I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.
Summer was a great adventure growing up. I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC. I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge. It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood. There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood. We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river. The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.
I was almost 8 when we moved to that house. There was only one other family with children at the time. Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I. We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day. Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood. Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.
The tides played a big part in planning our day. At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs. The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat. High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal. We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner. In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock. A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle. We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.
Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots. There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit. Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose. We would sit and talk for hours. We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.
We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines. We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue. We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot. We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats. The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems. We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them. We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies. We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth. We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.
We had a small store not far from our neighborhood. It was also home to the post office. Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand. We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week. We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home. After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river, pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts. We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts. After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle. The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.
When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share. Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house. Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood. Those summer days gave me hope for something more. Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died. I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times. We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
I was determined to take some time to catch up on reading for pleasure over the holidays. I looked at the titles of books I want to read or reread trying to decide what to start today. I was drawn to a book I “read” last year. When I first downloaded the book to my Kindle, I didn’t take the time to really read and focus on the book. I skimmed some and read some. It wasn’t that the book wasn’t good; it was that the book hit too close to home. I needed to really invest myself in reading this story. I decided to start “Peace and Freedom are My Names” by Irene Frances.
I “met” Irene on the internet last year. I read her blog and knew this was someone I wanted to get to know. I connected with her in reading that first post and made contact through the blog and facebook. I was excited to find that she, like I, at our delicate ages were both going to college. I am doing undergraduate work, while she is attending the Brisbaine School of Theology in her home country of Australia. I have loved watching her posts about studying Hebrew and taking tests. She has encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed at times. You can see her faith and genuineness in her smile.
I also connected with her in other ways. She is a survivor of an abusive childhood and learned to live with mental health issues, all while maintaining a strong and steadfast faith in God. We have both had our challenges with religion and church, but God has never given up on us. Her faith and journey have been an inspiration to me.
As I began to read her book again, I was reminded in the first paragraphs of the similarities in our stories. Many facts are different, but the feelings and ways of surviving were much the same. This passage pulled me in today: I was a nothing and a nobody. Nobody wanted me; I didn’t even have my own name. And I was worth nothing. It was a pitiable start to life of hell and torment that would eventually send me into a pit of madness from which it would take a lifetime to claw my way out.
Nobody wanted me. I felt that way much of my life. I didn’t even have my own name. I was reminded of that just this past week. A while back, I wrote a post about my name being changed a couple times in my childhood. You can read it here. My parents named me Carolyn Ann, but at the age of four my grandparents changed it to Cathy (Catherine Ann) when they adopted me. Just a short time before my mother died, she told me that while my name was Carolyn Ann, but they called me Lynn. I wasn’t sure if that was true or the imaging of an old woman. In the blog post above, I shared about finding my old shot records listing my name as Carolyn Ann and (Lynn) listed on one page. I also realized that I lived in Flat Top, W. Va. at my grandparents farm for a couple of years.
Last weekend, Jan and I were working on genealogy sites when I decided to try something to find an old newspaper article I remembered. The article was in the newspaper in W. Va. and featured a picture of my brother and I when I returned to W. Va. to visit when I was 8 years old. Imagine my surprise, when the article appeared in a site with filmstrip from old newspapers. I quickly signed up for the week long free trial and printed the article.
I decided to do a bit more searching when I discovered an article from 1952 about a meeting of the Flat Top Farm Women’s Club. After a brief description of the meeting and food served, the meeting attendees were listed. I froze when I read these names: Mrs. Grady Keaton (that’s my grandmother), Mrs. Joe Keaton (that’s my mother) and her daughter Lynn. LYNN…there it was in black and white…proof that my mother’s memory was intact, and that I was indeed called Lynn for the first 3 to 4 years of my life.
This has been on my mind ever since I found the article. I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t let it go. And, then I starting reading Irene’s story again. In her book, she explains changing her name after her marriage. I am thinking about reclaiming my birth name of Keaton when I finalize my divorce, and I am now thinking about adding Lynn to that name in some way.
