When I was growing up, I often felt lost in a sea of children. I was number 9 of 10 kids. My sister (Laur) and I were born significantly later than the earlier 8. You might think that would mean we were more like a family of 4, but the older siblings had children and my mother (like me) spent a great deal of time watching her grandchildren. There were several times when one of the siblings would move back home temporarily [with their family] when some life issue would arise. It was an unusual circumstance; Laur and I had nieces and nephews who were often raised side by side with us, and were the same as or close in age. This constant influx of children in our home often made me feel left out and alone, even though I loved my family deeply.
In my little girl dreams, I wasn’t going to grow up, marry a prince and live happily ever after. My sister dreamed and lives that dream; she has a beautiful family and has a wonderful life. I envy her. It seems I was born obstinate and ashamed. I dreamed of things that most little girls don’t think about. I dreamed of moving far away where nobody would know me so I could make friends who wouldn’t know my dad was an alcoholic. I know there are those of you reading this who were my childhood friends who remember his rants…they were fearsome, especially on the phone. I dreamed of working—my childish mind didn’t care where–because my own mother was not allowed to work. To me, working meant freedom. And even though I never dreamed of getting married, in my dreams I would have children and my children would always know they had someone to fight for them. They would always know ‘mom’s got your back’…because my own mom was just too darn old and worn down by the time I needed her. That was my most fierce dream. I spent many nights wishing I had someone on my side.
It took an impromptu marriage to accomplish the first goal–of moving far away. I was in my second year of college, taking 18 units and also working full time. My high school boyfriend came home on leave from the Marines. He told me he was going to be stationed in California and wanted me to go with him. Done. We got married four days later. I sold my clothes to my sisters (I’m not kidding here) for gas money, dropped out of college and drove to California for a new life. In hindsight, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that was on my mom. But I have to assume she knew who I was and saw it coming…and still knew how deeply I loved her.
California was the beginning of the life I’ve created for myself and my children. It has been full of chaos because (not surprisingly) I have serious issues with men and don’t always make the best choices with them. But it has also been full of love. In one of my many books I read growing up, it said that children are resilient as long as they are well loved. I’ve found that to be true. I know that through every difficult time we’ve endured, my kids always knew I had their back. I would [and still do] fight any fight for them. They never have to feel alone. Just writing that word [alone] rekindles my child self; the fear and loneliness still burn bright at my core.
So today I am beginning a diet with my youngest daughter, Ali Beth. Last year, I had finally gotten rid of those unwanted, over 50-year old pounds through a four month regime with Weight Watchers. Then, Ali Beth got pregnant and, because of medication issues, gained quite a lot of weight. To further complicate the weight issue, she had to have an emergency C Section and then two weeks later got a large blood clot in her leg. So, my sweet girl has a beautiful baby boy whom she loves with her whole heart but feels so badly about herself because of the weight thing. I saw it coming and decided to ride the wave with her. I knew she couldn’t face it alone. Sometimes you just need to know there is someone there with the same struggle—it lightens your load. For my part, all I had to do was eat normally and the weight came back on eagerly.
I remember the last time I did something extreme for this child—to let her know I had her back. She was 16 and had been begging for a tattoo. Tattoos were not as common then as they are now, and both her dad and my husband, Steve, were adamant that she would not have one. But, in the end, I went with her to get the tattoo because I could see no harm in having one. She got a beautiful floral spread across her lower back, just above her bikini line. At least, I thought it was beautiful…as for the two dads, not so much, not an artistic bone in either of their bodies.
I sat back and reassured her as long as I could—then, when I heard my husband say one too many times, “cover up your tramp stamp,” something in me snapped. My daughter needed me to have her back and it had become apparent that my verbal support was not doing the trick. I did the only logical thing; I got a tattoo, and nobody dared to call mine a tramp stamp. 🙂 That was the successful end of that issue.
Life is full of ups and downs, and we can find beauty in all of its facets if we know we are not alone. That inner security, that many lucky souls take for granted, must exist; quite simply, it is the key to happiness–literally allows that door to be opened. Many of you may be fortunate enough to find a life partner who supports you and lifts you up, but I suspect there are an equal number who have not been that fortunate.
I was inspired to write this blog yesterday when I was searching for quotes. I found this man, Arnaud Desjardins, whom I had never heard of before, and the first quote I read from him really hit home. I will write it below…see if you don’t agree….Happy Friday!
There are no bad people, only badly loved people. Arnaud Desjardins