Bad things happen. They happen to all of us. And we don’t usually get to pick them…they pick us. Bad things sometimes come in waves and grab the wheels of our ships. Sometimes they stand alone with their heavy shoes holding down the strings of all the good things trying to float above us. However they arrive; however large or small they are; however life changing they become; bad things happen.
I was given the grace of finding a small diary one day in a cleaning-out mode. It was pink and orange with flowers and a funky little caricature of a girl on the front. It had a lock. The lock was broken. I found it in a box in the basement, with random items of miscellany, all of which held special meaning to the young girl I used to be. I stopped cleaning, (this is always a problem for me – I get far too interested in what I am sorting) and I read.
I was hurled back, as diaries allow us to be, to our house on Old Clairton Road. Eleven years old. I appeared like a ghost in a dream, blonde hair to the shoulders, barely out of a training bra, complete self awareness just around the corner. Inexperienced cursive gave way to scribbled block letters, back to cursive. On good days I tried to write the way cool girls wrote, with their e’s and a’s all swoopy; but by the end of the entry I was always back to my own sloppy handwriting. I named my diary Jenny Lou Marie.
This is how the typical entry went:
Dear Jenny Lou Marie ~
Today nothing much happened.
I think I like Mark Mower, and we had to pick partners in science and I was right next to him and So-and-So came up and just weaseled in beside me and now I have to be partners with What’s-his-name and then we went…and then we did…and then….
See ya tomorrow,
Every day started with “nothing much happened”. I was obviously on the threshold of teenage hood.
As I read I noticed a marked difference in the tone of my entries, right around March of that year. The lightness was gone. The words were fewer. Then the entries tapered off. Then they ended altogether.
That night I lay in bed and re-read the diary. Bit by bit my history returned to my memory. It was a most interesting visit to my past, one I had not focused on since I had grown. I realized as I read that three pretty major things had happened within a few weeks of each other. Looking at the events from an adult perspective, I wept for the little girl who went through them. It was rather cathartic to find that diary. I am gentler with myself since I found it.
I won’t go into detail about the things that happened. Suffice it to say they were bad. Bad things happen. But one of them, a situation involving a visitor and an abuse, occurred in that fateful month, just after my 12th birthday. It was the kind of thing that should never happen to a child. In retrospect, I should have told my mother. But she had so many of her own heavy burdens I decided not to. Besides, I felt dirty, and sometimes we are made to think some things are probably our own fault. So I kept it hidden, even from my diary. I kept it in; my grades plummeted; and I stopped writing to Jenny Lou Marie as I sat in my bed each night. Instead I curled up on my side and tried to find comfort in my pillow.
Across from me, in the twin bed just three feet away, was my best friend. She could sense something was wrong, though she was only 10 years old. I can see her lying there now, in my minds treasure box. We shared a lot, Libby and I. I remember lying silent and still as we listened to our parents argue, looking straight into each other’s eyes, tears rolling into our feather pillows. There is a bond between people who can cry so safely together.
“You OK?” she asked one night.
Then a few minutes later:
Those words, wrapped in the familiarity of her voice, are medicine to me. Truly, besides the comforting sound of my mother’s voice, there is no other sound that moves me so deeply. It’s probably the ancient familiarity of it. It’s the sincerity of it. The safety.
I finally let out the evil deed. Like a tiny pinhole in a balloon, the pressure released for me.
“Please don’t tell anyone. Promise you won’t tell anyone.”
And she didn’t.
Looking back, I think the trust was what I needed, probably more than anything. She gave me that. She still does.
In the song Sisters, the demons were the haunting effects of that abuse. And there were tears upon her pillow that matched the ones on mine.
Before the angels came and brought you down to me
There was an empty place where you were meant to be
And what is so clear now I couldn’t see back then
If you were not you I would not be who I am
CHORUS I: There were flowers on your pillow that matched the ones on mine
There were Madam Alexander dolls and traded Valentines
Oh, you were faithful… we were crazy…sisters.
We had a grand old tree, her branches opened wide
And our imaginations traveled side by side
Then in my thirteenth year, when my demons came
In the silence of the night you shared my pain
CHORUS II: And there were tears upon your pillow that matched the ones on mine
There were Madam Alexander dolls and faded Valentines
Oh, you were faithful…we were crazy…sisters
Bridge: You knew my best,
And you knew my worst
And all of the in-betweens
Some dreams have come, and some dreams have gone
And some remain… just dreams
REPEAT CHORUS I
Libby was the gift the angels brought when I was 15 months old. Neither of us knew, consciously, what a gift that was. I came to a family of 5 girls. All four of my sisters are gifts from heaven. They know all my flaws, and they know my triumphs, and everything in between. Friends get some portion of that, old friends especially. But there is no friend like a sister. A part of the bond comes from shared history, but I believe another portion is sent from the Divine and does not need to be analyzed or explained. It just is.
All of my sisters: Sherry, Sue, Ann Marie, and Libby – are evidence of God’s love for me. When I cross over, when my moments on earth are spent and I get to see face-to-face the Maker of all good things, I imagine the first words I speak will be of thanks: for people…not things:
for a good and unconditional husband,
for a mother who remained faithful to her children,
for two dear brothers,
for loving children and grandchildren,