I know this will not make sense to many of you and that’s OK. You see, somehow, just seeing that name makes a connection to the childhood that was taken from me. I now know the truth about many things, in spite of all efforts by some to keep it from me. JanF. told me that my life was life a huge mosaic puzzle. I had the easy pieces in place; I had the outer edges. I would continue to add pieces as they were revealed, and one day I would see one of God’s most beautiful works of art. I asked her what piece of art that would be, and she replied, “Why, your life of course. ”
For more information on Irene Frances and her book available on Amazon, please check out her page on Peace and Freedom are My Names.
In 12-step recovery programs, we are taught not to think about tomorrow. Slogans like “one day at a time” or “just today” are drummed into our brain. Another one that I hate is, “if you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, you are pissing all over today.” That one just never made any sense to me. I understand and acknowledge the wisdom in “one day at a time” in dealing with alcohol and drugs. There were many times in my recovery that it was one hour, one minute, or one second at a time.
However, in the real world that slogan doesn’t work. If I truly lived “one day at a time”, I would get my paycheck and buy a new big screen TV or book a mountain cabin for a week, ignoring the reality that in two weeks I have to pay rent and make a car payment. I also believe that dreams of the future are a motivation to do well today.
When I decided to write about Christmas future, I had to think about what I would really like to see. So here is a brief glimpse of some future Christmases…
In a couple of years, I will have friends and family surrounding me as I prepare to graduate from the College of Charleston.
Not long after I finish my MFA, Oprah will choose my newly published best selling book as the gift to give for Christmas.
I will visit my great grandchildren who are the most beautiful and amazing children ever to be born. I will, of course, be visiting my children and grand children as well, but we all know it will be the great grands that take center stage.
The day after Christmas, I will visit the Culpeppers (Either in Charleston or within a 4 hour drive 🙂 ) and the next week I will go to Baltimore and New York to visit my brother and some other friends as I begin my book tour.
I won’t miss my mother, my best friend-JanF, my Mama Pearl, or any of the other friends/family who have passed away nearly as much as I do now. (OK, that one isn’t really going to happen.)
I will notice that as I grow older, I learn more about the gift of Jesus and the joy of celebrating Christmas. I might just become “Jesusy” as Anne Lamott says.
I spent a great deal of life dreading the future and believing that nothing good would ever happen to me. I was always waiting for the next bad thing. I have learned that the next bad thing is going to happen no matter what; it happens to everyone. It’s called life. I have also learned that the next amazing thing is going to happen as well. Sometimes, the next amazing thing comes as a result of that next bad thing that happened.
Anne Lamott said in one of her blog posts, ” We religious nuts say, ‘I no longer know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future’.” Of course, I can’t really predict the future, but I can dream. I no longer see my future thought the eyes of nightmares. So, I will continue to dream about my future Christmases celebrating the birth of the One who holds the future.
My childhood memories are scattered in pieces across my mind. While I have some of my own memories, others come from the stories told by family members or friends. For a long time, many of the pieces didn’t make sense, but letters, pictures, and stories helped put the snippets into a more complete picture
From what I learned, my first Christmas was spent with my parents at my father’s parents farm in West Va. We lived with them for the first few months. My mother had just turned 17 and my father was barely 20. After the holidays, they moved back home to Charleston to live in the projects in downtown Charleston. My father was in the Navy and gone for weeks at a time. When he came home, he would drink and there would be fights…verbal and physical. As I got older, I would be in the mix. My mother taught me to hide under a table. The next few Christmases included bringing two more abusive alcoholics (Mother’s parents) into the mix. The Christmas before my 4th birthday, my mother played out a plan that included leaving and separating my brother and me between grandparents.
My parents were in and out of my life. Holidays, particularly Christmas brought dreams and wishes that my mother or my father would somehow miss me enough to come and see me. I do remember many times looking out the window and hoping. Any time I heard a car, I would look to see if it might be one of them; it never was.
