When I was little, there was something about having only one home that seemed so normal and so strange at the same time. It would mean parents weren’t associated with locations or days of the week. A part of me envied that my friends’ “I’m going home” wasn’t followed with “which?” Having two meant I had to explain to my third-grade teacher why I couldn’t have my blue book with me in class on Thursday. It meant that on one upcoming Friday, my best friend could sleep over because I was staying at my mom’s house, which was located conveniently close to hers, but she couldn't do so on the following Friday.
I searched for reasons why my family wasn’t a carbon copy of every other one I knew because when you’re eight years old and don’t quite understand that there are things beyond your circle, the last thing you want is to be different from the kids on the playground. A part of me always knew, however, that there was no justifiable blame I could throw at my parents and that it was far more complex than I could understand, but that also made it all the more frustrating.
I started switching houses biweekly when I was three years old. Tuesdays became associated entirely with mom and Thursdays entirely with dad – I woke up and went to sleep at their houses. Every other day was mixed, weekends alternated and the exact schedule is something only very close friends came to understand. At some point, when I was a bit older, I was given some kind of option to choose, a supposed breath of fresh air that frightened me more than it could ever help. I stopped seeing my situation as one that needed to be repaired, started thinking of the unnatural and forced alternatives and realized, in practice, I actually found those far worse.
My mom’s house meant strange contemporary art, trips to the beach, big breakfasts on Sunday mornings, an ice cream cone when she picked me up from afterschool at six and always being in front of and behind her Nikon. My dad’s house meant trips to museums, thousands of books lining the walls, classical music and NPR, Frisbees in Central Park and apple picking in the fall. They were unexplainably different, like the left and right lobes of the brain. Apples and oranges. There were things I would never do with my mom and things I would never do with my dad, and it was when I tried to put them together that I realized I was better off walking the fine line in between.
The point at which I realized we were an unmeasurable distance away from being a carbon copy was the point at which I stopped wanting to be one. I divorced (no pun intended) myself from the idea of wanting only one home, because a coexistence is not always a coalescence. Oil and water don’t mix, and sometimes it’s just better that way. I began to look forward to things I would do with my mom that I wouldn’t with my dad, and vice versa. I stopped looking for reasons why we were different and started looking for ways my parents made us feel normal regardless.
And in some unintended way, my family grew together because of it. As my brother and I learned to navigate the two worlds, my parents were learning how to get to know their children when they only saw them half the time. We learned from each other, and although the geographical distance between the two houses always remained the same, I saw little bridges being built in between over time.
So, when I came to college, it was somewhat of a shock. Tuesdays and Thursdays were just Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I forgot something at “home,” it was nothing more than a few steps back to my dorm, not a half-week and a subway ride away. And although I’m warming up to the idea of living in Los Angeles, something about home being only one place is still a bit weird to me.
The constant switching and dichotomies gave me more than just something to write about. I recognize I have a skill of adaptability that’s come to good use, especially in college. I can adapt to new and unfamiliar situations pretty easily, and I realize it was because of the way I was always switching between how I thought and acted between my mom’s and dad’s houses. It made me accustomed to moving around a lot, so I wasn’t too stubborn with letting the four walls around me in my dorm become “home.”
I soon understood there were intricacies to every family, and that perhaps ours were just a little less subtle. Hardly any function perfectly, and the shifting triangular dynamics of myself, brother and parent didn’t make me feel like my childhood lacked something. When I think about how my family and I grew because of our situation, I realize it was all in the little moments that I started to appreciate our abnormality, instead of in the ones I fixated on why we weren't like the others.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels