eye lock

I was 15 years old and in my freshman year at Ursuline Academy. My home room teacher was Sr. Ursula. She also happened to be my Latin teacher. I loved her.

But I did not love Latin.

Sr. Ursula took attendance on one cold and dreary December morning. When I uncharacteristically mumbled a quietly “here,” she looked up at me, paused and walked to my desk. She took me in her arms and after a few moments she asked,

“Mistress Mary, what troubles you so?”

I fell apart.

Nana had suffered a stroke the evening before.

Nana was on life support. My mother and her siblings and spouses gathered around her hospital bed. My brother and I were the oldest of her seven grandchildren and the only grandchildren present.

My mother spoke to Nana as if she were conscious. Mom encouraged my brother and me to do the same.

I did as told. I prattled to Nana about my cheerleading practice that I’d had earlier that day. I told her I did well on my math test. I couldn’t think of anything else to say as she laid peacefully with the ventilator doing its job.

I shifted from one foot to the other. My brother and I continued to catch eyes. We knew it did not look good.

Nana passed away the next day.

My Nana was a kind and special lady. She touched many lives. It was not surprising to see such an outpouring of people gather to offer their condolences at her wake.

But.

It was disarmingly surprising to look up and see my three cousins standing in that funeral parlor clutching their mother, my Aunt Betty.

“Surprising” is the understatement of the century.

I am referring to The Aunt Betty. The Aunt Betty who called my grandfather out on sexually abusing my cousins. The one who ensured that her children would never, ever have to see that monster again.

That one.

There in the parlor stood an incredibly brave woman embracing her three beautiful daughters as if she were their coat of armor.

The moment the family noticed her, the energy in that room filled with disdain. In their eyes, she was repugnant. The divorce of my uncle and her was atrocious. But that wasn’t the real reason they loathed her.

She was the one who exposed our grandfather for sexually abusing two of her daughters.

The girls looked horrified, frightened and as if they were trying to melt into their mother. Aunt Betty held them tightly. Very tightly. So much so that the four of them looked like one.

My eldest cousin, with eyes, averted to the floor, buried herself into my aunt’s left arm. My youngest cousin, only waist-high to her, buried her face into her mother’s hip.

Then, there was Laura. Laura leaned into her mother’s embrace with her left leg planted on the floor, and her right crossed behind it.

At that moment, Laura and I locked eyes.

She smirked. Not a mischievous smirk, Not a disingenuous smirk or glib smirk.

It was the same smirk that both of us wore in our school photos that were taken around the time we were being abused by Grandpa.

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It was a knowing smirk.

Those moments were profoundly impactful. She and I connected on a very intense level. I will never, ever forget it.

There stood a very brave woman. She dauntlessly brought her girls to say goodbye to their Nana, whom they loved. That took such strength in a room filled with such disdain.

But she did it.

Just as she had the courage to stand up for her daughters.

She had guts. She had gumption. She had MOXIE.

That was the last time I saw Laura. We never spoke the words of our abuse to one another.

But that look, that eye lock, said it all.

And 35 years later we have made up for time. We face it. We talk about it. We compare notes and share similar stories of how our lives have played out.

We continue to heal together.

That was the connection that my cousin Laura and I always had growing up together. We understood each other. We knew each other. And sadly, tragically, even, we lost many years.

Reuniting with her has been a blessing. It has been easy. And you know what? Our reunion feels like slipping into my favorite and most loved slippers.

That’s all.

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Chicken “Marysala”

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Here is my Culinary -“ARTS STUDIO.”

My bestie, Clare, has always said that I could make a few pieces of lettuce look delicious on a plate.  She is also the friend who lets me wear neon bike shorts in high school and let me marry my first husband.  But those are stories for another day.

I started placing said lettuce on that plate back when she and I were around 15 years old. I have come a long way, Baby.

I caught up with Clare tonight.  We live insanely crazy lives. But no matter how busy we are, she and I always carve out time for each other.

Because that is what best friends do.

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She has always stood up for me- both at the dress rehearsal wedding and this one, the main performance.

Clare keeps me grounded. She talks me off the ledge, encourages me and always has my back. She and I have been friends since 1982. We have had some serious run time.  The way I see it is that if she hasn’t dumped me by now, she probably won’t.

And I have forgiven her for the neon bike shorts.