My grandmother found “religion” when I was about 7. Christmas meant going to church service at midnight Christmas Eve and coming home to my drunken grandfather. When we got home, I could open one gift under the ugly silver tree with revolving color wheel with a manager scene carefully placed underneath. Gifts were practical for the most part, with one “frivolous” gift like a doll or bike. The only present I cared about was the one my mother would send me. Later, I discovered many phone calls and gifts were never received because of my Grandmother’s intervention.
Christmas finally took on new meaning when I had children of my own. The greatest joy I had was finding gifts for them, yet because of our own financial problems, I often wasn’t able to give them all they wanted. They didn’t seem to care. They loved the tree and decorations. They always took part in the Christmas music and scenes at church. My husband’s parents were so very generous with gifts for the kids and they always had what they wanted, even if I couldn’t give it.
All of that changed, when I started drinking and in time, became a full-blown alcoholic. In the fall of 1986, my husband took custody of my kids, and I was left with visitation only. The pain and heartbreak was overwhelming. December of 1986, I made the decision to move to Baltimore to try to find a better job and get my life together in order to provide a home for children and get them back. But alcoholics can’t move away from themselves. That Christmas, I was able to get gifts and send them back home to the kids, but I drank everyday to numb the pain of their loss. During the next 3 and 1/2 months, I drank and drugged daily, put myself in dangerous places with dangerous people, and lost all hope. I wondered if my children watched out the window to see if I was coming that Christmas, even though they knew, just as I did, that it wasn’t going to happen.
I got sober in April of 1987. My husband told the kids they could come and stay with me for Christmas if I could get them to Baltimore. I didn’t have a car and he knew I didn’t have the money to fly them there. Jan F. told me to pray and talk to my support group and just “let go and let God.” I hated her telling me those thing, but I learned to trust her. I did what she said.
Two weeks before Christmas, a friend invited me to lunch. She pulled out two round trip airline tickets for my kids. She told me that she drank away her chance to ever have children and wanted to help me get mine back. That weekend, we had our Christmas party at work. My coworkers, who had watched me drink myself almost to death and now watched me in recovery, gave me an envelope with $100.00 cash and a $100 gift card to a grocery store and another to Penny’s. That Christmas gave me hope and helped me believe that perhaps God hadn’t given up on me.
It took over 20 years before I would be in a church at Christmas. I wonder if God watched out of the window sometimes to see I was going to come back . Even though I found a new relationship with God and Jesus, I struggled with the idea of church. I started visiting a few churches and a couple of years ago found a church home. Last Christmas, I attended all of the Christmas services and found a new appreciation for Christmas. There was one service that touched my heart. It was the Blue Christmas service. You can read about it here in an article that my friend Jan wrote about that night. It has been a long journey.
In a day or so, I will share more about my Christmas “Present” and then shortly after that Christmas “Future.”
“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Last week, a friend’s 9 year old son died. It was very unexpected and took everyone by surprise. He was one of those kids you read about from time to time. He was an exceptional athlete, he cared about people and his community, he was a very good student, and he was loved by many people. I know that children die everyday; some from illness, some from abuse or violence, and others from accidents.
For me personally, the death of child seems the most difficult thing to accept. It also brings up questions that can’t be answered in a way that makes sense to me. I know many people who have answers to the most difficult questions and that works for them. I don’t have answers but I do have acceptance. I accept that life is filled with things I can’t understand-at least not yet. I understand the concept of evil and sin and all of the theology that gives us reasons why there is pain and death in our world. It doesn’t mean I understand why my best friend died or why this young man died so young. It doesn’t mean I understand how people can be so cruel to each other. It doesn’t mean I understand the tragedy of a tornado destroying a town or someone shooting a school full of children, or bombing a group or people gathered to watch a race.
I didn’t know this young man well. I know his parents. I remember when he was born. I have met him. I have watched all of his accomplishments on his father’s facebook page. Yet, this touched me deeply. I have a friend who says that he believes grief lives in a special place in our mind and heart and anytime there is grief in our lives, that grief touches the other grief we have known. This young boy’s death took me back to the summer I was almost 7. My best friend was a young boy named Jerry. He was accidentally killed while playing on a rope swing we had in the trees near our house. I won’t share the whole story because it is a very difficult story to tell. In fact, I have only shared the whole story with a couple of people in my life. That has been on my mind the past few days. Even now, more than 50 years later, it still causes sadness for me.
