Copyright © 2008 by Tiki Kritzer Seger. All rights reserved.
My ex-husband is an oil engineer. When we married, I was 17 and he was 30; he thought that I was a sexy kid and figured that he could mold me into his way of thinking. He used to say that working on an oil rig in the jungle is the last great adventure in the world; at 17, I agreed with him. After I had my daughter, Nikki, and we had moved a few times, his way of life stopped looking exciting and became simply unacceptable. He used to come home and say things like Hey Tiki, youve got one week to pack the place up and put everything in storage; were moving to Kuwait. He would generally give me an expensive piece of jewelry (mostly opals my birthstone and favorite) to sweeten the bad news, but needless to say, I wasnt exactly thrilled.
He wouldnt trust me to stay alone in the States, so every time he went somewhere where I absolutely refused to go, he would leave me on his parents organic apple / pear orchard in Germany. My last visit to them lasted over 5 years, during which time I lived and worked on the farm - imagine growing up in New York City and having to live on a farm in a 3 house, country village in southern Germany, but thats a story for another time.
When I decided to get divorced, I was living with my in-laws in Germany, and Nikki was very happy with her family, friends and school. She was finally starting to put down roots after having moved 9 times in 7 years. I wasnt as well adjusted; even though my German had improved greatly and I was starting to be able to communicate fluently, my college education wasnt recognized in Germany and it was not possible for me to get a job in any professional capacity. My home was in the USA and I wanted to go back there as soon as possible. Also, I felt that it would be better for Nikki to grow up as an American because of the opportunities available there and the emotional freedom.
I told my husband that I wanted a divorce, and he didnt really believe me. It wasnt the first time that I had tried to leave him, but somehow, he had always managed to talk me out of going. This time I really meant it Id had enough. It was really hard to communicate with him because he was living in Venezuela at the time and we could only have short phone conversations or I could send faxes to his workplace.
Since I kept saying that I wanted to end the marriage, and he kept brushing it off as nonsense, I finally did something really drastic. I sent a fax to him at work with all of the reasons that I wanted a divorce in HUGE, BOLD, CAPITAL LETTERS so that it could be read from a meter away. Then I told everyone in all of the surrounding villages that we were getting divorced. My husband was furious; he told me that we wouldnt have had to separate if I hadnt talked about it so much (hes a genius with oil wells, but a bit of an idiot when it comes to people and relationships).
Eventually, he agreed to the divorce. I told him he could stuff all of his money up his ass if he would just give me full custody of Nikki; that was ok with him, so we went to a notary and signed a statement to that effect. Unfortunately for him, his family wasnt too happy with the idea that he was going to leave me penniless, and they insisted that he give me at least a minimum amount of child support. It says a lot for them that although my husband was the favorite of my parents-in-law, they supported me the whole time. They really did understand that it wasnt an acceptable way of life to be dragged all over the world with a small child to countries where we couldnt speak the language and where there was no possibility of my finding work.
My husband bought my tickets back to the States, and I was all packed and ready to go when Nikki came to me and said Mommy, the worst thing that you can do to me is to take me away from all of my friends and family again; cant we please stay here? I asked myself if it might be better for us to stay after all; the German schools had a really good reputation, and I thought that country living would be healthier for Nikki no drugs, promiscuity, etc. It was a hard decision for me, but I finally decided to try to stay. I promised Nikki that if I could find an apartment that I could afford within 1 day (we were supposed to get on the plane to Denver, Colorado in 2 days), we would stay. Unbelievable, but I actually managed to make it work; after a frantic search of all of the local papers, I found a really nice one bedroom apartment about 5 kilometers away from the farm. Nikki was overjoyed. My husband really outdid himself when I told him about the new plan; he said I forbid you to have your own apartment in Germany. I asked him who the hell he thought he was; my father?
We gave the tickets back, and Nikki and I moved into our new apartment; it had one large living room, a small hallway, a kitchen and a miniature bathroom. I split the living room into two with a bookshelf, gave Nikki the space in the back for her bedroom and used the front part as a combination office / bedroom for myself; my space also doubled as a dining / living room for when we had guests.
Since I wasnt able to get a job that paid really well, the money was very tight and I had to be extremely creative to make it cover all of our basic expenses. I worked days during the week in the Farmers Market in Ravensburg (with a double shift on Fridays from 07:00 19:00), waitressed in the Billiard Center on weekend evenings and took in ironing. I also cleaned my brother-in-laws apartment in return for gas money. Together with the support that Nikkis father paid, we had 1400 German Marks (about 700 Euros) a month. It was just enough to live on provided that there were no luxuries.