Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Wish, I Wish

I was only about five years old. That’s the earliest my memory can go back. We’re in my parent’s bedroom and there is a big window facing the street. The blinds are open allowing in dim daylight. However everything else is fading into darkness. One ray of light is shining from somewhere high above. It’s coming through the clouds, through the roof, through the dusty haze which lands softly on three sets of shoulders.
The first thing I seem to notice is where these three are sitting. The king size comforter is dark blue, as if trying to portray a richly deep night sky where the moon shines bright and the clouds add another depth of looming darkness over the world. But this is offset by the dancing white stars. Except when you look more closely, you will find that these white stars are not even white, nor are they stars. They are images only as large as the smallest roly-poly. The images are of vases, with maybe three flowers in them, and they are off-white in color, not pure white.
I seem to be sitting on the edge of my parent’s water bed. Perhaps one leg is hanging a few inches from the floor and the other is crossed in front of me, like half Indian Style. My head is bent and small hands folded in my lap. My eyes are squeezed shut as if I were wishing with all my might.
My mom is to my left. Her shoulders are hunched over, head down, eyes closed. But her eyes still look soft and peaceful. She must have already received her wish. The warm light sprinkles the top of her head, making her sparkle. Her hand is on my left shoulder. I can feel her nearness, her calmness washing over me. The warmth of her palm is soothing against my skin.
She always wanted to have a special relationship with me as I was growing up. Probably because I ended up being her only daughter in a house full of boys. But still, she was very disappointed for a number of years when we didn’t get along. It wasn’t until I had grown, moved out, and kept her at arm’s length for a time that I came to realize what a great friend she is.
Since she homeschooled us kids, we spent a lot of time with her while growing up. It was okay for the most part. Then came the subject of math. A subject neither of us enjoyed. There were days when we would leave the school room full of frustrated tears because we simply couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this seemingly simple task together. If my dad was home he would come down to work with me. Strangely enough, I would be doing my math problems alone within minutes. I suppose my mom and I just needed a break.
It also helps that my dad is very good at math, though I’m not sure whether or not he particularly enjoys it. I’m pretty sure you have to be amazing with numbers to be a pilot, which is what my dad does for a living. He was in and out a lot as I grew up. With age it became normal and I was able to accept it more easily.
One thing was never to be doubted about my father. And that was his love for his family. See, he had two dreams as he grew from a boy to a man. First, he wanted to fly. Second, as he left boyhood, he knew he wanted a family. He ended up achieving both dreams, but not without a price. He has missed countless plays, recitals, birthdays and holidays. He also has brought in a steady income allowing my family to live comfortably. His coming and going probably is what spurs on the importance of family vacations. It was something we did every summer. I suppose it was a chance for him to catch up with us.
So now my dad is on my right. His broad shoulders are bent forward, his head bowed down in reverence. His left hand rests on my right shoulder. His hand is large, rough, and his grip firm, holding me steady, urging me further down this unknown road. However, it’s only unknown to me. My parents have traveled it for years.
The light now shining upon us is a happy yellow. It’s the kind of yellow we love to see because that means its summer and all is well with the world. I can hear the birds singing happily outside the window. Cars drive past. My little brother must be asleep. The world is alive and moving forward. But not us. We seem to sit still in time as I am about to begin the greatest journey of my life.

When I was five years old, with my mom on one side and my dad on the other, I said something like this:
“Dear Jesus,
Please forgive me for all my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Please come into my heart.
And that’s it. I could open my eyes and start the rest of my life.
I wonder if my five-year-old mind really understood the transition that was taking place. I wonder if I would have made the same choice five, ten or twenty years down the road. I’d like to think that I would. But sometimes the more mature age tries to block out some of the most important decisions you can make.

The ray of light is quickly receding now. I imagine my parents hugged me and my mom probably cried a little. You see, my parents knew what I had done. They knew and understood the commitment I had made. They also realized their role in it. They were part of this choice, this decision I made. As parents, they knew that I had been entrusted to them by God. It was their job to raise me to be a God-fearing young woman. The first step towards that goal was to lead me to what would be the most impactful choice of my life. I was born again.