I don’t know that answers would make things better. Would knowing “why” make it hurt less? I don’t think so. I often wonder if God will answer all of these questions when we get to Heaven? Maybe, we won’t need answers when we get there. I don’t know. I only know that death, pain, loss, tears, and sadness are all a part of this thing we call life. But, life is also filled with love, laughter, friends, family, and faith. Those are the things I hold on to when I have questions and don’t understand. I hope that my friend and his wife can grab hold of those things as they face the journey ahead of them.
Summer was a great adventure growing up. I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC. I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge, a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood on a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood. We had a dock in the backyard on She Crab canal that circled straight into the river. The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.
I was almost 8 when we moved to that house. There was only one other family with children at that time, and we met the first week. Carol was a feisty, freckle-faced redhead just a year and a half younger than I. We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day. Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood. Carol and I spent every day together with few exceptions for next ten years.
The tides played a big part in planning our day. At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the elusive crabs. The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat. High tide in mid-afternoon was the ideal. We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner. In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock. A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle. We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.
Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots. There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came closest to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit. Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose. We would sit and talk for hours. We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.
We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines. We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue. We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot. We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats. The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems. We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them. We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies. We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth. Over time we would fill several small jars with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.
We had a small store not far from our neighborhood. It was also home to the post office. Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand. We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week. We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home. After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river, pulling the husk away and chewing on the canes to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts. After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle. The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.
When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share. Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear, and sadness were all things that filled my house. Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood. Those summer days gave me hope for something more. Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back to her childhood home after her father died, and I would go to the house, and sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of the past. We would walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stopped to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
Our lives have been filled with parallels including being born in the same hospital and being given the same name. (My name was Carolyn at birth and later changed) Today, we both live with our daughters, who were born within just a couple of weeks of each other. We talk every week without fail. Just recently we went to the memorial of an old friend from the neighborhood. It was held just minutes from our old houses on the Stono River. We stood together looking out at the river at sunset remembering our days of high tides, honeysuckle, and sugar canes.
I don’t remember learning to ride a bike, but I do know how to ride one. I remember spending a lot of time circling our neighborhood with my friend as a kid. It was a special kind of feeling so be so free flying around on two wheels. I remember the joy in helping my children and grandchildren learn to ride. I watched them experience that first sense of freedom. Throughout my life I have owned bikes from time to time. It is true, you know-you never forgot how to ride a bike. In fact, there is a well-known cliché that says, “It’s just like riding a bike.”
This morning I walked into the office building where I worked until last September. It had been a huge part of my life for a very long time. I am going to be working there again part time. I saw a few old faces as I entered the building. One of the women and I joked about the elevator that seems to have a mind of its own. I made my way to my office area and walked in to a truly familiar setting. Honestly, I have been a little nervous about coming back. I wondered if I would remember everything. I made my way to the desk and logged into the appropriate software for the different systems. I sat back and was ready to go. The Executive Director walked by and said, “It’s so good to see you here again. Sorry I have to run but I have a meeting. Love you.” I laughed as I replied, “Nice to see nothing has changed.” Another coworker arrived and we began chatting about some clients and ways of dealing with them. We talked about old times and caught up for a bit. There were only a couple of technical things I needed help remembering. It felt good to be back. It’s just like riding a bike.
In January, I became a freshman at the College of Charleston. I am a bit older than most of the students; actually I am bit older than many of the professors. I haven’t been in a college classroom in over forty years. I took some classes at a technical school years ago, but that was nothing like this. I have had to remember how to read schedules, find classrooms, take notes, study, do homework, write papers, and more. I wondered if I would remember everything. So far I am doing pretty well. I am making much better grades than I did in high school. It’s just like riding a bike.
