… because sometimes you have just have to find the humor in the middle of your darkest hours. AND THAT’S OKAY! We. Survive. With humor! My daughter is a phoenix. Never forget it! Just keept watching to see what she will do! Enjoy her silly “rant” my friends! Forever the happy cynic … Lol!
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this because I honestly didn’t want anyone to be saddened by these two pictures or what I had to say. After all, no one likes a Debbie downer and at first glance at these precious treasures of mine may lead some to think, “how sad”. Please allow me to explain …
Two Fridays ago, our daughter had her little besties for a sleepover. Giggles, silliness and the like in full throttle above our bedroom, which we did not mind in the least. Those sounds of silliness are not only music to our ears but even more so a sign that we must be doing something right! We’ve always said that we want our home to be where our daughter and her friends want to be. (Much like those days so very long ago raising my Christian that I fondly recall very similar sounds of boys camped happily at my home. They were “my boys” too, and some still are to this day, but I digress.) When kids cross our threshold they are welcomed, embraced, esteemed, heard, respected, validated, loved and cared for as if they were our own. For us? It’s the highest of honors: “The house full of silly girls”.
But back to the story. That night it was storming terribly. Pouring rains, booms of thunder, cracks of lightening and even some hail. By 9pm Williamson and I were settled down in our room watching a movie while the girls were upstairs engaged in some serious SHENANIGANS! One hellacious “BAM” of thunder and lightning and our peaceful movie night quickly turned into a slumber party in our room! There we were surrounded by two cats, a trembling dog, then within seconds of hearing eight little feet trampling down the stairway, four 11-year-olds who jumped onto our bed. “Guess what, you’re stuck with us now people, bwa ha ha ha ha!” Of course, this was to be expected and perfectly okay. Soon they were all giggling and wouldn’t shut up, so Williamson hit the pause button and we just let them do their thing!
It was all fun and games, until that is, one of the girls who hadn’t been in our bedroom before noticed a tiny dress I have displayed in a curio along with many other keepsakes and trinkets that were either gifts pending a long-awaited arrival or keepsakes given in remembrance of a brief and bittersweet life . You see, it’s “her shelf” – my daughter Gina Marie, the miniscule human who was given to share her time with me for only a matter of hours. Some day when I’m ready I will share her story in greater expanse, but for now what I can say is this …
Amid the giggles the girl noticing the dress immediately jumped out of the bed and ran to the cabinet. “Miss Cat, what is that little dress for and whose little footprints are those?” Ugh. My heart cinched up as I contemplated exactly what to say for her innocent young mind to understand. But before I could find the words one of the other girls who had already seen the dress and knew all about our Gina interjected: “That’s an exact copy of the dress Gia’s sister was buried in when she died. It’s a doll dress and it’s so tiny because the baby was only ‘this big’ (as she cupped her hands together). She was born and died before Gia, so even though she was itty bitty, technically she was her big sister. Those are all the gifts Miss Cat was given when she was pregnant with her and then after she died and it’s all very special to her. And those footprints? They were the little baby’s. That’s how itty bitty her real little feet were.”
As the girls continued talking amongst themselves my husband quickly grabbed my hand for the quick three squeeze “I love you”. He was certain I was crumbling inside and worried for what may be going on in my mind, but strangely that was not the case. I was intrigued. We listened intently to a heavy conversation between the girls and soon they were sharing stories and memories of not only their own births, but those of their siblings as well. Can I just say that my words alone are not enough to express the amount of love and tenderness in that room on an otherwise dreary night? They were connecting. Bonding. Sharing. Feeling. Listening. Caring. It brought such an intense warmth and peace to my body that my skin was almost tingling.
But that wasn’t EVEN the best part of this story. At one point the girl who had noticed the dress and thus sparked the conversation literally burst into sobbing tears. She had connected what happened with my daughter to a sibling her own mother had evidently lost by miscarriage before she was born, which, as you can imagine, troubled her. But then she looked at me and said these unbelievable words:
“Miss Cat, I am really, really sorry that happened to you. You must have been so sad. It must have been so hard for you to hold your tiny baby in your arms and watch her go away.” HER little heart was aching for me, I could see it in her eyes. Gia was also becoming emotional and we could all clearly see that she was breaking. One of the girls noticed and gently placed her hand on her back to comfort her, while the other girl was comforting the sobbing one. “Gia, we are so sorry for you too. But your sister is like an angel now and we wouldn’t have you if that horrible thing didn’t happen to your family. Right Miss Cat?” Ugh.
Then Gia spoke. Again, unbelievable words. “Don’t be sad for my mom you guys, she is the strongest and bravest woman I know. She believes that every single thing, person and moment in this life happens for a reason, even when my sister died, but instead of letting it destroy her it made her even stronger. My mother trusts God a lot and my sister’s tiny dress and footprints make her smile, not cry, because they remind her that she was here. Right mom?” Ugh again. “You couldn’t be more right if you tried sister girl.”
