My parent's divorce was the best thing for me. I didn't know it at the time, but I do now. For starters, I was five. I woke up to another sunny Marin County, California day with my mother at the foot of my bed staring at me with bloodshot eyes. "Honey. Your father and I are getting a divorce." Still five, I had no idea what that word meant. It kind of sounded like a new car, so my instinct was to jump up in excitement. I love the smell of a new car, but judging from my mother's sad face, I knew a divorce was not what they were calling the new line of Lincolns. I tried to grasp what she was saying. A divorce? I wanted to know who else was divorced. Were there other kids on the block or in my kindergarten class whose parents were divorced? The only names my mother managed to come up with were Elisabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I did not know them.
A few months later my mother and I were on a flight to Massachusetts, to spend the summer with my grandparents. Once there, I would miss my father less due to all the spoiling my grandparents did. Miniature golf every day, pizza whenever I wanted, including breakfast, and even a kitten that I named Misty Speyer. When we returned to California at the end of the summer, my mother sprang yet another life changing event on me. She met a divorced man with three daughters, who were close in age to me, and we were going to move in with them. In New Hampshire.
Not knowing geography, I had no clue where New Hampshire was. I was still five. My teacher didn't help much when she told me it was in New England. Suddenly all I saw were images of old men with white wigs, holding pens made of feathers, dressed in funny costumes, and wearing tights. The only people I knew from England were Benny Hill and the guys from Monty Python, neither of whom I could even remotely understand. How on earth would I be able to understand my new family?
We packed up the house. Mom, Misty Speyer and I got on a plane to Boston where my new family was waiting for us. When I first met my new father, I couldn't understand a word he was saying. Not because he was from England, but because he was from New England. Luckily he wasn't wearing a wig, or tights, and neither were my new sisters, who lit up the moment they saw me.
As I opened the front door to the house in New Hampshire, my older sister Susie turned to me and said, "Welcome to your new home." No one had ever welcomed me home before. Home was a place filled with anger and resentment, so why would anyone want to welcome you to it? I knew each of my parents loved me, but with the three of us together under one roof the love disappeared, and I became invisible. All that changed the moment I walked through the front
door to my new house. Sometimes you don't know what you're missing until it appears. I had been missing my family. I just hadn't met them yet.
People often say that parents should stay together for the sake of the kids. But if children learn about relationships by watching their parents, how can it benefit them to witness two adults constantly fighting or staying in a loveless marriage? It doesn't. Ask anyone who grew up with parents who stayed together until the kids went off to college or moved out of the house. Most of them will tell you they grew up thinking marriage meant not liking your partner.
While someone always loses something in a divorce, sometimes there are amazing things to be gained. Saying good-bye to my birth father at the San Francisco International Airport was one of the saddest days of my life, especially since I thought I was moving to England. But we made it work. I spoke to him at least twice a week and visited him every school vacation, including summers.
What I gained from their divorce was a family, and a home filled with love, with three sisters who adore me and who shoot death rays at anyone that says I'm not a "real" sister. I can't imagine a world without my mother, both fathers and my sisters in it. And I never have to.