You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. ~Thomas Wolfe
I am the adult child of a divorce. (Is anyone ever the adult child of something great? People are adult children of alcoholics and divorce and of narcissists according to Google but it seems there are no adult children of the well adjusted?)
Unlike many of my peers that struggled with a divorce as a young kid, my family shifted after I was old enough to have already left the house. I was in my early twenties when I was smacked in the face with the reality that my parents were their own people and perhaps their function in this life was not to wait by the front door to welcome me home bi-monthly. There were growing pains and tears and eventually there were new family structures.
When my father sold the house I grew up in (affectionately dubbed the “free storage facility”) it was official. I could no longer “go home again.” Boxes of notes from middle school, old prom dresses and family pictures were distributed to their rightful owners and it was over. I drive by the “old house” sometimes and it feels weird. My life was in that house. My family.
Fast forward fifteenish years and here I am in a house with my own family. A husband, two kids and a dog and a Christmas tree. One would think I would no longer lament that original loss. But in the darkest hours, in the moments I am flopped on my bed with over-tired, red swollen eyes and feel like I need a good cry I often say “I just wish I could go home. To my mom and dad.”
That is what being an adult child is, I guess. Instead of “I want my Mommy & Daddy!” the “adult” child laments the loss of their childhood in some way or another. The “well-adjusted” adult child dries their eyes and doesn’t use the pain of being an adult anything as an excuse to be an asshole. Or at least that is what I aim for in my pursuit of being well-adjusted. Try not to be an asshole. I have lofty goals.
A few weeks ago I had a very emotional round of phone calls that resulted in an opportunity to go home again. Thomas Wolfe says you can’t go “back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting” but when you realize that you will be having Christmas morning in your home with both your mother and your father for the first time in a long time and you never, ever thought you’d have that again… well, you get a little verklempt.
I spent a few days trying to wrap my mind around it.
I mentioned to a friend that I don’t know how to process things I can’t write about. The circumstances aren’t my story to tell. I do my best to be respectful of my friends and family and find a balance between my compulsion to share my story with the world and the privacy of those that don’t. It’s a shame really because I had a great working title to the blog post – “The Christmas That Was Just Like Austin.”
I thought it would be weird. I thought it might be sad and nostalgic and tense and wonderful. I thought I might go all Hayley Mills in Parent Trap only with wine instead of a twin sister as my devious counterpart. But mostly I thought it would be weird.
I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee this morning and I have no house guests. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the gifts have been relocated to their proper locations. Both of my parents have returned to their respective houses.
I can’t find the words. This week we will all crawl out of our holiday holes and someone will casually asks me “How was your Christmas?” I suspect my eyes will well with tears and I will say simply “It was great. We stayed home.”