My closet at my home in Nova Scotia is still full of my old Barbies, Polly Pockets and Beanie Babies.
About six years ago, I crammed myself into that closet, closed the door and tried to close out the world. My dad had just told me he was moving in with his girlfriend.
There was something secretive about their relationship, something about adulthood that, as a tender teenager, I wanted to ignore. I couldn’t believe things were changing again.
I cried for my daddy. Or maybe I cried for my childhood and a family I knew would never be the same.
Last week I had my first Thanksgiving here in Fredericton without any family. By phone, I wished both my mom and dad happy separate Thanksgivings. It’s almost been 10 years since my dad left; “separately” is all I know.
You might think this is odd, but I’m thankful for that.
In Grade 2, my friends and I played a most realistic game of “house” where the dog peed on the carpet, the kids were greedy and mom and dad didn’t always get along.
One day my friend told me about a fight her real mom and dad had had the night before. She was worried. I told her there wasn’t anything to be concerned about.
After all, my parents fought too, but they always made up and kissed in front of me.
“My parents will never get divorced,” I told her. And I believed every word.
I even believed it when my parents started fighting more often than usual. They’d go down in the basement so I couldn’t hear them, but it didn’t help.
Maybe I even believed it as I cried my eyes out when my dad drove away from our home that day.
But then I went into a trance and didn’t allow my 12-year-old self to be the young kid I needed to be.
It was about four years later when breakdowns, like that day in the closet, became regular occurrences. I fell behind in my schoolwork, cried for no reason and got angry with people who didn’t deserve it – and all because I wanted to spend time with my dad.
We were close when he was married to my mom; I was his little girl. I always joined him on his La-Z-Boy chair, even after my legs grew longer than his, and I always needed his approval. I still do.
My mom and I were close too. And living in a home with her as the single parent only drew us closer.
At the time of the separation, my sister was in university and my brother was never around, so it was often just her and me hanging out. It was nice to get to know her as a person, not just as a parent.
My roommate made an amazing turkey last weekend. She’s the turkey expert just like our other friend who’s the potato expert, and another who’s good at desserts.
All eight of us crammed around the small kitchen table, elbows rubbing against each other. Beirut provided the soundtrack to our conversations – most of them continuing from when we first came to St. Thomas four years ago.
I didn’t miss having Thanksgiving with my mom, or the full-family holidays of my childhood.
When I spoke on the phone with my parents earlier, my mom told me about her love complications and I reiterated my own. I could only laugh at the similarities. I told my dad the same stories, censoring a few details, of course, and he was excited for me, his baby.
Despite the horrid scenes that, from time to time, still replay in my mind because of that separation, I can now see what I do have to be thankful for: two people who are more themselves separately than they ever were when they were together.
It may sound crazy – and there’s probably a reason why it has taken me so long to realize this – but my parents’ separation has made me realize who my mom and dad are as individuals and how I’m a product of both.
People often tell me I’m a lot like my dad; and others say I’m so much like my mom.
I’d have to agree.