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The Orion

Divorce doesn’t dampen family holidays

Illustration by Zachary Phillips
Illustration by Zachary Phillips

When I found out this summer that my parents were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage, turkeys, pumpkin pie, sleigh bells and tinsel were the last things on my mind.

I was more worried about how weird it was going to be when I came home for the first time since my mother moved out, and whether there would be strange traces of her left in the house.

And I was more worried, even, about the fate of our family’s Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts and Costco cards.

Flash forward to the end of the first semester of my senior year of college: Thanksgiving break. My first holiday with a divided family, or what I like to call Splitsgiving.

Oh, joy.

But after an emotionally harrowing week where I was forced to confront the emotions I’d successfully avoided for months, I ended up with some clarity; ended up finding a way to appreciate the changes in my life and even be thankful for them.

This year, my dad, brother, dad’s parents and I spent the holiday at a family friend’s house in Chico, while my mom stayed in Oregon and celebrated with her parents and other relatives.

I can tell you about the superficial changes easily: that we ate around 3 p.m., instead of 7 p.m. That there were a lot more people, relatives of our family friends, many that I was just meeting for the first time or had only been around briefly.

That the food, no offense to my family’s cooking, was the best Thanksgiving food I’ve had. We had five homemade pies: pecan, apple and pumpkin, slices of which I am still recovering from eating.

But while I’m over at our family friends’ home, enjoying fried turkey and sweet potatoes and joking around with my dad, who really is the happiest I’ve ever seen him, I’m still wondering how my mother is doing.

Will she be crying when I call her because she misses my 17-year-old brother and me? Will I be able to handle that?

And I can’t help but worry about where I will be this time next year. Will I be at my mother’s boyfriend’s house? Will I be with my dad and brother at our family friend’s home again?

I guess I am a quintessential human being: I have a strange aversion to change, that I cannot explain, and uncertainty makes me anxious because I cannot plan for something I do not see coming.

Normally my reaction to things like this is to break down.

And I did, several times during break.

But just after the sun set and after my stomach stopped aching from eating too much, I finally stepped outside to call my mom.

She was OK. She wasn’t crying. She sounded good, like she was handling things. She was just happy to hear from me.

Just because something is a tradition doesn’t mean it is right or permanent; that a new one cannot form and be just as good (or even better).

I am thankful that both of my parents, whether they admit it or not, are happier now than they have been in the last 10 years of their marriage. Even if that means they aren’t together.

I am thankful that instead of having one family filled with people who love and care for me and my brother and who we can care for in return, we’ll end up with two.

And I am thankful that I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

Bring on Splitsmas. I’m ready.

Ashiah Scharaga can be reached at [email protected] or @AshiahD on Twitter.


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