I’m not sure if this autobiography posting is a good idea or not. I believe in the power of written legacies – the stories of our lives we leave behind for others to discover. It’s odd – I’ve told hundreds of people that their stories matter, and they do. Sitting in front of my screen today, I hesitate – does my story matter too? It does. I know that, and still, I look out the window between words putting it off. A dawdling of sorts. I hit the backspace key over and over. As I ponder excuses, my courage falters and I ask the same questions others have asked me.
- I’m not famous, so who cares?
- Is it vain to assume anyone will read about my small life?
- And in a silent tone of disdain, I wonder, “Who do you think you are?”
- And as the Yule Brenner said in the King & I, “. . . etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . .”
All this internal arguing escalates until I almost say some stuff out loud but catch myself. Whew! It’s loud here at Caribou but still.
Then, with my internal voice shaking, I ask my heart, “Where do I start?”
My own words return to me. “At the beginning.”
My goodness. Coffee has never been more distracting or the parking lot as fascinating.
If I wait long enough, I’ll need a refill and a trip to the restroom, and then it will be time to head home to Jonathan and our dogs.
Instead, I’m going to give this thing a go. When the idea to do this came, lots of moments and so many words came to mind. They seem to have been mysteriously misplaced.
It’s time to elbow fear aside. Or write like I can delete the words that come – which I can. So here goes nothing. Or something. I guess we’ll see.
Mama told me she knew early that she was pregnant and that I was a girl. She was sure and had already named me Joy after her mother.
When she fainted (although she’d been sick with TB) both she and grandma knew a baby was on the way. Then came the morning sickness.
Around the time she told me our story for the first time, a girl I knew had been told by her mom that she came at an inconvenient time. Her mom’s words left her feeling rejected and unwanted. I wonder if those words that hurt so long ago linger in her heart. They do in mine. For her. I told Mama. She waited a few days, and then knowing me the way she did, she made sure I knew that I was wanted.
As she pushed the iron back and forth across whatever needed the wrinkles gone that day, she talked and listened. I sat at the table, probably coloring or doodling or writing in my notebook.
Her words flowed over and into my heart.
Mama said that the first time she held me, my fingers amazed her – it looked like someone had given me a manicure inside her. My grandmother wondered if they were the fingers of a pianist. They weren’t, but they belong to a writer who loves the feel of her computer keyboard under her fingertips.
That day, Mama took time to brag on me to me. She told me I was alert and understood far more than others said I was capable of right away. She insisted that I followed their voices with my eyes and smiled. She was disgusted anyone would suggest that her baby had mere gas! (She felt the same way about my brother.)
She said that my smiles came with responsive sounds earlier than the baby books, and magazine articles claimed were “normal.” No surprise I’m sure to all of those who know me well!
Later, before dementia took her far from us, Mama told me to get the above picture of her and me out. She wanted me to know that no matter what, the love seen in black and white shortly after we met face to face would always be ours. Even on her worst days. She wanted me to remember I was wanted. Always. And then Mama took a few minutes to brag on me to me again.
She also reminded me that while Daddy was quieter about his feelings, his look in his first picture with me said everything I needed to “hear.”
You might think that would make me sad, especially now that they’re in Heaven, but it doesn’t. I look at these photos and treasure their unhidden love.
And I smile full to the brim and overflowing by their love.
Deep gratitude rushes from the deep places in my heart because in our first moments and our last, in that way that she had, she knew these moments would bring me comfort.
She was right.
It’s taken me a while to get these words on the page because, in part, not everyone I know had this kind of parental love. That’s a sad truth and a mix of sorrow and guilt washes over me. For you. I can’t explain the guilt but there it is. And there’s no way I can erase your experience, but I know Someone who can.
If you know me, you know we were going here. If you don’t know me yet, welcome to my faith.
Before I pack up my computer and head home, I am going to get a coffee refill and pray this verse for you:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)
Until Next Time,