I knew from day one this guy was a bad idea. But he didn’t drink. He didn’t swear… much. He didn’t smoke or do drugs. So, obviously he was a good guy. Just not the one for me as I came to find out. But wait. I knew that from day one.
I’ve come to find out that falling away from God is not something that happens all at once. It’s a gradual process starting with a thought. Unless killed immediately without emotions, the tiniest thought blossoms into a tree that thinks she’s alive but looks dead and ugly to everything around her. This is how you know you have turned your back on God. When you can feel the implications, but look away instead. Ignorance can be deceitful bliss.
That was my life. I could feel the ugliness I had turned into by dismissing the once passionate relationship I had with my Savior. I tried to suppress the deity with what I thought was a passionate relationship with my boyfriend. But I started feeling really sick. I wanted to lie in bed all day because the world was an engaging roller coast when on my own two feet. Work was worse. There was a bombardment of aromas: ground beef, pinto beans and fried potatoes. I would try to pinch my nose, but I had to hold onto the railing to keep my balance. The stark intoxications which surrounded my small form all made my head spin and my stomach churn. I thought maybe I was hungry. But I hardly touched my food.
Two weeks and minus ten pounds later, I was getting pretty curious about my condition. A few more weeks went by and I wasn’t feeling quite so dizzy, although eating still wasn’t my strongest point. I was the thinnest that I had been in years and with that came the notion of feeling sexy and attractive. But my job was dreary, my boss annoying and co-workers plain and inconsequential. It didn’t always used to be this horrid. I knew my time at that wretched place was coming to a close.
But still, something wasn’t quite right.
No, there’s no way. I can’t have missed my period. Has it really been two months? No, this doesn’t happen to me. One time doesn’t mean anything.
I gave in to the delirium of my thoughts. It was dark outside; I had gotten off work very late. My body ached and I just wanted to sleep. I went to Wal-mart. I tried to hide the package as I walked to the register. I hoped I would never have to see this woman again as she rang up my item. Seconds, turned to minutes, minutes, to hours. Why is she going so stupidly slow?! Finally my parcel was in the plastic bag, hidden from any curious eyes. I practically ran from the store, never looking back.
It was just about midnight when I finally reached the apartment I shared with two roommates. It was dark and quiet. Perfect. I walked through the tidy living room and into my room. I silently wished a bull dozer would come in and sweep away the chaos. Thankfully the bed was clear. I sat down and carefully opened the blue box. I took out the inside package and read the directions carefully.
A calculated sigh escaped silently from my lips as I walked down the dark hallway. The bathroom was decorated like a beach. I closed the door. Sat on the toilet. My palms were sweaty. I struggled to open the wrapper. My heart sounded like a sledgehammer. I was ready. No I wasn’t. I held the stick under my bottom. I brought it back up out of the bowl. The soft end was saturated with urine. I laid this small terror on the sink. I finished peeing.
And then I sat. Seconds or minutes, it made no matter to me. Time stood still. Finally I worked up the courage to see the results. My heart was racing now. I knew I had to look. I saw the double line. I checked the directions. Two deadly pink lines. For a moment, I sat, not saying anything, doing anything, feeling anything.
It hit me. With the disgusting stick in my hand I nearly stumbled down the hallway. I had to get somewhere open. The walls were towering over me, squeezing all the air out of my lungs. I had to breathe in large, sharp breaths in order to simply stay alive. No tears came. As it turns out, you can’t cry when fighting for your life. Those were for later. When I knew I would be okay. When I knew I would survive.

