• Tearing Away the Plastic

    by Theresa Reichman

    I love fireflies. Or, as I always called them as a child, “lightning bugs.” Like any good Pennsylvanian girl, I can clearly recall my first time catching them. I was young. Probably around 4 years old. I sprinted barefoot through my yard, chasing the blips of light – pausing like a cat about to pounce when their lights flickered out – and then scooping them out of the air when that golden light reappeared. I had a mason jar with a makeshift lid of Saran wrap with toothpick air holes to ensure viability.

    I remember telling my sister that I was going to set them on my nightstand and use them as a nightlight. And I remember my horror when she informed me that if I did that, they would wither away and die. And I remember — tearfully — I unscrewed the cap and peeled away the plastic. I watched as the fireflies took flight into the endless sky and I took solace knowing that tomorrow would bring new fireflies.

    I’ve been told that I have a rose-tinted view of divorce.

    I don’t think that’s true. I know how painful the process can be. I have seven solid years of childhood spent watching my parents slowly tear at the stitches that bound them together. I saw the tears, the pain, the resentment. I felt the heat of angry words and felt the old scars ripped fresh again. I cried. I hid. I hurt. There is no glory in divorce. There is only ugliness and emptiness.

    I used to tell my mom that I wanted to paint the house white. It was a reoccurring request that I made only after the worst fights had reigned over our house.

    “Can we please paint the house white? Can we please have a clean canvas?”

    While I don’t recall when things returned to good again with the clarity of my first time catching lightning bugs, I know that happiness returned.

    Today, I have two wonderful stepparents who fit my respective parents with all the ease they never found with each other. I have a creative and insightful stepmother who always finds clever ways to circumnavigate my father’s smartass side and always manages to see the humor in it. I have a sensitive and respectful stepfather who can calmly pat my mom on the shoulder and reminds her to breathe because the sky is not in fact falling.

    I have memories of my daughter’s first birthday where my parents and stepparents meshed beautifully into four grandparents who doted on my girl. Four grandparents who talked and laughed well after the little one was asleep. Four parents who danced at weddings and marveled at growing children. Four people who bid each other farewell and genuinely couldn’t wait until they could all meet again.

    And don’t get me started on the stepsiblings. I have one biological sister whom I adore. Now I have four very different and very wonderful stepsiblings, too. We play beer pong, we talk long into the night, we laugh over our parents’ cheesy jokes. We’re family.

    A broken home can be a beautiful, colorful home. A broken home can be more whole than it ever was before. And perhaps the most peace-bearing aspect of all… I know my parents love each other. I know because I watched as they tearfully peeled away the plastic and they set each other free.

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 7:47 am
      • Reply

      Your writing had gotten very poetic and the imagery here is beautiful T.

    • My parents waned from love to hate and back again. They loved with a passion and screamed with a passion. They never divorced but after 20 years of marriage I did and it was the best thing I did besides raising children. My life changed dramatically and I found me, myself and I. It has been another 20+ years and I have come into my own. I have loved a lot but still love myself more. I have had the best freedom of my life. My best days married don’t come close to my best days single. One can be very lonely in a marriage. My kids and grandkids are my joy and travel is my love. I own my own home, I have no debt and I have the best friends in the world. I am at my happiest with just me. Would I have been happy with another mate-not sure. If I had married the ones who have asked I would have been divorced 3 more times. I share my life with lots but when I come home it is myself I come home to and I like it that way.
      Theresa, love your writing. It always inspires me.

    • beautiful.
      so very.
      much love.

      • David Lacy

      • April 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm
      • Reply

      You need to finish your book.

      • Christy

      • April 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm
      • Reply

      Love love love this! Such wonderful imagery, and what a wonderful way to look at it all. Sometimes it just takes perspective to see it clearly, and feel the “white” you wanted in your walls. Great column, one of my favorites of yours!

    • The last line in this column choked me all up. BEAUTIFUL piece of work! 🙂

      • Dora L.Arias

      • April 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm
      • Reply

      I agree with Debra. I never concidered Jesse my step sibling, though. She is my little sister who have a great bunch of fellow poets. Beautiful. <3

      • Judy

      • April 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm
      • Reply

      Love the image here and what a beautiful ending.

    • Beautiful, touching, heart warming. Thank you for sharing this.

    • I so love this piece. I admire the thought as well as the poetry, the work it takes to synthesize all manner of experience through years and come to such loving conclusions. You’ve got a lot of great love in your life, people brave enough to find it.

      • Heather

      • April 4, 2011 at 9:28 am
      • Reply

      Pure chills. Your writing blows me away even more each time I read it. It’s just so….succinct and always comes full circle, which I find personally to be the hardest thing to do when it comes to telling a story or getting a message across. Book on the way?

      • Jesse

      • April 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm
      • Reply

      Great job. I hope that my kids have the same full circle. @ Dora… I didn’t know what step was. You and Nina are pure sis to me.

    • Theresa,
      Ain’t love great! Speaking of love, I love what you have to say and how you say it. I don’t love, however, having to wait to read your next column so gitta goin gurl!

      • Sivan

      • April 5, 2011 at 9:48 am
      • Reply

      “I’ve been told that I have a rose-tinted view of divorce.” Coming from my own broken home that is more successful separate than it was apart, and being blessed with parents who were always good to one another and who always remained friends despite their split, I know what you mean, girl! I wish my parents had remarried and found what your parents have found. But regardless, I’m glad we are all a family as much today as we were when they were married. Thanks for helping to remind us that “a broken home can be a beautiful, colorful home.” It is a realistic goal for people to try to achieve if they have to let go of their marriage.

    • Nice piece. Great insight.

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