Friday, November 18, 2011

on an end

It was a Sunday morning.  Mid-September.  Fall was on its way and the last of the garden roses sat in a vase in the center of the table.  As we finished breakfast I noticed that there was something different about the way the silence filled the room.  It was not an easy quiet as it usually was, instead it felt tense, strained, something about the way my Dad looked at the paper in front of him without really reading it, the way my Mom kept her eyes on him, the way my brother noisily moved the last piece of pancake around the plate with a scratching sound that made my shoulders shudder.

And then my Dad said it, they were separating.  They found an apartment and were going to take turns living in our house and this new place.  They assured me not to worry, nothing would change for me, I wouldn't have to be the one to move.

The tears were triggered instantly and I raised my eyebrows and blinked hard to force them back to where they came from.  They said something else but I was no longer paying attention, I was too concerned with the feeling of crying that was quickly coming up my throat.  I put the glass I was holding down, folded and refolded the napkin in my lap, and flicked a crumb off of the placemat and onto the floor.

I took my time as my hands moved in front of me, fearing the moment when I would have to look up at them, knowing that I couldn't do it without yelling for them to reconsider.  Still not able to meet their eyes, I followed the light that came through the lace curtains as it made delicate patterns across the tablecloth.  I could feel them watching me, waiting for me to say something to make them feel better; to make them feel like what they were doing wasn't going to warp me, turn me bad, make me into the kind of kid they held after class in parent teacher conferences because their home life was disrupting their school work.  But, in spite of my normal first instinct to please them, I kept quiet.  Cris was sitting across from me with his head down and I fought the urge to kick him underneath the table for not warning me.

It was quick.  In a sentence we were over.  The four of us would never sit like that again, I knew it even then.  I went to my room when I thought I had listened enough and later that night I took the ride with my Dad as he drove my brother back up to college in New Paltz.  On the way home I asked him what was going to happen to us next.  If we even were an us anymore.  He looked tired, and sad, and said he didn't know. 

But I do.  The next week Dad would move over to the apartment they had rented.  He and my Mom would move back and forth each Sunday so I didn't have to, but after a year that stopped working and the shared apartment was given up.  My mom would move to a one bedroom apartment and I would spend the next few years shuffling between the two, sharing a bed with my mom in one space, living with my Dad and my future stepmom in the other.  My mother, so ready to leave that she would give up her dream house, though when I picture it now it seems small to me, off in ways I know she didn't see then.  For her, the picket fence out front, the "french blue" living room and "soft pink" dining room, the dormers on the second floor, one just big enough for a reading nook and window seat.  But together, the blue was too blue, the pink clashed in the room next to it, the window seat only ever used for piles of laundry and papers.

There were beginnings that came along afterward, happy and whole beginnings, but that end will stay with me.  I imagine that when I am an old woman I will still be able to recall the way the light came through the lace curtains that morning, the intricate layers of light and dark spread out before me.  


  1. You are such a beautfil writer Caitlin. Really beautiful.

  2. Gah! Absolutely, absolutely BEAUTIFUL Caitlin!!


  3. Oh yes, I will always remember the day my parents told us they were separating too. Whether or not it's best for the kids for them to split or not (I'm still out on that one), it breaks your heart and it never quite fits together the same way again.