It was Friday, a whole week later and I was at my parent’s house. The next day I was supposed to fly to California with my mom for the rest of the weekend. But Friday was a special day. One that would not soon be forgotten. My little brother’s high school graduation party was that day.
People started to arrive. It felt like each person was picking open an unhealed scab as I tried so hard to genuinely smile. But it wouldn’t come. I didn’t care to see any of these people that had been in my life since I was 12. I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t have to face myself as long as I kept hiding. I could read, be someone else, anyone else than the wretched person I had turned out to be.
Everyone knew I was acting different. But no one asked questions, mostly because I didn’t give the opportunity for them to do so. So there I was, in a crowded room, curled up on the corner of a couch reading. I don’t even remember what it was. Not that it mattered.
My best friend arrived, Hannah. A glimmer of hope. I thought she might want to go shopping with me. My jeans were baggy on me now. It’s a bit ironic isn’t it? You’d think I’d be gaining weight, not losing it. Well, Hannah wasn’t interested. I guess working at the mall takes away the fun of credit cards. Truth be told I just wanted to get out of the mayhem. Somewhere quiet where I could hear myself think. I longed to share my secret. The clamor of my thoughts weighed on my heart like a brick of lead. It was becoming almost too much to bear.
So I went out alone. My mom and Hannah looked at me a little funny as I left. I suppose they were very confused. Well, that all makes sense now doesn’t it. I did buy a pair of jeans, they were even on clearance. I came back home to the party wearing them and received many compliments on my weight loss. No one seemed to ask how. Or why. If they had, I’m not sure I would have known how to respond.
The party continued amid my halo of gloom. I was getting a headache and wished everyone would leave. People finally started to trickle out the door. This meant I was alone with my family. It was actually harder to hide when no one else was around. It gave me time to think, or rather, dread, the upcoming weekend.
I might have mentioned not wanting to go to California. This may have been the cause of the fight. This may have been why I left their house in a blur of tears and drove away as fast as I could. This may have been why I contemplated driving back to Moscow right then and there. Screw my mom and the stupid weekend.
However, gracious reasoning took over my unruly emotions. I drove around for hours. Took a nap in my car. It was dark by the time I got back to the house. As I walked through the door I could tell my parents were not going to let this go until they knew why I was acting so irrationally.
“You’re not being yourself, Jessica,” my mom said at the kitchen table. She sat one stool away from me. My dad was on the couch. There was only one light on, in the kitchen, which cast a melancholy mood throughout the room. I felt a little safer now. Strange as that is.
“Are you on drugs?” my dad threw out. I shook my head.
“Has something bad happened to you? Are you OK?” I simply shook my head again. My dad took a relaxed seated position in the leather couch, though his face was tense with concern. My mom, on the other hand, was not smiling, not talking, just staring. Trying to figure me out I suppose. My dad went through all the things he could think of. I could only glance over at him, shake my head, and go back to staring at the kitchen counter top. My face was etched with sadness, I could feel it. Every new item my dad checked off his list was another stab, another jolt to my system. He didn’t realize that he actually didn’t want to learn the truth. Why would he want to know about the terrible person his “Big Girl,” as he used to call me, had become? I was quickly losing control. The pit in my stomach had moved to my throat. I could hardly breathe. Finally, the punch line.
“You’re pregnant,” my dad threw his hands up in the air as if this was his last grab in the dark. I buried my face in my hands. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t look up. I could not stand to see the looks on their faces. The worst of the worst had finally happened to their daughter, the first born, the one who was always making the mistakes.
The only sounds that could be heard for the next few moments were me screeching. My body convulsing. I couldn’t hold myself still. My mom stood and left the room. My dad walked over and wrapped his arms around my shaking body.
“I love you,” he said softly in my ear. “It’s going to be ok.” I could hear the sadness in his voice. I could feel the warmth of grace suppress my convulsions, my screeching.
I was finally able to look up through blurry tears as my mom came back in the room. There were tears in everyone’s eyes as we walked to the office to discuss these startling developments.
We spent hours in there that night. It was comforting to be surrounded by pictures of airplanes and family. It was the essence of who we were as a unit. A family unit. We discussed all options: abortion, adoption, keeping it.
I learned the most important lesson of my life in that small room. There was nothing I could do to make my parents not love me. What made matters worse is that while I was at my worst stage in life, my dad told me he was proud of me. Proud. Of his little girl, pregnant to a guy who wasn’t even a Christian. It would take years for me to understand how he could say those words to me that night.
In that small room, we talked, we prayed together, I was safe. The loving grace of Jesus Christ surrounded all of us, keeping our unit intact. My mom on my right. My dad on my left. Both there as they had promised to be all those years ago.
They continue to guide me. Push me. Strengthen me. God gave my parents to me and me to them. He knew how often I would turn to my mother’s nurturing spirit for emotional support or a word of advice. As for my dad, God provided him with the steadfast love he needed to push me into being all I can be and more.

And now here she is. A young woman who, at times, still feels like a little girl in need of her parent’s hands to hold her steady. But this young woman is stronger than even she knows.

I was only about five years old. That’s my earliest memory.

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