It Goes On

Illustration by Ruby Thompson
of Avalon School in St. Paul.

After her family splits apart, one teen builds a new sense of home

Editor’s note: The writer, a high school senior in the Twin Cities, asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her family’s privacy.

Last spring, a corny old sign hung on the front door of my house.

“Home is where you hang your heart.”

Well, I’d thought when my parents divorced, home sure isn’t here.

And now, home is nowhere.

There’s something entirely accurate about the phrase “coming from a broken home.” Mom goes one way, dad goes the other, and the family stretches until it can’t help but break, and everyone lands somewhere different. Mom and the younger kids are in St. Cloud; Dad’s out east, then back again.

And me? Well, I’m not so sure.

Only 60 percent of male and female high school seniors live with both biological parents, according to the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey.

When the number of marriages that end in divorce matches the number that don’t, it’s not difficult to find empathy. And with good friends like mine, it’s not so hard to find a place to stay either. But a spot on the floor, a blow-up mattress, or the bed in the spare room doesn’t account for what I hated, loved, wanted and couldn’t wait to get rid of.

Home.

There are things I don’t miss – the arguments and worries about money. But I can’t cling to the bad things and not acknowledge the entire package. I miss my room, my bed, my lamp, my bookshelf and the books that were too plentiful to bring with me.

My, my, my. I miss “mine.”

I miss having an address to rattle off and write down on applications. Now I have a borrowed address for my senior year.

I’m an admirer of Robert Frost, though, and he had three words to say about life: It goes on.

Suitcase in one hand and heart in the other, I’ve gone on from my family’s home and am trying to make my own.

First snapshot: A year and a half ago, my mom tells me about the divorce. The yelling and arguments were forewarning enough, and my reaction is muted. My shrugged resignation says all I need to. It goes on.

Pan over to dad: He thought leaving would be easier than it was. Two days out of state and he’s back. Too bad he quit his job when he left. It’s a ping-pong game of menial jobs and unemployment from there, followed by defaulted student loans.

Zoom in on mom: Suddenly she’s home before me. After the first couple of days, my brother tells me: She’s been fired. No more cable. She borrows money from relatives. The electricity is turned off for a day. We used to be comfortably middle class, you know? It goes on.

Then the house is put up for sale for less than we owe. Mom moves out, and my sisters go with her. The house sells. Brother follows mom. Dad leaves, too. Everyone is jumping ship. It goes on.

Mom’s apartment is nice, but it’s an hour away and using two bedrooms for five people makes no sense. I’m invested at my high school. I don’t want to leave. I have community here. A leader from my youth group opens her door for me. I’ll be there for senior year. It goes on.

Frost’s philosophy might seem harsh to some. As if life is going to leave you behind and all you can do is roll with the punches life throws. But the outcome is not so bleak.

Frost’s words remind me that nothing I’m going through is forever. My dreams can survive if I stay as tightfisted with them as I can. So if the first word you think of when you hear divorce or poor is failure, think again.

Mistakes can be inherited, but the future is not. Misfortune and success are not mutually exclusive. I’m not going to write myself into some Oprah Winfrey scenario here, but I’m not going to let myself be written off either.

I’ll box up my debate and speech awards, shrug on my letter jacket, dog ear the school magazine I edited and keep my 3.0 GPA in mind. I’ll grab my suitcases and I’ll grab my heart.

And I’ll go on.

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