In September last year, I became single again. I have had to learn to live single. I am very fortunate to be able to live with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson so I am not truly alone. There is an old country song, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” and that is a change. I have to think about things like work, car repairs, paying bills, taxes, retirement, and health insurance by myself. I buy groceries for one and I cook for one, that is if I ever cook. I spend a lot of time with friends and we eat together often. I wondered if I would remember everything I needed to live single. I am adjusting and finding my way. It’s just like riding a bike.
March is the month of two significant losses in my life. Today is the anniversary of my “other” mother, Mamma Pearl’s death and earlier this month was the anniversary of the death of my best friend. As I look at my life changes I know more will come. I know that close friends and family might move away and some may die. I know there will financial challenges, physical problems, issues with aging, and life challenges. I have faced them all before. I have had some huge obstacles to overcome, but I did. I have a God, friends, and family who never give up on me. I wonder if I can remember everything that has helped me get here when those times come. I think I will. After all, it’s just like riding a bike.
I looked at the updated syllabus covering the rest of the semester. Our academic writing professor didn’t want to overwhelm us with what was to come next so he only gave us assignments up until Spring break. The first thing that caught my eye were the instructions to read chapters 1-5 of Catcher in the Rye. Catcher in the Rye is a book that holds some very significant and bitter-sweet memories for me. My mind raced back to my senior year in high mmschool.
My grandparents sent me to a very small, private Baptist high school. Most of my classmates were affluent and many had been in elementary and junior high together. I was just as much a misfit and outsider here as I was in other areas of my life. I ate lunch with a small group of three girls. Our conversations were often strained and usually boring. In my junior year, I became friends with Eileen. We took Driver’s Ed together the summer before our junior year and, we both had a crush on our instructor. It was truly a bonding experience. Her mother was the school secretary, so Eileen attended school for free. That made her a bit of misfit as well. She was pretty and smart but still an outsider. I loved having a friend at school. It made my last two years more tolerable.
The first day of our senior year we met the new English teacher. Miss Foster was young, and this was only her second year of teaching. I was immediately drawn to her. She paid attention to me in class and encouraged me. Most of my other teachers classified me an underachiever. “She is so very smart but just doesn’t apply herself,” was the verdict. No one ever bothered to ask why I didn’t apply myself. Miss Foster said I could be a writer.
Eileen stayed after school everyday waiting for mother who worked until 4:30pm. I walked about ten blocks to my grandmother’s office to wait for her. Most days I stayed and hung out with Eileen for a while. We started going to Miss Foster’s classroom at the end of the day. We would all sit around and talk. She told us we could call her Bitsy after school. We even convinced her to be a chaperone for us the next summer on a cruise to the Bahamas. Our senior class wasn’t going to be able to take the traditional Bahama cruise. The school’s administrators decided it wasn’t a “wholesome” environment, so our class was going to New York City and Washington, DC. We thought our parents just might let us go together if we had a teacher go along. We never did ask them.
Eileen was out sick one week, so I was able to have some one on one time with Bitsy. She told me she wanted to talk with me about something important.
“I have something I want to give you.” She pulled two books from her satchel.
“I want to give you these two books. They are different from anything you have read before. I think you will get a lot out of reading them. You are so smart and I know you will understand them. I must warn you; they have some ‘four letter’ words in them. If you want them, I have to ask that you never show them to anyone. Keep them as something private, just for yourself. If someone does see them, you can’t tell them where you got them. If anyone knew I gave you these books, I could lose my job. Do you think you can keep this secret?”
“Yes, I promise I can. I would really love to read them.”
I had no idea what the books were about and I didn’t care. I would read anything Bitsy gave me. I would go to any lengths to protect her. You could have tortured me and thrown me into jail and I wouldn’t have budged. I imagined myself much like the Apostle Paul being martyred for the sake of the Gospel, only I was doing it because I wanted to keep her in my life. The lonely little girl in me saw her as a mother figure. She had no way of knowing that I was a champion at keeping secrets. I had kept secrets since I was old enough to talk.