She is exhilarated and exhausted by her new job.  She is trying to find the balance. She wants to crawl into bed at night and relax.  I SO get it.  I feel the same way. And I told her I could relate.

Clare said, “Mar, of course, you’re spent.  It’s not like you are writing about how to grow tomatoes.”

She was so right.

I am writing about my life. I am in a place of vulnerability. That is hard to turn off.

But, when my tank is empty, cooking fills me up.

One of my great passions is cooking. With or without tomatoes, it is as therapeutic as writing or going for a long run or organizing the sock drawer.

I read cookbooks the way some read novels. I devour them. They inspire me. The pages of my favorite cookbooks prove that they are loved by the smudges and smears of past creations. That may sound gross, but it is usually just the remains of some innocuous ingredient like olive oil. Don’t worry.

There is a process.

First, I hunt.

I get jazzed about reading a few recipes by my favorites, Julia, Ina, and Tyler.  Then,  I transform their ideas into my creation.  I encounter success and, on occasion, the big FAIL.

Then, I gather.

I am a grocery store aficionado. Maybe it is the agility with which I push my cart through the aisles.  Maybe it is the comfortable conversation I have with my favorite butcher, Douglas.  Who knows?

Trust me when I say that people randomly approach me in the aisle and ask me where to find the fish sauce or the golden raisins. It is as if I have a neon halo above my head flashing “pro-shopper” in two-second intervals. Yesterday, a dear elderly lady asked me where to find the bread crumbs.  We were standing right next to them.

Then, I create.

Creating can be messy, but it is rewarding. The transgression from “mise en place” to “TA AAA DAH!” evokes success. It brings joy and a feeling of accomplishment.  Best of all, cooking makes the people I love happy.

When my marriage was falling apart my past husband and I were disconnected and miserable, cooking became a coping mechanism for both of us. I did the cooking. He did the eating.  What a perfect arrangement.

At the time, our son was just a toddler who consumed so much time and energy, as wee ones do.  My ex and I both worked. We were always tired. At night, there were stories and prayers and tuck-ins (usually more than one.) Then, we were alone.

“Alone” and “us”:  not a good combo.

My former husband took to watching TV.  I took to the kitchen.  I would start cooking at 8:00 P.M. and usually somewhere around 10:00 P.M.  I would serve dinner in front of that TV.

It was our only semblance of togetherness. And at that time it worked. The TV held power over the dinner conversation. That made it easier for both of us.

In cooking, I found comfort.  It was my escape. It was the way he and I avoided one another, and it worked. I was so comfortable in the kitchen. I was having a fling with my cutlery and my copper core pans.

It sort of saved me.

My marriage ended, but my cooking was just the beginning of a whole new world.

My love of cooking started in my childhood home. My mom taught me well. I loved standing on a chair watching and helping as she cooked dinner on many nights.

Mom is an amazing chef who taught me, amongst other things, that cooking is chemistry. I thought I was screwed. Oh, how I struggled in Sister Robert’s chemistry class!

But as long as I was not required to balance any chemical equations, I was ok.

Mom’s Chicken Marsala was the bomb and became my “go to.” If I wanted to impress, I pulled out her recipe.  You know that “man’s heart and stomach” thing?  Chicken Marsala became my secret dating weapon.

Her recipe was decadent and delicious.  It was time-consuming as well but still worth the effort especially when love was at stake.  I cut, chopped, dredged, buttered and sautéed my way to the masterpiece (or heart-attack) on a plate.

It is funny, but I never cooked Chicken Marsala for My Michael until after we were married.  There has to be something subliminally psychological with that one, don’t you think?

My Michael sits with me as I cook, keeps me company and is my official taste-tester.  What a difference from my past days as a solo chef with no taste-tester.

Now, cooking brings our family together. It is not a means by which I isolate myself. Our routine is to come together at the table, break bread and break the news of the day. It is fun. Also, The Three Musketeers (A.K.A. our boys) provide our nightly dinner entertainment.

About a year ago one of my personal chef customers requested Chicken Marsala. Although my mom’s recipe had always been the gold star,  I decided to shake things up.  I studied a few recipes, and this is what I turned out.

It takes half the time as my mom’s delicious recipe as well as half the butter. They loved it!

