During my 4th and 5th grade years of school, I lived in a house that was a pretty standard 3-bedroom, 2-bath “long house” (as they’re called in Phoenix). But it was a pretty big downgrade from the house we’d moved from — a 4-bedroom, 3-bath with a huge pool, a basketball court, a full garage, and a plot of land that would occupy 3 modern-style track homes in California (maybe 2 in Phoenix). That house, however, was a huge downgrade from the first house I remember – which was pretty close to a mansion, as it was located in “The Woodlands” in Texas 1I have no idea what The Woodlands are, that’s just what my parents always called it and, somehow, Texas friends of mine always know what I mean.
My dad felt guilty about this. He wanted us to have some huge fairytale life, and he thought he could get us there. He had some huge peaks, but also deep valleys. My mom would later tell me she recalls fearing the phone because my dad was so deep in debt, she didn’t know who else would call to collect. My parents fought constantly, and it was scary to us kids. I remember my mom crying in our driveway one evening, just before dinner. I asked her what was going on and she said “your father and I are just going through a lot right now. We’re trying to keep this family happy”. I asked her if they were getting a divorce, and she immediately grabbed me and held me and said “Mitchell… your father and I are never getting a divorce. Don’t even ask about that”.
Throughout the course of our time in that house – maybe 2 years or so – my father did a lot of things he would come to regret. He got in a lot of trouble at work, with the law, and fuck knows who else. There was a mafia relation in there somewhere, but I still don’t quite know the details. I know he was close with some mob guys by virtue of his family (which we’ve talked about it on our podcast a little bit). We even had random cars around our house that we’d wonder about and he’d say “friend owed me a favor”, and a few weeks later they’d disappear again.
During this time, my mom had started teaching full-time as an English teacher and Drama teacher. My father, of course, was working several big and small jobs himself. I was what they referred to at the time as a “latch-key kid”. That just means a kid who goes home alone and unlocks their own door to come home. Today, that’s just called “everyone”.
I remember coming home one day, probably mid-November of 4th grade, and my dad was home and sitting in a chair in our entryway. He had a look of disappointment on his face, like he was about to deliver some bad news. But, he stood up when I came in and said “heyyy you’re home!” and picked me up and hugged me and walked me to the couch to sit me down. This was all very odd. Over the course of a few minutes, he went around in circles to find a way to break the news : “your mother and I are… getting divorced”.
He had no answers for how life was going to be, post-divorce. He just held me for a few minutes while I cried, then he left and went back to (I assume) work.
I was all alone in the house. My mom was still at work for another 2 hours. My sister, being a teenager, was out with friends. I was angry, and upset, and alone. I didn’t have many friends at the time. Had quite a few bullies, though. I was angry at the world for putting so much against me. School was a nightmare. My walk (or sometimes bike ride, when my bike was actually working) home was something of an obstacle course getting past those who’d try to fight or throw rocks at me. Home was safe and happy. But, now even that was being destroyed and taken from me. Meanwhile, my sister was amongst the most popular people in her school, and her and I used to fight all the time back in those days. Since she’d yelled at my father so many times, I figured this would make her happy. Our family dynamic was : my sister hung out with my mom, and I hung out with my dad. Now, I would be without my best friend in the world, and she had everything.
It was this misplaced anger that caused me to run into her room, trying to destroy something, make her feel my anger. I picked up some things on her nightstand and just threw them at the wall. Unfortunately for me, one of those things was a giant bag of glitter. I was fucking covered in this sparkly shit. Knowing I couldn’t go to school glistening like a fairy, I must have taken 5 showers that night trying to scrub myself clean. I was pretty sure I’d gotten it all.
I was wrong.
The following day, the bullies really had a field day playing “catch the glitter fairy”. Throughout the week, that game kept up, to the point where if they saw any part of me they thought had glitter on it, they’d take turns punching that spot. “Oh look! found a sparkle!” – WHAM! – and another kid would grab me and have a go. Around Christmas, our class was making little “holiday cards”, which meant the teacher brought out glitter for us to use. The bullies would steal little bags of it and throw it on me and lunch and yell “catch the glitter fairy!” and the process would continue.
While my dad stuck around until Christmas that year, he left the morning of the 26th for his new life in New Orleans.
To this day, I cringe every time I see glitter and my heart races in a furious attempt to get it off my body if it touches me. If you want a slightly more humorous telling of this story, I told a shorter version as part of a pre-comedy-show “warm up” routine once…
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