I came into this world happy, healthy, and with what I can only image as an incredible zest for life. I added that last one based on who I grew up to be… I’m positive that started at birth. The rest is par for the course during a normal pregnancy in 1972. Besides, I don’t think they can really gauge happiness, but from my earliest memories, I was most definitely a happy, carefree, rambunctious child. I had no idea my complete family would be short lived or that it was even in jeopardy, honestly. I don’t recall loud fights or times when my parents were apart. The truth is, I vaguely recall my dad in any of my childhood memories. Believe me, I’ve searched for him there. I found his voice calling me, “Babydoll” and, on my third birthday, he bought me this gigantic Winnie The Pooh stuffed bear. I can’t recall his face or the words that were exchanged that day, but the bear was hidden behind a chair I was sitting in and I recall my excitement upon the discovery. I can tell you about my friend, Kelly, and her mom, Rosalie. That there was a HUGE sheep dog who lived above us and how he once got struck by a car. I know the walk from my home to the 7-Eleven where my mom would buy me Bottle Caps candy. I know my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins lived just behind our apartment building and their pantry always had the best snacks. I remember my cousin teaching me to swim in their pool. Ooh and the black corvette that my Uncle owned. So many memories, yet, my dad was an enigma. Pooh, he stayed with me through five moves in two different states.
The divorce that surely ruined my life, according to pop-culture psychology, happened during my kindergarten year at James S. Hunt Elementary. Though I have no idea when my parents split up, filed divorce papers, or even decided to go their separate ways, I had just turned 5 the summer we moved backed to Indiana… Back to my grandparents, back to my cousins, back to a life I fit in without ever missing a beat. I had never been more happy, I don’t believe. I was literally engulfed by love. In fact, I had never been exposed to anyone that didn’t want greatness for me. I was a vibrant little girl… at school; at home; at church. I had a Grandpa who picked me up from school and was the only “dad” I was ever going to need. He made it possible for my mom to get on her feet. I’ll come back to his role in my life another day… One where I’m willing to end it emotionally depleted with a tear stained face and swollen eyes. Uhm… It wasn’t easy to be a twenty something, divorced, mother of two in 1977. As an adult, I can imagine the judgement. As a child, I had no idea. She made it look effortless.
My mother was a beauty; stylish, smart, a cosmetologist turn science department secretary at Indiana University, AND, she drove a white 1967 Mustang with red leather seats and a 351 engine. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I know they had to put cinder blocks in the trunk so it wouldn’t fishtail. We would drive out to my Aunt’s house every weekend… two days of fun with cousins. These were truly the greatest days of my life. At this point, I had no idea my dad was missing? I didn’t know I was suppose to be upset. My brother is a few years older… I’ve heard the stories of how we would get ready to go for visits, but then our dad wouldn’t show up. I think my brother took those disappointments hard. I don’t remember a single one of them. Nope, not even one. I did not miss him. He very simply hadn’t been a significant enough figure in my life to have an impact at this juncture. Several years would pass before I’d realize his absence.
It’s weird to look back and recognize that I had no idea my father was missing from the picture. My picture was beautiful and filled with possibilities. All the people I loved were there as well as all the people who loved me. My family had been doing their job of protecting me and ensuring my well being. I didn’t need more. But it wasn’t all about me, was it? There were other lives entwined with mine and eventually I came face to face with my fathers absence. It would turn out to be the first time I was introduced to hatred. I was seven… So, I just needed to be polite until the visit was over. My mom would take me home soon and everything would be fine. She would be proud of how well my brother and I had behaved… or so I thought. Seven is a very naïve age, as well it should be.
Divorce did not break my childhood. It was something far more inconspicuous and enshrouded with cold politeness. A politeness that would blanket what has been the rest of my life up to this point. At 44, I don’t owe anyone my polite silence. I do, however, owe myself permission to tell my story. I’m sorry, but being polite is what broke my childhood. The irony of that statement is not lost on me, by the way.
Until next time… xo