Sunday, November 4, 2007

Nostalgia

This weekend, we went to Chicago to attend the wedding of my oldest friend. Dave moved in down the street from us in 1975 and has been a part of the family ever since. He was best friends with my twin brother, but was really like another brother to all of us. In fact, often in college Dave would introduce me to people as his sister. He was an only child and loved all the action at our house; we spent so much time with him over the years that my parents joked about claiming him on our income taxes. We played, laughed, fought and leaned on each other; I even dated him, for like 2 days in high school, before we decided it was just too weird, like dating a family member.

The wedding was beautiful. I was so happy for Dave, but a bit nostalgic. As I stood in St. Symphorosa (the Church where almost all major life events for the Porch family have taken place) a wave of memories washed over me. All the hockey games and water fights, all the high school dances and late night talks, all the days spent at the park playing softball and hanging out. The wedding was like one major flashback. And despite, or maybe because, my childhood was really very happy, reliving the memories was a bit sad for me. First, there was the realization that things will never be the same again. We have all grown up and moved on. We have families and jobs and real adult problems and responsibilities. A part of me misses those carefree days, especially after the last year, which has taught me a little something about the kind of fear I think you can only feel as an adult. Fear of loss, mainly, as in fear of losing a parent, a child, a loved one. Of course, I realize too that along with the responsibility and problems, come amazing opportunities to love and connect to people in ways different from what you are capable of as a child. So, though, I miss childhood, I am able to let it go with just a few longing glimpses back.

The second reason for the nostalgia is that I am looking back in a different way than I did a year or two ago. Now, I am seeing things through the eyes of an adult who realizes that her parents weren't as perfect, or even as happy, as she once thought. You see, my mom and dad are getting divorced. And I think this wedding, for whatever reason, really made me face what that means. All kinds of emotions I didn't realize I was feeling surfaced and I am not sure how to deal with them at all. It's crazy, really, because I feel like I am the thirteen-year-old heroine of some book like, "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" I feel torn between my two parents and my loyalties to each. I want to help them see the good in the other and quit fighting. I want to make all the tension go away. I want it to all go back to the way it was, as imperfect as that may have been. More than anything, I don't want to know about any of it. I hate knowing that my parents feel anything but good things for each other. I want to protect them both, but more than that, I want to make it unnecessary to protect them.

I don't even know how to articulate some of the strange feelings that have come over me. I feel like this divorce almost changes the past, the "happy" childhood that I lived. As if our family was all fake. At the wedding this weekend, I ran into a girl who lived on our block for a few years. Jeanine's parents had had a really ugly divorce and she kind of glommed onto my family, which actually happened to us a lot. We had several different friends or cousins living with us at one time or another, mostly because of the major dysfunction in their own families. Despite our quirks and craziness, we were the safe harbor for these friends of ours. Jeanine, who had always been a major drama queen--self-indulgent and self-absorbed--spent long stretches of time at the wedding waxing prolix about how our family helped her. She was completely wasted, which I am sure only served to loosen her tongue, and she started to really grate on me. When she mentioned my parents and how she had always loved them and how they were her role model for healthy relationships, yadda yadda, I had the perverse urge to fill her in on the fact that Ma and Pa Porch were splitting up. It was only my lack of emotional fortitude that stopped me; I just knew I didn't have the energy to comfort her after I spilt the beans.

As much as Jeanine annoyed me at the wedding, she was right about something. My parents were really special to a lot of people. They were always around and were very supportive to us and our friends. My house was the place everyone hung out, and they all love my parents. Dave, Jamie, Luigi, Renee, Mary Kay, Dave Lewis, among others, really looked to my mom and dad as second parents. I know this divorce doesn't really change anything about the past, but it's hard not to feel that it does. I guess I really have some issues I need to deal with. I thought I was OK with it all, that I was mature enough to just want what was best for my parents. I guess I thought I was too old for it to hurt so much.

I was so wrong.

1 comment:

Amy Jane said...

Patty,

What a poignant, beautiful, well-written post. It took me right to the wedding with you and helped me feel your feelings. (I know that this is a kind of inappropriate compliment, but it almost reads like an essay that should be published in a magazine.) Wow - that's some pretty complicated stuff, and I understand what you mean about the divorce making it seem like it was all a sham for all those years. But please try not to look at it that way. Just because your parents are divorcing now doesn't mean that things were never good, or that your family wasn't real. None of that can be erased - it's on the permanent record, and always will be. Your childhood was still good and full and happy. I know you must feel like a kid again who just wants her parents to stay together. It's got to be so hard - I don't really know what I can say to comfort you. Just know that I'm always here if you need to talk about things. I'm good at listening. And as hard as it is to realize, it is true that no matter how old we get, we are always our parents' children, and we always feel like little kids when it comes to them. I have had to face that myself. I'm only just realizing that my Dad was never Superman and never had all the answers, ya know? I know it's not quite the same as what you're going through, but I'm just trying to say that I sort of know where you're coming from. I'm so sorry that you're hurting so much right now. I think that you just have to try as hard as you can to let go and understand that your parents are doing what they need to do. It has no bearing on their love for you, and it does not mean that your childhood wasn't "real." I'm going to stop rambling now, because I don't even know if I'm making sense...