And with that, I was stunned and speechless in all the best ways possible, because in that moment I realized that through “the dress” not only is my baby’s tiny little life remembered to have existed, but more than that, it DID mean something significant to someone other than myself. To those girls who have seen it, Gina Marie’s dress is a lesson in faith and “life, no matter how small”, and of course an example of how grownups can survive after loss. And by the way, how blessed am I to know that my daughter has instinctively surrounded herself with friends who are loving, kind, protective, empathetic and able to display true compassion and nurturing for others at such an early stage in life. These are character traits that I believe cannot be taught. They are learned by example (their parents are ALL doing something very right!) Silly they may surely be, ALL OF THEM! Silly, crazy, carefree 11-year old’s with innocent hearts that are kind. I’ve always believed that I am a lucky girl, truly, I have despite the many things that seem to contradict that. But after that night in our bedroom with those girls? I am even luckier all the more! That is all.
“Paint yourself a picture of what you wish you looked like. Maybe then they just might feel an ounce of your pain. Come into focus. Step out of the shadows. It’s a losing battle. There’s no need to be ashamed. ‘Cause they don’t even know you, all they see is scars. They don’t see the angel living in your heart. Let them find the real you buried deep within. Let them know with all you’ve got that you are not your skin. And when they start to judge you, show them your true colors and do on to others as you’d have done to you. Just rise above this. Kill them with your kindness. Ignorance is blindness. They’re the ones that stand to lose.” – Sixx AM
This meme popped up on my feed today and then washed across my soul, because if I’ve learned anything on this blessed and broken road, it’s this: It’s not our or outward appearances that make us either ugly or beautiful ~ IT’S OUR SOULS THAT DO! Perhaps you’ve already ready my second post, SUMMER OF 1979: “Under My Scars”, where in one fateful moment a very cruel little girl who didn’t even know my name called me a “spic” in front of a gymnasium full of strangers and literally changed the direction of my life and self-esteem forever:
“The first day of school at Boyd Elementary found me surrounded by a closely bound family of blond-haired, blue-eyed, small town 5th graders, most of who were raised together from birth. When the bell rang for gym class that day, the teacher, “Coach Spann”, made his way out to the middle of the gymnasium floor. As he reached for the microphone to quiet the class and call us to attention, “Lisa”, the asshole girl who probably unbeknownst to her would thereafter become the nemesis of the rest of my school years, introduced me to not only my new classmates, but one of my deepest childhood traumas: “Look how Spic and Spann these floors are!”
I remember that humiliation like a million needles stinging my extremely dark brown hands and feet as if it were happening right this instant. Everyone in that space, including the coach himself, looking down and laughing at me, the “spic”, and all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock and disappear. What’s funny is that at the time I didn’t even know what it meant. “Spic? What’s a spic?” It wasn’t until one of the friends that was sitting beside me leaned in closely, as if to shelter me from the trauma that I didn’t even realize I was going through, and asked if I was okay. I asked her why, why wouldn’t I be okay? Then she gently explained to me about “SPIC”! “A spic is a mexican person or what sometimes people refer to as a wetback. She was making fun of you for being so dark brown.” And I don’t remember exactly how I finally made it from the gym floor to the bathroom, but do remember staring into the mirror and crying. It was on that day, at the tender age of 10, that I began to despise myself and the very skin I lived in, and though I did manage to make and have a handful of truly good friends until graduating high school in 1987 (many of whom after almost 40 years are with me still today), that moment bruised me for decades come.”
You see, I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where the darker, olive toned skins were the norm and my Native American / Italian coloring blended right in with everyone else’s. But I digress. “The day of the spic and Spann” was the day I began to despise myself and the dark brown skin I wore, and dare I remember the countless hours of my youth spent in a bathtub crying secretly to myself while literally trying to erase my beautiful color with my mom’s kitchen pot scrubbers! Yup, I absolutely fucking did that!
Meanwhile here I am 40 years later and yes, I’ve finally made peace with the reflection I see in the mirror, the one that had gone missing during so many points of my life and during the darkest years of my life disappeared completely. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t find my image or paint the picture of myself I so desperately needed to connect with.
Well those days are over and guess what? Turns out I’m pretty freaking gorgeous! And no, I’m not being vein, let promise you that! I’m talking about who I really am. Inside. Outside. Brown skin. Tired skin. Worn skin. Inked up skin. Thick days. Skinny days. Happy days. Sad days. Grieving days. Angry days. “Damn, guess I screwed THAT up pretty good, but oh well, the world didn’t end, so I’ll forgive myself now and get over it” kind of days.
The scars under my skin eventually became the catalyst for all of the best parts of who I am … beautifully and wondrously formed … and I couldn’t be any prouder of either my scars or my skin if I tried! They delightfully shroud a fiercely courageous yet delicately empathetic soul that is connected to every point of light I’ve intersected with. I am perfectly imperfect and so are we ALL “beautiful disasters” in our own right. Beauty truly is in the eye of The Beholder my friends, and any eyes judging our books based solely on their covers do not deserve to read them! And oh, one last thing. That girl from the fifth grade? Her name was Lisa and wow did she miss out on getting to know one super cool chic. That would be me! I have long since forgiven her for all the years those careless words of hers carved from deepest parts of my psyche and if I ever see her one day maybe I should thank her. But let me tell you this: That ignorant girl would have been damn lucky to have had the privilege of knowing me! Spic. Lol! Thank you and drive through please. That is all.