Lemons, Loss, and Lemonade
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Lemons, Loss, and Lemonade
I am a firm believer that changes in a place of childhood memories can create an intense loss in an individual. Our surroundings, life style, experiences, family, and traditions are what make us into who we become as grown-ups. A day doesn't go by that most of us don't relate our present day experiences to our childhood experiences. We see things in our children and we immediately remember being that same age. We remember the familiar feelings, smells, and sights of our childhood. We begin to compare our pasts with their present. We are hoping that we haven't repeated our parents' mistakes and overlooked an insecurity that we may have had at that age. Our memories make us realize why we think and react the way we do. When we see our parents in our parenting, it can be both comforting and disturbing. Those patterns, securities, and stabilities are the foundations of our lives. When and if this way of life is changed, it throws off and disrupts everything we have grown to believe and trust in.
Growing up was full of love and security for me. My dad was in his 30's when he had us, and very ready to be a dad. My mom was fortunate to be able to stay at home, so we kids were never alone. Life was routine and predictable; it made us feel safe. My dad owned his own business, passed down from his father, which functioned out of the first floor of our house. We got to see him all day, and he taught us all a great work ethic. He loved being a father. My mind floods with memories of walks to the park on summer evenings, weekends ice-skating, or going to Grandpa and Grandma's house. We were very comfortable financially, with all of our needs met. I never heard of the term "payday;" whatever we needed was just always there. I still remember the warm feeling of those summer evenings after playing outside all day, taking a bath, putting on one of my dad's t-shirts, and lying in front of the TV, with a big bowl of ice-cream. I never had a care in the world. In my adult years, I still yearn for that carefree feeling. The best days were when we would come home from school and my mom would be making chocolate chip cookies, peach cobbler, or her famous double-decker chocolate cake. We always got three cookies and a glass of milk. That feeling and memory stays with me today, even as I make cookies for my grandchildren.
There was a day, though, that we came home from school to find no cookies, cake, or glass of milk. It was the day that our lives and memories would forever change. In fact, it even blurred the memories that our lives were built on. It was the day my parents told us they were getting a divorce. I was a pre-teen, and it is as vivid in my memory as if it happened yesterday. We heard the fighting, but we just figured all parents fought. We never imagined it would come to this. The thought of picking which parent to stay with felt so overwhelming; when I realized the choice was made for me and I didn't have a choice, I think I felt worse instead of relieved. Our lives felt marred like the rubble after a war. The unknown was the scariest, and in the days, months, and years to come we found out that our fears were validated.
My dad moved out right away, and since his business had relocated, we didn't see him everyday anymore. That feeling of loss and emptiness changed all of us forever. He expected strength when we did see him, and that is what we showed him. We never cried and told him how devastating this was to us. My mom was an emotional wreck. All the familiar sights and smells of a clean house, baking cookies, and security were gone. She was hurt and bitter, and we all felt the effects of it. Our lives felt empty and insecure now. We still loved our dad very much, and never blamed him; this was unsettling to my mom. Our happy, content home had changed into a madhouse. My mom who had been there all our lives decided to go back to school and get a career. Leaving two teenagers at home alone with all authority figures gone was the worst thing my parents could have done at this phase of our lives. All the responsibilities of the cleaning and cooking were now on me being the girl. I resented this deeply and showed it in my new rebellious attitude. I became hardened and uncaring. I didn't believe in the fairytale of falling in love and living happily ever after anymore. All the luxuries and memories of those carefree days were now gone forever. My youth was stripped from me and the rose-colored glasses of my childhood and family were now gone.
After the tumultuous teenage years as a broken family, we did see light at the end of the tunnel. When I was married, with children of my own, my parents did get remarried. This was a wonderful day for me. Even though I was an adult, with a family of my own, this reconciliation brought so much lost security back to me. The wounds began to heal, and my memories became bright again. As we all talk about our childhood, we pass over those nine years that our family was broken, but the effects and the repercussions are still very much there, for all of us. I'm so glad my children were too young to remember. For them it's just Grandpa and Grandma as normal and commonplace as baseball and apple pie.
Reflecting back on my childhood memories, reliving the good times, and remembering the pain and loss the divorce brought, I can see how these events have contributed to the person I have become--for the good and the bad. Now that I'm a parent, I really count the cost of each decision I make, and how it will impact my children. My choices and the atmosphere I create are molding their childhood memories. I definitely can't stop all loss and calamity in my children's life or in mine. It would be like always having sunshine and never experiencing the effects and benefits of the rain. I do try to be strong and keep things as normal as possible when life events turn our world upside down. This has happened more than once in my children's lives, and my memories helped keep me from falling apart. I always want my children to feel secure and confident that everything will be fine. I have learned to make lemons of loss and bad memories into lemonade!