My siblings have stories of family reunions and vacations. The relationships they have with our cousins began before they became Facebook Friends with them. They have Mom and Dad stories.
The childhood memories I have of my parents as a unit are very vague, and come as still shots like photographs or maybe as GIFs at best: sitting in class with my mom as she attends college or standing on a chair in my dad’s kitchen as I squeeze pie crust through my fingers. But actually, even those are memories from when my parents were separated.
My parents were divorced and each was remarried by the time I was twelve. I lived with my mom and step-dad in Utah. My dad and his new wife lived in Washington state, where we’d moved from just a year or two before. My three oldest siblings were out of the house, and the one closest to me in age was hardly ever home. So it was me, my mom, my step-dad, and his kids (every other weekend and on some holidays).
This is pretty much where my memories begin. I remember vacations with them. I remember cousins that didn’t become cousins until then. I remember long hot road trips with nothing to entertain me except for a Walkman and a window, and wondering which new brother that smell came from. I remember family dinners and holidays. I remember sitting at the end of my parents’ bed before going to sleep at night. I remember my step-dad’s hands on my head as he blessed me, and other times on his own head as he worried about me. I remember a grandmother, an uncle, and an aunt that my siblings never knew. I have different stories than they have because I had a different childhood than they did.
I was recently talking to one of my sisters about the effect our parents’ divorce had on us. It was interesting to hear how she felt, in comparison to how I felt. It seemed like some kind of social/ family experiment. She made the observation that “it’s kind of like your parents didn’t divorce, Wendy.” And I realized she was right.
From the time I was twelve, I was raised in a home where both parents were committed to the promises they made to each other in the temple. In a home where they showed love and concern for each other. Where they sacrificed and were careful with money. Where they made joint-decisions. Where they showed me by example what a relationship should look like.
Divorce is a tragedy. But the fact remains that, whatever your view is on it, it happens. And after trying your hardest to resuscitate a drowning marriage, divorce is often the thing that can save at least one soul. I saw it save my mom and my step-dad. I have seen it save dear friends. And I am sure it saved me.
The man I’ve been referring to here is technically my step-dad. But my heart knows better. He is my dad. I have memories of my mom and dad. They just start when I am twelve.