While driving through Salt Lake City on my way to Twin Falls, Idaho, I caught sight of one of those family bumper-stickers that made me smile at first until I realized the painful message hidden within its white outlines.
I’m sure many of you have seen those stick-figure families posted on van windows. You’ve got your mom and dad, and then maybe a couple kids and/or pets. Or, a single parent with kids, or just pets, I plan on being the latter someday soon (single parent of a pet). Oftentimes, they reveal something about the family, whether it’s individually or as a whole. Maybe they’re a family of Star Wars robots, I saw that recently, or various sized Pac-Man characters. Nowadays, you also run into the more cynical, funny stickers with dinosaurs chasing the stick figure families. I enjoy those, too.
On Saturday, I saw a decal of a family with kids, parents and a couple dogs all wearing Disney Mickey-Mouse Ears. Must have been the souvenir from a wonderful trip to the land where dreams come true. I smiled, happy for this obviously bliss-filled family. And then I noticed something.
The first figure in the line-up was in really bad shape. It looked like the dad hadn’t been put on well or had somehow caught more sun damage than the other figures because there was barely any of him left, and everyone else appeared intact.
Then, it hit me. I think he’d been peeled off.
The decal suddenly held so much meaning and brought to mind so many questions. What happened? Are they okay? How did this seemingly happy family come apart? Maybe the father passed away … but surely they wouldn’t peel his figure off in that scenario. Divorce appeared to be the only explanation to me in that moment.
As I thought more about the sticker, I couldn’t help but imagine a mother crying as she tried to scrape the remains of the man who was once the love of her life off of her vehicle and out of her heart. Maybe she didn’t cry, maybe she was just mad. Or maybe the dad’s figure really was just fading, but my mind was already spinning with the other option.
My curiosity about the fading figure overshadowed the decal’s happy reference to a fun, family memory. I hope that wasn’t the case in their reality. The change that comes with divorce doesn’t have to taint or steal memories, but sometimes, unfortunately, it does. For this family and most, I don’t know what they’ve experienced or how they felt about the divorce in their lives; divorce stories and situations can be very different depending on the family.
All I can say is that in that moment when I realized why the first figure didn’t look altogether there, I felt sad. I think it was the drastic contrast between the decal’s allusion to the “happiest place on earth” and the reality of the less happy experience that divorce often incurs. I hope and pray that the family in that van is whole and restored from any pain they experienced when the life they knew changed. And, I hope that they go back to Disneyland (or world) to make even more wonderful, joyous memories.