Friday, December 29, 2006

Magpies United

Every time I come home to my family, it's a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It's been that way for as long as I can remember; since I left for college and the place where my parents were became a place that I visited rather than where I lived. Part of the drama stems from the fact that my parents are divorced and thus necessarily live apart from one another, requiring my siblings and I to shuttle back and forth between two houses whenever we come home.

Since the 8th grade, I've had two bedrooms, two houses, two families, and two of every holiday celebration. Growing up - in my middle school and high school years - my brothers, sister, and I rotated between both houses on a two-week schedule designed to give all parties a fair share of weekday and weekend time together. Though it was a cause of frustration at times, I give my parents a lot of credit for creating and sticking to that schedule. It is not every child that is lucky enough to have two parents so committed to being there for them, despite the obvious logistical difficulties.

For the holidays we split the key days in half and alternated the split in favor of a different parent each year. For example, we generally spent a few days before Christmas, Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning with one parent, and then Christmas afternoon and the days after with the other parent. The following year we would flip it, so that whichever parent had us for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning the year before would get us instead for Christmas afternoon and the days following it.

No matter how carefully the time was divided, someone was always alone and someone was always missing. That is the one truly sad thing about divorce to me; once a divorce occurs, unless your parents are those rare individuals who can tolerate being in one another's company, there will always be someone missing at any given time. I wish it wasn't like that. I wish my parents could get together on the holidays; that we could be one big extended family, instead of two disconnected ones. I wish that, even though I have accepted that it's not going to happen.

Another cause of emotional tension is that my parents, and my time in each of their homes, are so different from one another. At my mom's house, there's just the four of us kids and my mom. She spoils us, tries her hardest to make every minute she has with us perfect (an impossible goal), and showers us with a lot of love. There's excitement, joy, and affection, as well as stress, irritation, and sometimes anger, and it's all genuine and out in the open. I love that about my family; we don't hold things in and we don't believe in sugarcoating. I always know where I stand with them. At my dad's, things are a bit different in certain respects. There, the house is filled at Christmastime with my entire stepfamily, including infants and tweens, along with my dad and the four of us kids. In my dad's house, there is a great deal of love, but a lot more rules. Conflict is kept more hush-hush, and my siblings and I are often far from the center of things. Neither house is better than the other, and I wouldn't give up either one. They both have things I find wonderful and look forward to whenever I visit. However, the differences can sometimes be disconcerting.

This Christmas, my siblings and I spent the days before Christmas and Christmas morning with my mom, and then drove 45 minutes from The Woodlands to Katy to spend Christmas afternoon and the days following it with my dad. I sat in the back of my brother Bacchus's car watching the stripmalls of Houston pass by, catching snippets of my brothers' conversation over the thumping bass of Bacchus' car stereo, thinking about other times the three of us, with Bean, had traveled from one house to the next. I heard a Blind Melon song ("All I can say is that my life is pretty strange") and "Everything's Zen," by Bush, two songs I hadn't heard in years, and thought back to times when I used to drive my mom's white volvo across town in Connecticut with my brothers and sister in tow, when Frey and I were home from college and Bacchus and Bean were too young to drive.

I found myself thinking about how much I loved my brothers and sister, and how lucky I am to have them. Through all of this family drama - the good, the bad, and everything in between - my brothers and sister have been right there with me. They have their flaws (like me) and sometimes drive me absolutely insane, but I could not imagine my life without each of them. If roller coaster is what it's got to be, there is no one I would pick over them to ride along with me.


Karianne said...

BC, Your holidays sound like ours growing up. Once you add in more inlaws, it will get even crazier. Especially if their parents are divorced and living in the same area. I remember after I had our first baby I was cornered by my BMIL about celebrating Christmas. She informed me that Christmas Eve is spent with her and then Christmas is spent with her ex. I then asked, not too sweetly, "And where does my family fit in?" Holy Smokes! Guess she didn't really think about that one.

Gypsy said...

It's wonderful to have that family bond to cling to, isn't it?

Wishing you a fantastic holiday season full of joy.

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Buttercup said...

Karianne - I've started thinking about how everyone married basically has to deal with the same issue, and as more of the kids in our family marry it's only going to get trickier. Eventually we will figure it out.

Gypsy - It is wonderful. :)

Sunflower and Incog & Nito - Happy New Year!

starshine said...

That was a very genuine reflexion, and I appreciate your willingness to not sugarcoat, but to accept the joy and the pain of family time in a divorced family.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

perfect songs for the moment. The best thing u have going for you is that you realize the differences in visits, as opposed to trying to fit them into what you want your holidays to be, if that makes sense.