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Forged Through Fire


Life is many things; among them is the fact that it is beautiful and terrible. The most savage of its spectacles are indeed often its most beautiful triumphs: lighting striking, winds howling, volcanoes exploding; all of these hold us both in awe and terror. And like my earth, so is it also with my life. Sometimes when I can look beyond my own pain, I can see this, however it is most often a sentiment I gain in retrospect. As a child, some of the moments that shaped the person I have become, the person I am proud to be, were also the most painful moments I have lived through.

I was six when my parents separated. Until then, I didn’t even know what a divorce was, I didn’t think families existed outside of what I had always known; That was what a family was, and now I didn’t have one. My parents tried in their own ways to break it to me softly, and explain it so I knew it wasn’t my fault. Still, I took away the impression that it would happen the same way the book described it; they would both remarry and they would have new kids. This further led me to believe I was obsolete and would now be adopted out into a different family, since mine had failed. With this knowledge in mind, I went out to tell my friend Lydia about what had happened.

We lived up on a hill with our backyard opening onto a graveyard. The street was barely paved and didn’t have any sidewalks. It was a fall day, brown leaves scattered and piled all over the yards and roads, a steady drizzly of rain, and an overwhelming sense of gentle decay lingering in the old trees. Lydia, my friend who was only a year older, lived across the street from me with her much larger family. I remembered to put on my pink raincoat, bright red clogs, and to grab my ripped-up blankie with stuffing showing all over before I went out the door. Running and skipping down our gray driveway, across the dark street, and through the wet grass yard up to their front door, it almost seemed like nothing had changed. When I knocked on the dusty yellow door, and Lydia’s mom answered, I found out she was two doors down, playing with the younger granddaughter of our neighbor. I liked playing with her too; her basement was full of the neatest stuff.

Quickly saying goodbye to Lydia’s mom, I hurried over through the gravel ditch on the side of the road to find them playing out in the garage. “My parents are getting a divorce.” I stated with all the subtlety of a six year old. “What’s a divorce?” The little granddaughter responded. That stumped me, how did I explain this to her? Lydia solved the problem, “We’ll show you.” And so we stood their as the drizzle turned to a steady rain and wind blew through the trees dropping more wet, brown leaves over the slick pavement and acted out a divorce. “I’m the mommy.” Lydia declared. I saw where this was headed and added, “I’m the daddy.” “You’re the kid,” Lydia further explained,” We live together, here in the garage.” We all headed over, partially to further act it out and partially to get out of the cold rain and the wetness it created in our hair. “Now we are getting a divorce. She is going to go move out now.” Dutifully I headed out into the rain, shivering slightly as it ran over my hair and soaked through my pants. “Now I live here.” I added to further clarify, “That’s a divorce.”

The day the fact that my dad was moving out hit me the hardest was when the last two boxes were sitting in our hallway waiting for him to pick them up. They were not closed, as they were simply full of odds and ends that hadn’t made it or didn’t fit in other boxes. Our house was cool and it was a gray day outside. I stood barefoot in the carpet hallway looking at the boxes while my mother stood in the kitchen doorway watching me sadly. Suddenly I realized that when dad moved out he might forget mom and I, so I turned and communicated this fear to my mom. Mom knows how to make everything better; she can fix this, make this divorce thing go away. “He won’t Julie, don’t worry” And then she left, because she heard his car in the driveway and did not wish to see him. I panicked, sure that if I didn’t find something to remind him of me, he would never come back. There, on the fridge was a picture of me, I grabbed it, and I solemnly slipped it into the side of the box, waiting there until he finally came in with a burst of cold air as the door swung open, only to have him leave immediately after grabbing those two last boxes, sitting in the hall by the door, with a quick “Hey there buddy, got to go now, be good.” “Bye daddy,” I told him as he shut the door, “I love you.”

The first Christmas after the divorce was the hardest. My dad and I were at his parent’s house, he and my mother were going to exchange me at noon. Christmas morning had come and gone leaving me with new toys and the adults with a mess of brightly colored scraps of wrapping paper scattered all around the warmly lit living room. Dad decided to leave early, before mom got there, since he did not want to see her. I tearfully hugged him goodbye assuring him that I would be fine alone with my grandparents in the house. As I watched him drive away from the door, down the gray gravel road, and vanish into the tall oak trees, as he reached the bottom of the hill and turned, it was all I could do to not run after him, screaming for him to stay, to not leave me. As soon as he was out of site, I bolted away to my room, past my grandparent’s concerned words and inquiries, to finally crawl under the creaky metal bed to cry. Pressing my face into the orangey brown carpet that smelled like wood smoke, I let it absorb my salty tears and muffle my sobs. Two hours later my mother arrived. She, too, had wished to avoid seeing my dad and had left an hour late. “That’s okay,” I told her, “I’m okay.”

My uncle is getting a divorce now, and in his confusion is depending on my mother for advice. This thanksgiving he called; his ex-wife was over making thanksgiving dinner for his sons, and was upset he was refusing to eat it with them. Mom told him to stand firm; he shouldn’t pretend and make it easier for his ex-wife. As she told me this I remembered all the times she and dad had stood firm at the expense of me, all the times their hurt had prevented them from being my parents. So I looked her in the face and told her, “He’s being a selfish jerk.”



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pd said...
Jan. 30, 2009 at 12:03 am
Wow, I was blown away by your writing. It is raw and real. I sat crying, hearing your hurt and strength. I pray God blesses you as you continue to write, grow and mature.
 
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