My plan was to finish setting the table and hit the sack. I looked forward to the next day, Thanksgiving Day, which promised to be a memory maker surrounded by family, enough food to feed a small country and football, as you probably figured. I turned in early and cozied up in bed next to my husband who had long been asleep and turned my attention to my evening routine of checking the newsfeed on Facebook. Ahhh.
Many of the posts were about being thankful or turkey size or sharing photos taken hours before at high school reunions.
Holidays make me nostalgic. Until I remarried several years ago, I did not have much family. But, at one time I did.
I thought about my cousins frequently. My aunt got my cousins in their divorce settlement, and since I was a member of that side of the family, I didn’t get them. I never understood why. I was young. I later learned that at that time I only knew part of the story. All I knew was that I was told that my aunt was bad, and so were my cousins, you know, that “association thing.”
As children, we spent so much time together and were so close. We played countless games of four square and re-enacted endless episodes of Little House on the Prairie wearing our calico maxi dresses and the bonnets that my mom sewed for us. I predictably played the part of Mary and Laura played Laura. Of course.
Where were my cousins? What were they doing? Were they happy? Did they have children? Were they cooking a turkey tomorrow? Stuffing; cornbread or savory sausage? And who would carve the bird, break bread and give thanks with them?
Dammit! We were supposed to grow up together, to be each other’s bridesmaids and hold each other’s hair back and hold each other’s babies! We were supposed to hold hands through life’s highs and lows. They were supposed to be the sisters that my mother did not bear. It was incredibly unfair. I tried to figure out who to blame and then I decided. Our grandfather.
Then, it happened.
On that Thanksgiving Eve, 2014, I had the chutzpah to look for my girls and there they were, as beautiful as ever. THANK YOU FB.
And the happy dance happened.
Just as I predicted, Laura and I still held a strong resemblance to each other. I looked at her photo with her great big smile and her gentle eyes and had a very strong feeling that this was meant to be. A reunion.
Snuggled in bed I struggled between biting my index finger/ my fingers hovering over the keyboard, biting my index finger/ my fingers hovering over the keyboard, repeat, repeat and then I mustered up the courage and did it. “Friend Request Sent”. There was a wave in my gut of “Oh my Gosh, I did it!” mixed with, “What if they hit the “Ignore Request” icon?
On Thanksgiving Day, after a very long 35-year hiatus I had my Laura back. So thankful for that.
Our first call lasted over three hours.
Me, “Why did we lose each other? Why did we never see each other again?”
Laura, “Well, I think that there were lots of reasons.”
Me, “Ok, I am going to call the pink elephant out of the room. Let me tell you a story.” This is what I said.
On a summer day when I was only 12-ish, we had just finished dinner and were cleaning up. My uncle, who was living with us during his divorce, had come home with a nest of bees in his bonnet claiming that my aunt had fabricated a story that my grandfather had molested my cousins and proceeded to obtain a restraining order against him.
I watched and then with about as much bravery and courage that any little girl could muster, tabled my shame and said in a small voice, “He did that to me.”
Stop. Pause. Turn. Head cock. Dish towel down.
Parent “I wish you had told me that.”
Me, “Well, I am telling you now.”
That was it. That was all. The moment turned from little, petrified and ashamed Mary to the importance of those dinner dishes getting cleaned RIGHT AWAY.
This time, THIS abuse, was worse than at the hand of my grandfather. Who was going to protect me? Did they love me? Why won’t they believe me? I must be bad. That was it.
On that day, with all my might I bravely stepped out of that dark scary place,believing that if I could get myself there, if I could stand in the light just for a moment that it would be ok.
I held that abuse, my shame and my self-loathing inside that little body of mine, and it festered there for years having a say in my choices, my decisions, my life.
In January, for the first time in 35 years, Laura and I met. Wrapped in cozy blankets with copious amounts of chamomile tea and in front of a well-tended fire, courtesy of my husband, we let it rip, shared it all and figured out many of the missing pieces. Together we agreed that Grandpa had our past but he will never, ever have our future.
We decided to put that to rest on the next day by dancing on his grave. And so it happened.
“We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. “
The next thing that happened?
HE WROTE IT DOWN
To view the sequel to this story, a story that has resonated with so many, written by my beautiful cousin, click below.