The day my mom loaded up the station wagon was the worst day of my life. The shrill screams and rough shouts from their most recent fight were still ringing in my mind’s ears. The red puffy welts and swollen bruises had faded from her face and neck but not from my memories. An empty achy void had been hovering over the house ever since he left. I desperately wanted and needed him back. With every aspect of my mind and frame I hoped, wished, prayed, and willed him back.
So I just stood there in stunned silence as my mother crammed more and more seemingly random items into the tiny spaces of air left inside our imitation wood-paneled station wagon. A jumbled mess of towels, pots, jeans, crayons, and Bibles pushed hard against the windows. Lingering table scraps of the bounty that was once our home. She rambled on giddily, indifferent to whether or not anyone was listening. There was just enough space on the back seat for the three of us kids to sit. The floor was buried but we’d just have to make do. The front passenger seat was full, but that was no problem, she’d just sleep sitting up! This was an adventure! Lucky Lisa would get to sleep on the front passenger floorboard. We could put a blanket down. It would be like stowing away on a pirate ship.
With each rambling word, the lump of lead in the pit of my stomach grew heavier. Finally she turned and gathered the three of us into her intimate circle.
“Lisa”, she said in a child-like sing-song voice, “your tenth birthday is a very special birthday and I have a very special present for you this year…. We GET to move back to Michigan!”
Slowly it dawned on me what she meant. This meant I would never see him again. I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream. I wanted to lie down on the ground and kick my feet and cry like a baby. But I just stood there staring at her feet squeezing my fists until my anger boiled up inside me like a volcano spewing out over my terror.
“But I don’t WANT to move to Michigan!” I finally bellowed.
“YES YOU DO, YES YOU DO!!!!!” she screamed. Her face was suddenly red with rage and she stood over me shaking, ranting, screaming into my face. “YOU HATE IT HERE! YOU’VE ALWAYS HATED IT HERE! DON’T YOU SEE? THIS IS FOR YOU!! IT’S ALL FOR YOU!! WE’RE ALL DOING THIS FOR YOU! NOW YOU CAN BE HAPPY!!!”
So that was that. I got their divorce for my birthday. We squeezed into the station wagon, gassed up and moved to Michigan. It was four years before I saw him again.