Stepping back from the make shift workbench I surveyed the restoration progress of the blue twin. Decades of neglect that marred her outer surface were tenderly erased to reveal her beauty once again. Sliding my hand across the freshly sanded, smooth wood I became instantly intrigued about the possibility of sharing a current snippet of who I am today. As a fellow curiosity junkie I’m well acquainted with the powerful temptation to sneak a peek at the final chapter. This post is dedicated to curious reader friends who have a need to know that there is hope…
Six – Was Fifty Years Ago
When we last visited it was 1967. A heavily frosted marble sheet cake crowned with six pink, flickering candles was placed before me. Watching them dance in the wind I felt older than I was. Those I loved and one I feared were singing an off pitch exaggerated rendition of Happy Birthday. And what was I thinking? Sing faster. Sing Faster. SING FASTER! The level of anxious anticipation reached torture status. There was only one additional, “Happy Birthday to Youuuu” that stood between the moment and me.
This wasn’t about the unopened gifts neatly stacked at the opposite end of the table. Nor was it about indulging a sweet tooth with a mound of cream cheese frosting (albeit my favorite) atop a sliver of cake. It certainly wasn’t about the attention, because attention was the precursor to fault-finding. Have you guessed the origin of the anticipation? It was the powerful, potentially life changing annual birthday wish. Remember I was a desperate newly six year-old.
Finally the song trailed off into silence, then Mom declared, “Close your eyes and make a wish.” Let’s just say there’s a high probability the appearance of wrinkle #1 was hastened that day as I clinched my eyelids shut. Suppressed for an eternity in kid time, but two days in real-time, the wish exploded from my heart. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz three times I repeated it – silently and minus the ruby-red shoes of course.
I want a different life. I want a different life. I want a different life!
After blowing out the candles I briefly experienced a flood of childish hope for the future. That flicker of hope was quickly extinguished just like those six candles. As it unfolded year six would be transitionally huge for me. Not good, but huge. Alas, we’ll chat about that later. That identical birthday wish was repeated for the next twelve birthdays before it came true when I became a runaway.
Leaping Ahead –
Remember those leotard clad Ten Lords a Leaping we sing about during Christmas? They look like amateur puddle jumpers compared to the multiple stops into the future. Are you ready? On the count of three, “One, Two, Three – jump.”
Twelve – A Passion Discovered
I have a life long love affair with all things restoration. No thrill ride compares to the process of lovingly coaxing something or someone back to beauty. It’s a classic case of a life passion harvested from fields of pain. It began with a dilapidated ladder-back chair permanently exiled to the corner of our teal blue kitchen. Deemed no longer usable for seating she became the pit stop for discarded newspapers, toys, backpacks and dirty clothes that were on their way to somewhere else. The junk mound increased, decreased and increased the next day just like a Florida ant hill.
Until one ordinary day I cut the corner leading into the next room a bit too close. My stubby pinkie toe then had an unpleasant up close and personal encounter with the leg of the junk pile. Lucy Ladder-back Chair suddenly had my undivided attention. Nothing stops your forward motion like the pain of a stubbed pinkie toe.
Each day I crossed paths with Lucy and mindlessly glanced her way, but I never truly saw her. Temporarily immobilized by pain my diminished foggy view of things suddenly evaporated. Upon inspection, Lucy’s condition was classified as dire. Deep scars and broken slates were previously deemed irreparable when weighed against cost, effort and time involved in the restoration process. She was a castaway chair, one step away from becoming a throwaway chair.
In a contemplative moment at the tender age of twelve I somehow intrinsically identified with her abandoned plight. A lone simple thought bubbled to the surface. I wonder if I could coax her back to beauty?
The restoration of Lucy Ladder-back was a courageous dream, because quite frankly I was operating in equal measures of ignorance and crazy desire. Undaunted I petitioned the Court of John and presented the case on behalf of Lucy. I begged for a chance. After days of deliberation John rendered his verdict with a scoffing tone that prognosticated failure. His “yes” was conditional. No assistance financial or otherwise was permitted. At that point on a furniture repair aptitude test I would have scored a solid negative zero. However desire drowned out any logical apprehension. I felt only hopeful.
