of divorce, we all have stories to tell about what we recall. What I have learned most from my experience is not to bury the worst memories, but to recall them with a conscious “pairing” — pair the hard stuff with a nugget of good that came from the pain. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always obvious at the time. But hindsight allows us to see what we can learn from a painful situation. Don’t be afraid to look back at some of the worst times in your life and ask yourself, “What good came from that?” You may not recall the event exactly as it happened. You may not see a “positive” right away. But if you look hard enough, and give it enough time, the good will always present itself.
Recently, I was reflecting on my most vivid memories of childhood. So many memories. But on this snowy morning, as I get ready to head out with my beautiful daughter, I’ll share a poem I wrote this past December. The poem came to me as the result of a prompt I was given at the Wesley Writers’ Workshop, founded by Steve and Sharon Fiffer. The prompt was one word: Snow.
My parents divorced when I was seven.
A match that was clearly not made in heaven.
My father moved out under much duress,
despite his cruelty and shallow largesse.
An angry alcoholic who couldn’t abide
by the law of parenting: to provide.
Mom kept Beth and I safe and sound
and shielded us from the worries around.
She’d wake us up early before going to work
to put on our uniforms, yet we were such — jerks.
Beth and I moaned about every thing.
“We don’t have a dad!” “We don’t have a king!”
Mom had to play such a delicate role,
and protect the innocence our father stole.
We demanded to know why Mom made Dad leave,
a concept we simply couldn’t conceive, because
weekend visits he showered us mightily
with gadgets and gifts that sparkled brightly.
“Why can’t he come back? He’s such a good dad!”
But Mom’s expression was tired and sad.
We insisted she listen – we knew he had changed.
He told us as much, in the phone calls exchanged.
“Tell your mom you want me back,”
he’d say, using us in his move-back attack.
“Don’t let me spend Christmas all alone,”
slurred Dad to us daughters over the phone.
We’d cry and beg Mom, “Just give him a chance,”
hoping to weaken her dubious stance.
“Okay,” she conceded despite their rifts,
“He can come Christmas Eve to open up gifts.”
Hopeful as ever they’d get back together,
Beth and I hoped for a new “forever.”
We moped our way through that “night before”,
Beth and I giving Mom the what–for:
“Dad’s dependable! He’s fun and he’s good!
He’ll do all the things that a good dad should.”
On Christmas Eve morning, Beth woke me up early
her five-year-old heart said he’d be there — surely.
We went to the window as Mom made her coffee,
watching the snow as it fell so softly.
Ten o’clock. Eleven. Where could he be?
He’d told us nine…or hadn’t he?
Twelve noon arrived, then one o’clock.
And that’s when we heard the faintest knock.
Mom opened the door and we stood behind her
because we understood. We needed to find her
side of the story – the side we didn’t see,
filled with disappointment, unreliability.
Our dad stood before us, bleary, disheveled.
Smiling queasily, trying to stay level.
“I’m sorry I’m late, but you wouldn’t believe…”
“Don’t go there, Dan, not on Christmas Eve.”
“But it’s crazy out there, the snow’s been tough.”
I might have been young, but I’d seen enough.
That was my seventh Christmas season,
When I learned the snow wasn’t his reason.