What strange titles for books- Franny and Zooey and Catcher in the Rye. She was right. I had never read anything like them before. I devoured Catcher in the Rye much as a wild animal devours its prey. Lines like, “Mothers are all slightly insane,” made me love this book. I was infatuated with Holden Caulfield. I knew that had he been a real boy we would have been the perfect couple. I knew he would “get” me. Bitsy laughed when I rushed in after school the next week and asked her if there were any other books like these I could read. I told her that I found something in them that was real and that made sense to me. She promised to find others for me.
Just two weeks later we were in class when the principal came to our room and asked Miss Foster to come to her office. My heart sank; Could someone have found out? I would deny everything if asked. Miss Foster returned just before the end of our class. She was carrying a bouquet of flowers and it was obvious that she had been crying. A man in a military uniform followed her into the classroom. We all knew she was dating a man in the Navy. They announced their engagement to the class as she showed off her new ring.
That afternoon Eileen and I went to her room to find out all the details. She had an unusually sad look for someone who had just been engaged.
“I have to tell you both something. You can’t say anything until it is announced on Monday to the rest of the school. I wanted to tell you this myself.” My heart was racing. I wanted to put my fingers in my ears and say “lalalalalala” and pretend I couldn’t hear her talking. I had an idea what was coming next.
“I know you remember how unhappy I was because Micheal was being transferred to Virginia. He came to propose to me because he wants me to go with him. I am going to be leaving in three weeks to go with him. I am going to miss you both more than you can imagine.”
I put on my brave face and congratulated her. I told her I was going to miss her very much. Inside I was screaming’ “Please don’t go. Please! I don’t think I can survive the rest of high school without you!” I cried myself to sleep that night and for a week after she left. I was used to losing people in my life but it never got any easier.
I hid the two books away. I kept them on my book shelf for many years after I left high school. I never opened them or read them again. I have known that Catcher in the Rye was on our list of required books since I registered for the class. Even though I ordered all of my other books early, I didn’t buy that one until yesterday. I stood in Barnes and Noble holding the book and for a few moments I became that scared, wounded sixteen year old girl who fell in love with Holden and the book. I didn’t know if I was ready to meet Holden Caulfield again, but I think I am. I thought about Bitsy and how much she changed my life in just a few short months. It’s one of the things that amazes me most about my life; the right people show up just when I need them most.
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Narrator: Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head. It scared her so much she trembled all over. She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out.
Chicken Little: “Help! Help! The sky is falling! I have to go tell the king!”
I have written about my Grandmother in previous posts. Her ideas on religion and life in general would give even Freud cause to wonder. I became her “child” through adoption at age four so her impact on my life was significant. In fact, it has taken two amazing, determined therapists and many friends to allow me to move past her influence. Yet, there lies trapped in my brain those tapes and fears that can be triggered without warning. My rational mind understands the illogical fears that still haunt my “little girl” inside, yet the fears are real.
I have been fighting bronchitis since my Christmas gift of the flu. One round of antibiotics and prednisone seemed to work but the bronchitis came back full force. I am now on more antibiotics, double the prednisone, and breathing treatments/inhalers filled with albuterol. They tell you to rest, yet the medications make sleep improbable if not impossible. Last night I managed to fall asleep and stay asleep for four hours. I woke at 3:00am and turned on the TV looking for something to lull me back to sleep. The story of the Carnival cruise ship stuck at sea for several days captivated me. I watched the passengers finally disembarking from the ship in Mobile, Alabama as the newscast played “Sweet Home, Alabama.” Yes, it was corny, but effective. It made me laugh.
Just as I got comfortable in my fortress of sheets and pillows, the scene switched to breaking news. I saw what appeared to be a bright light go across the sky. Perhaps there was a plane crash, I thought. Then I heard the words, “meteorite hits Russia injuring more than 500 people.” The picture looked just like something from the sci-fi movies that have become so popular. I fumbled to find the remote and change the channel as quickly as I could only to find the pictures on the next channel as well. I quickly turned off the TV and tried to lose the images from my mind.
