Three years ago, I was sitting on the corner of the couch eating a snack and trying to do my English worksheets when my mom barged out of her bedroom and disrupted the silence of our five-person household.
“Your father and I are getting a divorce.”
Long story short: my mother wanted to move to Pennsylvania to live with her extended family, but my dad wanted to keep us in Beverly.
Now, when not in Framingham, I live with my dad and two sisters in Beverly, Massachusetts. My mom lives with her boyfriend in Maine.
The divorce is the most traumatic and painful event of my young adulthood, but when people offer their apologies for my “broken” family, it irritates me more than makes me feel better.
As a little girl, I thought my family wasn’t good enough because we weren’t like the ones on TV. We didn’t have special Christmas traditions, we didn’t go on vacations, and we didn’t have elaborate Sunday dinners.
Instead, we had a depressed teenager unwilling to do anything outside the house, a rebellious and loud-mouthed Emo who the whole middle school saw as a b***, an overly anxious dad, and an emotionally abusive mother.
It took the divorce for me to realize that you do not have to look like a Hallmark family to be a family.
The first few weeks when my sister, dad, and I were settling into our new house, my sister made chickpea salad on wheat bread like mom used to make. I stayed silent, a pit in my stomach as the movers emptied my childhood room. I’d never seen it clean before. Later, I threw myself on the bare floor of our new house and sobbed.
Today, when I pass my old home, the doors are painted orange instead of white, the blue curtains that made the house a ”dungeon” are replaced with blinds, and there’s a big garden in the front lawn.
But that doesn’t matter.
In the house down the road, I woke up every morning to my dad’s chipper voice, made lunch, chatted with my twin until 8:05 and rushed out the door with my shoes half on to get to school before 8:15.
At night, we’d get takeout from one of the few gluten-free restaurants as we had extracurriculars, and then we watched “Madmen” or “The Office” all together if we didn’t have too much homework.
It wasn’t like Hallmark, but it was like the Rosenbergs.
Do I sometimes question how my life would be different if we were still a traditional family? Yes. But my family’s separation has stopped the constant fighting between my sisters and I, has allowed me to build a stronger appreciation for my dad (who also went to FSU), and has transformed me into a more mature, insightful woman.
If we had stayed together, I would have moved to Pennsylvania with my mom, and I would have never become the Chief Editor of my high school literary magazine. I probably never would have had the drive to go to college.
If my mom had never left my dad, she would’ve never had the courage to step out of her comfort zone and explore her life in different ways, which she so desperately needed. While her neglectful actions over the years have caused my sisters and I anger, pain and frustration, being a victim of it all has allowed me to view life through a different lens and understand my strengths as an independent woman.
Over the past three years, I’ve felt the love of my family more than I ever did then when we were all cooped up in the same house. The separation has also forced us to confront challenges we otherwise would’ve never realized were there.
Despite what the stereotypes might say, I don’t view the divorce as a burden, or an extremely horrible situation where if a fairy godmother gave me infinite wishes, I’d tell her to give me my family back. My family background is something that I wouldn’t be me without.
I’m not sorry for that.
When you apologize about my divorced family, it instills the idea that there is only one good way to have one.
Just because my family doesn’t look like yours doesn’t mean we’re unhappy.
We’re separated, but still a family in our own way. I’m sure many families can agree with that statement.
I know you’re trying to be sympathetic, but please stop being sorry, because I’m not.