The shattering of glass marks the night I stopped believing in childhood fantasies like
happy-ever-afters and unbreakable love. The shattering of glass marks the first turning point in my life. The night had fallen quickly considering I was too caught up in the bobble-headed character bouncing around the screen of the computer. The newly made den was the perfect place to hide away. The den has always felt comfortable with its log cabin walls and echoes of laughter. One half is fluorescent lights and a washing machine and the other half is green bar lights and a pool table. Pin-sized holes in the wall remind me of the times my dad tried to teach me how to play darts while my mom watched with laughter in her eyes. The den has a way of making me remember the good times. The magic of the den protected me from the increasing volume of my parents’ voices. However, I couldn’t escape the sound of glass shattering above me as my head whipped toward the ceiling.
I took hesitant steps to the bottom of the stairs before calling out, “Is everything ok?”
“Everything is fine. Go back to your game.” My mother’s voice was calm and collected even
though my father had just thrown a glass at her, something I found out only days before writing this. It was the first, and last, time my father had shown any kind of physical violence toward my mother. As an eight-year-old, I took my mother’s word at face value and made my way back to my game.
Only minutes later my mother could be heard coming down the stairs.
“Log off your game. Me and you are going to go to Aunt Wendy’s for a few days so I need
you to help me pack your bags.”
“Really?! Will I get to see Sarah?”
“Of course you will. She lives there. Now come on and get packed.”
I rushed upstairs, running on all fours up the stairs like a dog finally freed from its leash.
My dad’s tears stopped me in my tracks. It was the first time I had seen my dad cry and I stared at him as if he was an alien doppelganger. My dad was stoic and didn’t show many emotions besides the occasional smirk of happiness or frown of frustration. The man didn’t even smile in pictures unless he was drunk.
“Daddy, why are you crying?”
After he didn’t answer my mom ushered me into my room. I don’t remember the packing
process. It was as much a blur that night as it is in my memories. I don’t even remember a word my parents said to each other that night, only what they said to me and me to them. Eventually, I was rolling my suitcase down the stairs and delighting in the thump, thump, thump of the wheels going down another stair. Once again, I was stopped in my tracks by my dad’s tears, rivers running down his cheeks. I tilted my head in confusion and looked up at him, wide-eyed.
“Daddy, don’t cry. It’s not like you’ll never see us again.”
“I know kiddo.”
* * *
Weeks later I was cold, shivering, and crying in a bathtub that was not mine in a house that
was not mine. I wanted to go home. I wanted my dad. I wanted my parents to be happy again. My mother looked on with tears in her eyes.
“But Mommy wasn’t happy and you want Mommy to be happy, right?”
I nodded my head, allowing my chin to fall towards my chest to hide my tears. My tears
would only trigger mom’s tears and mom cried enough those days. The next day I repeated my mother’s words to the school psychologist and was told that I was very mature for my age and I seemed to be handling my parents’ separation well.
* * *
After that incident, my parents implemented the one-week rule. I would stay with my dad
for one week and my mom for the other. One night I was at home with my dad and I began crying for my mom. I was inconsolable. I screamed and cried and wouldn’t budge from my spot at the top of the steps. I refused to move until my mom walked through the door.
“We can’t keep doing this. Your mom can’t just drop everything and come and get you
whenever you cry. You have to get used to this one way or another.” His voice was angry and frustrated but his face betrayed the broken soul of a man who had lost the woman he loved and who could not console his only child.
My mom never came to get me that night.
* * *
My parents divorced in March 2011. My mother had dropped me off at my grandmother’s
house, my dad’s mother. I spent the day playing games on her laptop as I waited to be picked up. When my mother came back I was watching some trashy soap opera on daytime television.
“Hey honey, how would you feel if Mommy and Daddy stayed separated for a little while.”
I nodded my head. After all, the school psychologist told me the difference between
separation and divorce. Divorce was way worse than separation. Separation meant my parents might get back together someday.
“Ok. How would you feel if Mommy and Daddy didn’t get back together?”
Sobs came out of my mouth before she finished her sentence. My whole body shook with
the combination of tiny screams and harsh breaths that came out of my mouth. She didn’t say divorce but I knew that’s what she meant. My mom had to lift me into her arms to get me to leave. It was like an addict being dragged into sobriety by the cold steel of handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit.
* * *
Looking back, I find it difficult to recognize that young child with the me of today. That
child was energetic and playful. She didn’t find it hard to show her emotions. She felt them to the deepest parts of her soul. Every bad day was the end of the world and every good day was the best day she’d ever had. That girl grew up in a matter of months. Her ninth birthday might as well have been her twentieth. I learned to hide the whirlwind of emotions inside me to not worry my parents. I said all the right things during therapy and I was done after three sessions even though I definitely needed more.
However, I also got to know my parents as people at an earlier time than most children do.
I learned that my mom wasn’t always the proper lady she claimed to be. After the divorce, we spend more time around our family, and I got to hear stories about my mother either from her own mouth or the mouths of my relatives. As a child, she fought with her siblings in a way that makes you worried until you realized they were siblings. In high school, she was a heartthrob whose drink of choice was vodka. She agreed to let me take modeling lessons like she once did. As I grew, my mom grew with me. Eventually, I became the maid of honor at her second wedding and she began her own business. On the other hand, my dad has stayed much the same. We bonded over Mexican food every Monday night. He went for the 90-cent tacos and I went for the quesadillas. My dad is a quiet person and these dinners allowed us to create a closer bond. While he was still a workaholic who liked to party in his downtime, I saw him more than ever. He even bought me a hamster despite his dislike of animals inside his house. Sometimes, he even smiles for pictures.