My Grandmother’s stories of meteors hitting the earth and Russia being the center of all evil came crashing into my mind much like the meteor hitting the earth. Her interpretation of the book of Revelations may leave Biblical scholars scratching their heads, but as a child, I only knew her words. She warned of the moon turning red, stars falling from the sky, loud noises, and more as God destroys our evil world. There was something in the story about good people disappearing into heaven before that, but I knew I was not good enough to be among them.
I decided to turn my mind to more productive thoughts. Where the h*** were there those radar things? I mean we watch planes on radar all the time. We can see tornadoes, hurricanes, and even thunderstorms forming. Was someone asleep at the big screen at NASA? Don’t we have plans in place to blow up a bunch of rocks falling from the sky? Or, I have I just watched Bruce Willis save the world in the movie Armageddon one too many times? Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk would be appalled to see this.
This morning I told my daughter about my middle of the night wake experience and before I could say more, she laughed and asked if I saw the meteor news. She wanted to tell me about the “Left Behind” books and Moscow, and meteors, but I reminded her that I don’t like to talk about those things. People who know me well know that I don’t like to hear, see, or talk about such things. Maybe we are facing those end days talked about in Revelation; I don’t know. I do know that today I can walk outside my house, look at the sky, and know that I have faith in a God who is in control. I have a mortal body. One day it will die. I just hope it isn’t from a cataclysmic event like a meteor falling on me, however.
I have a friend who reads my blog and from time to time will tell me, “I can’t believe you shared that in your blog for everyone to read.” There seems to be some fear that I may have a future employer reading my blog posts who will quickly file my application away and send off the polite “we will call you if we have anything” letter. Perhaps some overly cautious suitor will check out my online profile and decide I am far too complicated to pursue. He would be right. I am willing to take that risk and continue to share my stories. Humor, sharing my stories, and prayer are the best weapons I have to fight those lingering fears…………. and stray meteors.
Delayed gratification is the ability to resist an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. I read an article that stated people with the ability to delay or defer gratification are less likely to have impulse issues or addictions, etc. I obviously am not good at the delaying thing. That is of course unless I can use it is as an excuse to put off something.
This blog post is a great example. I promised to do the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge on Sunday instead of daily. It is now Wednesday and I have not posted. I could say it was because I was savoring the moment and delaying the gratification of posting. That would be a rationalization. Actually it would just be lie. Sunday was just a busy day and I didn’t get to it.
Today I am going to catch up and promise to try to do better.
Nov 12 I am grateful for laughter. I love that I have people in my life who enjoy having fun and laughing.
Nov. 13 I am grateful that I am able to have faith in a God love even thought I was taught to believe in a God of fear and punishment.
Nov. 14 I am grateful for the kids in my life. I have three amazing grand kids. They are growing up way too fast. One is driving and one will be a teenager in a few weeks. The little one is a toddler and has a smile that doesn’t stop. I have the privilege of spending of time with the two kids of my best friend. They are very sweet and loving kids.
Nov. 15 I am grateful for the opportunity to go back to college. I am trying it out with a couple of classes in the spring to see how it goes.
Nov. 16 I am grateful for chocolate. Yes, I know that isn’t very deep but I do love chocolate.
Nov. 17 I am grateful for the lessons learned in my life, even if they came at a price.
Nov. 18 I am grateful for music. Music takes me to places nothing else can. I am very sure there is music in heaven. I am sure there is chocolate, too.
Nov. 19 I am grateful for the opportunity to meet Anne Lamott and hear her thoughts on prayer and life. I am also grateful for a wonderful couple of days on the road with Jan.
Nov. 20 I am grateful for GPS. Yes, I really am. It kept Jan and I from getting lost in Atlanta. 🙂
Nov. 21 I am grateful for my brothers and sisters. I have one brother and bunch of half brothers and sisters. I haven’t seen or spoken to a couple of them in a very long time. I pray that they will someday want to put aside old issues and be a part of my life.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo. The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.