Each year on my birthday I would wake up to a sweet aroma that filled the house with the smell of fresh blueberries and brown maple syrup. As my father sifted the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, my mom whisked the milk, eggs, and melted butter combination into one large bowl for pancake batter. My father would then pour the batter on the griddle when it was just hot enough to touch for a few seconds. As the batter took form and began to sizzle, my sister and I watched for the pancakes to bubble on top. Just as they were ready to be flipped, we would dress our pancakes with a plentiful amount of blueberries. Blueberry pancakes became a tradition in our household, one I looked forward to every year. It wasn’t necessarily the pancakes I looked forward to, but the idea of as a family we were able to create something magical. I always hoped the blueberry pancake birthday tradition would last forever.
“Make a wish!” my mom would say as I was about to blow out my candles. As a young child, I wished for extravagant, tangible objects such a trampoline, or a puppy, or even a three-story Barbie Dream House. Like most kids, I was unaware that the world, in fact, did not revolve around me. Naive of all that was necessary to keep my happy world spinning in the same orbit I was accustomed to–like those birthday pancakes and presents every year. It wasn’t until my 11th birthday that I was faced with the cold reality of this and awoke from the fantasy world I lived in. Without any warning, my once perfect world was destroyed by a single word. A word many children hear today. A word I wasn’t able to fully grasp at the time. A word that inevitably, I could not escape.
The blueberry pancakes lost their once moist, airy quality. The berries tasted sour, the batter wouldn’t meld together, and the pancakes turned to a crumbled mess. I tried everything to bring them back to their once enjoyable texture by adding more water, or an egg, but nothing seemed to work. The tradition was in fact gone for good.
“I’m moving out at the end of this month.”
“What do you mean you’re moving out, Dad?”
“Your mother and I are no longer in love, sweetie”
“But … but … how could that be?”
“Love can be tricky. It’s much more complicated than it seems. Sometimes, two souls that once believed they were bound together for eternity through marriage, grow apart from one another and consequently fall out of love. Although, they try to make it work, there comes a point where they’re forced to give up.”
At the age of 10, I never quite understood what my dad meant when he said the two souls “fell out of love.” I always thought love lasted forever; unfortunately my knowledge about love was far from the truth. I didn’t understand the complicated nature of love between two people. The only love I had experienced was from my family, the kind of love that does last forever. For years I was bewildered by my parents divorce; from what I could see they appeared happy. I quickly learned as humans we strive to be perfect and keep up with a “perfect” image of ourselves around others. We hide our problems from the view of the public eye to keep the perception others have of us unblemished. My parents did exactly that.
You’re told to pack your belongings for the week and bring over what you need. You pack your outfits for the week and all the necessary accessories to go with. You say goodbye to your cats at your mom’s house and make the journey to your dad’s house where you’re greeted by your dog. You’re also greeted by your new stepmom, and new stepsiblings. You’re forced to share a room for the first time with your new stepsister. Thrown into a completely new lifestyle. Switching from house to house every weekend, lugging your bags back and forth. Trying to explain to your friends the reasoning behind why you can’t hangout with them, saying repeatedly, “Sorry I can’t go out tonight, I have to spend time with my dad because I haven’t seen him in over a week.” Your friends call you lame for not going out and think you don’t want to be around them, when the truth of the matter is, they don’t understand the concept of not having two parents under one roof. They act as though they understand, as though they get it, but you can’t fully understand until you’ve been through it. You’re constantly switching between two very different lifestyles and trying to adapt each week to a multitude of changes. You finally get your bags unpacked after leaving them on your bedroom floor for a few days because you’re too lazy to unpack, only to have to repack them again to switch houses.
My 11th birthday was the first birthday spent at two separate houses. Double the cake, double the candles, and double the wishes, but it didn’t matter how many wishes I made, they never came true. For years, on my birthday, I would wish for a way to rekindle my parent’s lost love for one another, but as each year passed, I began to lose hope in what I truthfully knew was impossible: the pancakes were unfixable.
In today’s society the word divorce has become so normalized. It’s lost the stigma it once held and is more common than ever. What no one discusses are the small changes that occur during a divorce. Noticing how your dad doesn’t kiss your mom goodbye in the morning anymore, or how he somehow always ends up falling asleep on the couch, or how family dinners at the dining room table just stopped altogether.
It wasn’t until my 16th birthday that I wished for something different, a simple request, for my father to make me pancakes again. They didn’t taste like my childhood pancakes, but I learned to appreciate the change of ingredients and be content with what I had. I adapted to a new family, a new house, and a new way of living with four new family members. I was capable of fixing my own brokenness and turn it into joy by focusing on what I had and not what was missing. I found that facing challenges head-on rather than fleeing them helped to shape my character. I have uncovered the strength I carry within and am able to help others going through difficult life changes. Each day I am reminded that not every blueberry pancake recipe is the same and that sometimes you just might have to have a chocolate chip pancake instead.