Friday, August 26, 2005

Distractions

My dad married his second wife in September of 1976. I wore a polyester dress with large peach colored polka-dots and looked as ugly as a twelve-year old girl can look.

My father wore a plaid jacket of some sort and my stepmother-to-be wore a cotton wedding dress she sewed herself. It had a collar and buttoned up the front and looked exactly like a suit shirt, except it had a voluminous skirt, billows and bilows of white cotton fabric.

Someone drove us to the wedding, which took place at a private residence overlooking the Puget Sound in Anacortes, I think. I'm sure my mother didn't have the task of chauffering us, but I can't remember who did.

The wedding itself was odd and took place on a patio which sat on a bluff. I remember my father declaring in his wedding vows that his children would come first. I really had no idea he felt that strongly about us or even that he felt any particular way about us at all. In fact, I kind of wondered why we were even going through this ceremony because if we were truly first, why did he leave our family?

I think now that it was a bad idea to tell his new bride that she had to stand in line behind us. But that is not the point of my story. Neither is the fact that they had cheesecake instead of wedding cake nor the fact that I didn't know any of the other wedding guests.

About six months after my dad's wedding, my mother married her second husband. He drove a yellow van and had blond hair and he made me a little queasy. But no matter. The second she married him, my dad took custody of us and just like that, my mother was free of the burden of having four children. I never lived with her again until she moved in with us in 2002. (She stayed for almost two years--I think the noise got to her.)

That Christmas--1978--I was thirteen. My dad and stepmom thought it would be easier on us, the children, to spend Christmas away from home. Our previous Christmas had been a surreal experience--my dad brought his new wife to his old home and my mom invited her new boyfriend and they all acted like it was fine and dandy. All the photographs show children slouching with dead expressions on their faces--except for my baby sister, who was only 5. To her, more people meant more presents and more attention.

So, Christmas of 1978 found us driving across the country in our little blue hatchback, a Renault, I think it was. (My dad drove a series of little hatchbacks in his lifetime, due to the superior gas mileage. He'd keep track of the odometer reading every time he filled up his car with gas and write it in a little book in pencil.) As soon as we crossed the Cascade Mountains, we realized the heater didn't really work in the car. We'd sit on each other's feet in the backseat to keep them warm. We rode bundled in our jackets all the way to Ohio.
And once there, we spent a dismal Christmas in my paternal grandparents' home that smelled of moth balls and canned tuna in oil. I can't recall any presents, nor a tree, nor a church service or Christmas music. In short, it was a truly horrible Christmas.

But my dad and stepmother were right. That Christmas trip did distract me from the shambles of my broken family, which was their hope.

At least when I try to distract my children, I use chocolate.

8 Comments:

Blogger Kim said...

This must have been a very difficult situation. That you write so vividly about it is just amazing. You make it possible for us to see through your eyes.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

You've had some difficult passages which you seem to have handled well.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Chocolate solves so many problems!!! :) You are a strong woman who has lived through a lot. I'm sure you wondered at the time why you were going through those things but they made you the woman and mother you are today. I'm sure your children and husband are eternally grateful!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Reloaded said...

I was drawn in and captivated by your story. Thanks for sharing.

Also, I liked the description of the wedding dress skirt as 'voluminous' - it's an awesome weird sounding word not used very much.

7:22 AM  
Blogger aka_Meritt said...

You wrote that very well... It was awesome to read, and it pulled me right in. I also could nod my head knowingly when viewing the photos... we all have those 70's clothes in our history. LOL.

2:59 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Parents can certainly leave heavy marks on their children.

That's the scary part of raising kids, imoho.

Thank God for chocolate?

Suzanne

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

This is so wild! I was also one of four kids whose dad left, and remarried. Only I got out of the wedding. Along with my sister, I used the excuse of prior plans for a picnic. He was sad we that didn't come, but I just couldn't do it. My other sister and little brother had to though, and he, age 12, broke down and cried during the ceremony. Our big sister, the oldest, had to take him out for a walk. I never heard of lines like your dad said, about putting us first. Makes me wonder, but I doubt it.

No-fault divorce really stinks, doesn't it? I'm sure way more people have been hurt than were helped by it.

My mom never remarried. She lives alone. I can sense her sadness still, after 20-some years. Dad and his new wife are as happy as larks, and even had 2 more kids. It's hard to watch, but I'm learning to move on, and live forgiveness.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Julana said...

I think it's bizarre, to put you children through a wedding where you dad is marrying someone other than your mother. How insensitive can you get?

4:31 PM  

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