When I was a little girl, we lived in a small, white, two-story house on a quiet street.
Our immediate neighbors were older, but down the street lived children to play with, a creek to ride our bikes through, and all the popsicles in outside freezers you could find on a sunny day.
We spent spring through fall running the streets together. Rarely were friends allowed inside houses.
In the winter we were too busy celebrating Halloween, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day (which, in elementary school, was a huge deal) to worry about the bike riding.
Before long, it would be spring break, then Easter, and we’d be back to playing outside.
We knew two days by heart: when school started and when it ended.
My childhood wasn’t full of rainbows and unicorns. I endured a childhood that included alcoholism, abuse and divorce.
After my parents split up, there were nights I wasn’t sure where my food was coming from and days I didn’t know how I was getting to school without my own two feet (and our town was definitely not a walking town).
I think it was then, around fifteen or so, that I started to long for the simpler days of childhood.
The days where I could come home from school, make a snack, head upstairs to do homework while watching The Brady Bunch, and never wonder about what was going to happen to my family next.
Nights where TGIF was my biggest concern and I wasn’t worrying about my mom’s new boyfriend or how we were going to pay the light bill this month.
You’d think that I would delay growing up in an attempt to reclaim those innocent days of youth.
But I did the opposite. I married at twenty, and had four children before thirty.
I’m no psychologist, but I think there’s something behind starting a family so young.
People nowadays are too selfish to do it. We want to “find ourselves” or “live our life.”
When you start a family young, you’re either running towards someone or running away from something.
I was definitely running away.
I thought that having a new family could magically fix my issues.
Being a good mother would somehow make me forget that I hadn’t had that great of an experience with my own.
Having a husband would make me forget about the days I hated my father for his control and his madness.
Of course, no healing happened.
In fact, children opened wounds I didn’t know existed.
I celebrated twenty years of marriage yesterday.
My husband and I are proud, no doubt.
Married young, one child going into the marriage, one not far behind.
No money, no direction, no jobs.
Yet, we stuck it out. Through peaks and valleys, we woke up and chose to try again, day by day, for two decades.
We’re not special, and we’re certainly not alone. Many couples have fought harder and stayed together longer.
We’re also no better than anyone else. A couple choosing to end a marriage doesn’t deserve shame or judgment. They deserve empathy and community.
When people ask my husband and me how we did it, we both answer with one word:
His was wonderful and ideal. Mine, while not as surreal, also left me with a few good memories I cherish.
And maybe that’s what I really miss, after all.
It’s not so much that my childhood was perfect. It wasn’t.
It’s not the TV shows, the bike rides, the kids in the neighborhood, the holidays.
No, it’s remembering what I once had that no longer exists.
My family. What we were. What we’ll never be again.
It’s not the childhood I miss.
It’s the innocence that resided within it.