In the 1978 mini-series The Young Pioneers, the character Molly, played by Linda Purl, hears a peculiar buzzing. She looks out across a field of corn in Dakota Territory and sees a wall of locust headed toward her. She and her children escape to shelter, but the swarm leaves the farm in utter ruin. The family, which has pioneered so hard, is devastated.
One never forgets the sound of a swarm.
The next time I heard it, 20 years had passed. It was 1998. The locusts converged and our family was torn apart by divorce. At the time my daughter Juliette, 11, was 15 months old.
I remained single until Juliette was nearly six. During those five years, she was my entire world, and we did everything together. We took road trips across country and visited amusement parks, festivals and museums. We went to the Nutcracker every year and took in family-friendly musicals. We went to church together every Sunday and Wednesday night. We camped for days at Lake Eufala during the summer, and hiked the Wichita Wildlife
Refuge every spring. One winter, I took her skiing in Breckenridge. We took art classes together, watched movies together, went to restaurants together.
Everything. Just us.
And, then I got married, and everything changed.
As wonderful as my life with Juliette was, I wanted to be married and I wanted more children. Robert and I dated just shy of a year before we got married. Two years after that, Sullivan came along and less than two years after that, the Super Bridgy. Life rocketed on, forever leaving behind jenandjuliette [at] hotmail [dot] com.
Becoming a family with someone new was not easy. To paint a picture of a fairytale would be negligent, not to mention an outright lie. But, seven years later, I remain grateful for the struggles we’ve had. Before Robert came along, we were mother and child. His presence made us a family. We were no longer alone without the protection and sanctuary a husband and father are intended to provide. God takes six months to grow a pecan, but 20 years to grow a tree. This is how it has been with us. Seeding, sowing and growing, these are tough rows to hoe.
One time, a friend of mine made a remark about our family. She was talking about the age gap between Juliette and the little ones, and she said, “Well, really, it’s like you had two families.”
But, it isn’t like that at all. We’ve never been two families, and if you knew how small our world was, then you would understand what a huge place each person in this family holds. When Juliette is away visiting her dad, there is an empty place at the dinner table. Sometimes, we light a candle where she sits, or put the place mat out for her. Some parents have a hard time separating from their children during summer camp adventures, but
I’ve been regularly separating from Juliette since she was barely walking. And, now, every other weekend my little ones must tell her goodbye. It is so very hard and we always miss her so much.
From day one, Robert loved and adored Juliette as his own. This has never changed. Not too long ago, he told me that seeing Bridgette progress from newborn to now nearly two, has helped him fill in the gaps in terms of what he missed with Juliette. (She was 4 ½ when he met her.) He was nearly crying when he said this, and I only share that personal note to emphasize how much I have not had to deal with a spouse who did not love my child. Some people do have to deal with this, and I truly cannot imagine the devastation it must bring.
Despite the joy associated with my dreams coming true, a day has not gone by that I have not contemplated the potential for negative impact on Juliette. I stay attuned for the sound of a swarm. For, what if the pursuit of my dream ended up making my beloved firstborn feel like a carryover or worse, abandoned? It’s rare, but sometimes, these fears grip me in the middle of the night. I get up out of bed and I go into her room and I stroke her hair and I whisper into her sleeping ear. “I love you. I love you. I love you, so much. I pray for her and with her every single night, and I always have and I always will.
After the swarm in 1998, the Lord promised that he would restore to me the years the locusts had eaten. It remains one of my favorite Bible verses and can be found in the Book of Joel. This restoration did not occur in one fell swoop. To this day it is ongoing, and I am often reminded of it through Sullivan and Bridgette.
When Juliette is away, they love to call her. “I really miss you, Ju,” Sully says. The other day, he told her she was kind of short for a grown up. Juliette and I have come so far.
Blended Families Bonded Families
When the Super Bridgy talks to her on the phone she just says, “Home,” which means “Come home.” Occasionally, when she is gone, she wanders into big sister’s room and says with a great big tear in her voice, “Lette Bye-bye.” The Super Bridgy can be quite dramatic. Last night at dinner, she refused to hold my hand as we said grace. She darted her eyes at me, reached her pudgy fingers across the table to Juliette and said “Lette!”
This is not a blended family, this is a bonded family. We still have our challenges, so what I’m bearing witness to is not my happily-ever-after, but rather, a beautiful crop unlike anything I could have ever imagined. With it has come gathering, toiling, reaping, harvesting, but best of all, celebration.