My life spiraled out of control because I waited…
…for those words that every kid deserves to hear from the ones that brought them into this world. I often asked myself, why can’t she see me?
Once in drama class, the teacher posed the question: If you could have one unusual ability, what would it be? One girl said to make herself invisible.
I already knew what that was like.
From a young age, my bones harbored the writing bug, starting with my first journal, then short stories, and even poetry, that by the time I transitioned to high school, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I dared to ask my mother to read some of it, but she never did. Never had the time.
She didn’t make the time.
As part of our dinner routine, my parents would ask my sisters and me about our day. Since Melanie followed my mother’s footsteps into law, she often talked about happenings at school, which sent my mother back in time to her law school days. As I listened quietly to a dialogue that I could never be a part of, every once in a while, I glanced at my mother. The golden stars in her eyes could illuminate a room. When those stars appeared, my utensils went from a tinker to a sharp clang in contact with my plate, startling them both. As for my younger sister Tina, she always had a multitude of stories to tell from her activity-filled school life, which included seats on committees, student helper, and this year, snagging the title of class Vice-President no less, transforming her into Miss Popular. I wonder how she had time to even blink!
One evening, much to everyone’s surprise, I finally had something to add, which I knew for sure would make my mother happy, since she was always after me to join some school thing. My news of being asked to write for the school paper elicited a “that’s wonderful dear,” from my father while waiting in wild anticipation for some response from my mother. Her quiet, controlled demeanor as she carefully halved her potato, told me her mind needed time to process this, like the way she meticulously raked over points for an upcoming case.
The minutes went by snail-like, so much so that I thought that maybe she didn’t hear me. When she finally spoke, in a frosty tone she asked, “Is there anything else you might consider?”
I stiffened at what she really meant: Can you find something better to do?
I admitted that nothing else appealed to me, and that was it. She moved on.
I wasn’t surprised; her indifference to my writing reinforced her disapproval of my intended career. I could accept this.
What I couldn’t accept was the sting of her words crashing into my ear, that very evening, as I approached my parent’s bedroom door to say good night.
“I keep telling her to think of her future. Think of a real profession. This writing will never take her anywhere…”
The door immediately became an enormous icy wall and I backed away, my frozen insides trailing after me as I picked up speed. The wrong words sliced into the deepest core of my heart worsening the verbal bruises from earlier this evening. My life spiraled out of control.
Arguments with my sisters over petty nonsense things became a regular occurrence. In classes, I heard my teachers but stopped listening. Soon Cs and Ds schemed together to shove the usual As from my assignments. Dane, the school newspaper editor, chastised me for producing sloppy reporting lately.
My best friend Trish severed our friendship, but could I blame her? I didn’t recognize me either. The real me had become invisible. A new group of friends consisting of the outcasts - kids who lived for the moment and loved to party, welcomed me, although hesitantly when I first came around. My first cigarette initiated me in. Now, I went to school when I felt like it. If I deeply disappointed my mother before, I must have completely disgusted her now. What did it matter anyway? Hadn’t I waited long enough to hear those special words? The words that my sisters heard over and over again?
I stopped writing altogether. I needed a new high.
At the next party my group invited me to, they introduced me to many liquid friends of varying personalities from sweet to bitter, with the potential hint of danger if I should welcome too many at the same time. I didn’t mind the danger. Later, the world went dark.
My head ached as I lay in this unfamiliar bed, unable to open my eyes, I could hear soft talking punctuated by sobs. At my side, the tortured voice apologized repeatedly, while something softly caressed my hand like a silky feather before tracing around and through my fingers.
“My poor fragile baby,” my mother managed to say. “I want you to know that I read the two poems you had given me. Do you remember? They were so sweet and so beautiful, especially the one called ‘Mom.’ I am so sorry that I took so long to read your words.”
My mother showing such raw emotion was foreign to me. Her armor had come down. Tears built up under my own eyes preparing to escape.
“There is something else,” she said quietly. “Tina told me that you had won a poetry contest at school and that they even displayed it in the foyer.” She blew her nose. “You never told me! Why didn’t you tell me?
I wanted to…
“I went down to the school to read it. It was called-” Her breaking voice blurred the word ‘INVISIBLE.’ “It was amazing, deeply emotional. It sounded so…real.” Her hand tenderly touched my face. “I realize now that I wasn’t always there when you needed me,” she whispered, still sniffling, “but I promise things will be different.”
Are you starting to ‘see’ me now?
“You are truly talented Sarah.” She gently lifted my hand placing it into hers.
“I am so proud of you.”
The tears that threatened to present itself now raced down my cheek, and I squeezed my mother’s hand.
They were the six most beautiful words that emerged at last.