My first childhood memory happened on a green flight of stairs. I was four, I remember, and I was sitting on the third step in the hallway while my mom and a man we called Dr. Burstein backed out our front door. “We’ll be back in three days, OK, guys?” My mom said. “And when I get home we’ll start packing.”
My mom and Dr. Burstein got married that weekend. And then we moved thirty minutes north to San Francisco.
I’ve recounted that memory a lot, lately, as friends have begun their own divorce proceedings. “How did you handle it so young?” they’ve asked. “I’m just so worried about the kids.”
The truth is, all I remember is the flight of stairs. I also recall my dad taking my two brothers and me to dinner every Thursday and every other weekend where he had a pool and let us eat sugared cereal. But if any of us got a bad grade on something, he always seemed to know about it and a set of flash cards would appear soon after breakfast.
“The left hand’s still talkin’ to the right hand, gang” my dad would say.
I always liked that analogy. That somehow we still shared one body.
My mother told me once that you choose to get married to someone and then you choose to stay married to that someone every day. She told me this while pumping gas at a Mobil station. At the time – I was twenty-three – I found it odd for her to impart marital wisdom over a gas cap. But this was her way of telling me that, in her opinion, my current relationship didn’t have staying power. “You’re lacking that certain je ne sais quoi, Honey. Just promise me you’ll think before you leap.”
Each morning after that, it became harder for me to choose to stay in my relationship, until one day I simply chose not to. But there were no kids, no mortgages, no rings…just a couple of sweatshirts and a dog.
SO…what about the kids? It’s probably no coincidence that almost every personal relationship I ever had growing up consisted of intact families and marriages. They still do, in fact. Considering that almost half of the marriages in America end up in divorce, this little tidbit about me is probably relevant.
Because somewhere, deep down in my child-of-divorced parents subconscious, I seek unity.
The truth is, I never heard my mom and dad fight. And despite the one time I elected for a home spiral perm at my dad’s, only to be escorted back to my mom’s a day early to “fix it,” there was ne’er a raised eyebrow between the two of them.
They did the divorce thing well, and..I believe…that I’m happily married today because of it.
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