SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2003        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Jeannette Jewell

Early Lessons of Life

   Divorce is a life changing event, especially if there are children involved.  It does not matter how old or young the children are, they will always be affected by what happened.  I think that because I was at the age where you remember and know what is going on around you, when my parents got divorced it affected me more.  The days leading up to and after my parents’ separation are very vivid in my memory. 

I have lived in Phoenix since I was two.  My mom, dad, sister and I moved to Phoenix from Tucson.  The new neighborhood was pleasant, and the house was spacious.  However, the arguments between my father and mother became an everyday occurrence.  I can remember the frustration I felt every time I heard them yelling at one another, yet it made me think about different ways to approach situations.  I think because of their arguments I have become not only a better listener, but a great problem solver.  Sadly, in 1989 my parents divorced; I could not comprehend what could be so wrong.  I felt responsible for the divorce, and I was ashamed. 

Divorce was not a big thing at the time my parents separated, yet today it is a common occurrence.  It is my life to have my parents not together; how am I to forget what has occurred in my life to make it this way?  In addition to my parents separating, I later realized that we had no money.  I felt as if I was never going to be able to “fit in.”

My mom worked, and still does work very hard to try to give my sister and I everything we want, yet I still went to school feeling ashamed.  I hated being unhappy and ashamed of myself for not having the “best things.”  To go to school and see the popular kids with everything from name brand clothes to great school supplies, I always felt like an outsider having to wear worn-out hand me down clothes and carry around the cheapest school supplies we could find.    However, I knew I was not alone; in some way I know my mom knew how I felt without saying a word.

“It was hard for me to watch Jeannette try to “fit in” at school as if she had money.  I always sent her to school in faded hand-me down clothes, never name brand.  I hated not being able to give her what she wanted.  I knew she desired all the fashionable things, but she never asked.  When I did have money to take the three of us out, she always made sure her little sister was taken care of before her.  Jeannette is never selfish, but I could always tell she wanted more than I could give her.  As a mother it was very hard for me to watch my daughter suffer in a quiet pain.”

I remember wanting to run away to make it easier on my mom and sister.  I felt I could also fulfill the longing for a freedom from my sorrow, yet I could never bring myself to do it.  Because I stayed, I feel I have learned so much about life itself, and within that learning I realized how society played a part in my parents’ separation.  I never imagined that it was the world around me that forced my parents to split up.

When my parents were having there problems, my dad just happened to follow the bad societal examples.  My father has not always been a good person, and he still has his problems today.  When my mom kicked him out of the house the first time, she sent him to a drug rehab center.  Drugs were and are a big issue in society.  My mom finally divorced my father because she caught him cheating.  Incidents like these made me realize that people are not always what they seem to be, no matter who they are or what they mean to you and your life.

I am very thankful today to have everything I have.  I feel that because I have been through a life chancing experience, and had the support from my family, I have a greater respect for life.  I was never handed anything.  I have always worked for what I want, and because of this, I am thankful for what I do have, and it has made me appreciate my family more.  The main thing I am mostly grateful for is my mother.  She is the person who taught me how to make do, and be thankful for what I’ve got.  She also taught me, though I already knew, that family is the most important thing I could ever posses.    

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