That seemingly benign encounter was the birthplace of a lifetime pursuit to view all things differently. Believing that furniture, houses, relationships and most importantly wounded souls are never beyond the redemptive power of restoration.
Choose. Choose to see differently. Choose to hear differently. Choose to believe differently.
Eighteen – A Journey Back
Upon graduation, the burning desire to discover a semblance of normal drew me back to the last safe place of affirming love. The pull to return was tangible. An invisible rescue worker tightly fastened a harness around my torso. One massive tug at a time he slowly hoisted me from my perceived impenetrable pit of Miserable House.
As the tiny island disappeared in the rear view mirror, an unexpected sliver of hope crested in a corner of my heart. That foreign sensation was emotionally overwhelming for the entire eight-hour journey.
Breathing life into childhood relationships existing on life support after years of neglect and silence was “the mission” or so I thought. There were no promises or guarantees of a successful outcome. The odds were stacked against me, but it really didn’t matter. I had to try. The journey to reestablish and strengthen the bonds with loved ones would be the first of countless steps toward healing the wounded child who became a broken, hardened woman.
The Beauty of Sameness –
Thirty-eight years ago and counting in the twilight of a summer day the Welcome to Lakeland sign announced the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
Thirty-seven years ago and counting I married the blue-eyed second baseman from our island high school. We annoyed each other in the eleventh grade, fell in love in the twelfth and exchanged vows a year later.
Thirty-one years ago and counting a modest, mid-century ranch located on a shady lane captured our hearts and hopes for our future family. Of course it was a palace project in the making.
Our home decor is meaningful and eclectic. Though minimally adorned our chosen things usually tell a chapter of our family story. Favorite books. Original art. Vintage decoys. As avid curators of memories, the echoes of our family saturate every room.
Over time we planted deep relational roots with our retired Ozzie and Harriett neighbors. Amass they engaged in a conspiracy of kindness that captured our hearts. They loved us, but it really was the adorableness of our chubby baby that sealed the deal for them. Years later their mission was deemed an absolute success when we briefly entertained the idea of relocating to another location. The thought of leaving those sweet souls quickly squashed any relocation desires. Yep, we’re the people who stayed out of love and loyalty to our neighbors. And we don’t regret it at all.
Current Insignificantly Significant –
Wow! Fifty-six candles lose their cuteness factor when they no longer fit atop a birthday cake. Especially when their combined flames can be classified as a campfire. However, each birthday celebration is certainly younger than the next one around the corner. It’s all about practicing a positive perspective.
This year’s greatest accomplishment was kicking the coloring addiction. Sounds silly, but conquering that habit brought such freedom. Pesky silver intruders had waged a valiant battle for supremacy with my natural hair color. Not even the monthly bottled reinforcements could keep them at bay. One morning under the unforgiving harshness of fluorescent lighting the skunk stripe mocked me – again for the last time. Weary of combating their never-ending onslaught I sighed and raised the silver flag of surrender. Was admitting the futility of my efforts a moment of lunacy, ignorance or bravery? It was all of them, definitely all of them. After fifteen-years of concealing grey, I embarked on camouflaging grey during the growth process. Baseball caps, headbands, goopy hair product and even my phenomenal hairdresser encouraged me to push past the daily doses of doubt each time I peered into a mirror. An interesting snippet is that rapid hair growth only occurs when you (don’t) want it to. Now post process I can honestly say, I absolutely love the real me. Such freedom.
Hope For The Future –
I received a desperate phone call the other day. The parent caller shared the tragic story of their beloved child trapped in an abusive relationship. You could hear the depth of anguish in her raspy cadence. She was drowning in fear for her child’s safety. The basis of her fear wasn’t conjecture. It was based in the reality of past abuse occurrences. I knew the million-dollar question was right around the corner. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “Please tell me, is there any hope she will ever see the truth and break free from the grip of abuse? Can she become a healthy whole person?”
Swelling deep from a healed heart and transformed life, I could answer her with a resounding – Absolutely!
There is life after abuse. There is healing after abuse. There is freedom after abuse.
I am living proof that a child repeatedly scarred by the chaos of abuse can absolutely, unequivocally also create a stable, healthy, loving home.
Hear me. There is hope.