So today, I wish to share a recipe with you.  I have cooked Chicken Marsala many times. Over time, however, it has evolved and become a newer version.  It has become a symbol of how I have created myself and how I have evolved, too.

So, enough of the cushy stuff.   Let’s get cooking, friends!

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Chicken “Marysala”

  •  4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. Bacon fat (I keep a mason jar with pan drippings on hand in my fridge. It is worth the calories.Trust me)
  • 8 ounces crimini or porcini mushrooms stemmed and halved 
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoon  butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and slice diagonally so that you have thin slices.

Lay a piece of parchment paper over them (or use paper towels if you prefer); pound with a flat meat mallet, until they are about 1/4-inch thick.

Put about 11/2 cups of flour on another piece of parchment paper and season with about 1 Tsp. of  Kosher salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Mix well to evenly distribute the seasonings

Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium-high in a large skillet (I use my grandmother’s cast iron skillet that quickly conducts heat evenly.)

While the oil heats, dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour and then shake the excess.

Place the cutlets in the skillet and fry for 4-6 minutes on each side until golden, turning once.

Do not crowd the pan; you need to be sure that there is space between the cutlets for them to cook properly.

Remove the chicken to half-sheet pan (a cookie sheet or oven-proof platter will do) which has been covered with foil of parchment paper. This makes the clean up much easier.

When all the cutlets are cooked, place in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium, and add the bacon fat to the drippings in the pan. Saute for 1 minute to render out some of the fat.

Add the mushrooms and saute until they are browned, and most of the moisture has evaporated 6 minutes or so, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the Marsala in the pan and increase the heat to high. Boil about a minute to cook down the alcohol.

Add the chicken stock and simmer for 2 minutes or so to reduce the sauce slightly.

Stir in the butter until melted.

Place the cutlets back into the skillet.  Simmer gently for several minutes on medium low.

Season with salt and pepper.

Plate the chicken and garnish with the fresh parsley.

Serve with rice pilaf or risotto.

That’s all.

Terrible Beauty

I had been accepted to Boston College’s Abbey Theater summer program! Just imagine, a summer in the Emerald Isle. What a wonderful adventure to precede my senior year of college. I was dancing a jig. I was ready for a Guinness.  I  was ready to meet my first leprechaun.

I had never been so far away from home.  And I had certainly not been away from home for such a long time. I geared up to be homesick.  I was doing the, you know, “managing my expectations” thing. There were dramatic goodbyes and gnashing of teeth and tears and farewells.

My family, my bestie, Clare, and my boyfriend of a few years (let’s call him “Guy”) waved their handkerchiefs in Logan’s Terminal E.  I was off.

As much as I looked forward to my adventure, I was semi-stuck in a state of despair.  What would I do without Guy for the summer? Oh sure, it would be “good for us to be apart for a bit,” as well-meaning folks said.

That was the world’s greatest understatement.

Twenty-five fabulous Boston College students joined in Sandymount, Dublin to unpack for a summer of storytelling, theater and history.  Off we went on the #3 bus to Dublin each morning to the Abbey. Off we went to the pub each afternoon. Life was good.  Friendships were made.

It was heavenly.

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The Syllabus!

If you have ever participated in the theater, you will understand what I am about to say.

Theater people are dramatic, not just on stage. Everywhere. And they tend to love big and loud. Theater people accept everyone.

My oldest is a chip off the old block.  He is an actor.

He has attended enriching summer theater programs; he has had all sorts roles in many productions. He has recited everything from one single line to entire monologs. His school has earned medals and awards. I am SO proud of him.

I have been the taxi driver to said performances and rehearsals.

Pulling up to Summer School for the Performing Arts each morning over the past several summers was a treat.  Each day there was IMPROV at car drop-off in the parking lot.  There was singing and laughter and hugs and high-fives.  Everyone was smiling.  It was seriously fun. It was welcoming and warm. I wanted to jump out of the car and join in.

The awesome thing about acting is that we can step out of ourselves and morph into whatever part we are playing. The stage is a welcome mat for whomever we chose to be. Actors know that. Actors accept that. On the stage, everyone can be a star.

In Ireland, I learned a vast education outside the classroom, too. Specifically on a bench by the sea with my new friend, Bob.

Bob was the first person I met when I arrived at our summer accommodation in Sandymount.

Bob has marked charisma. He commands a crowd with his quick wit and humor. He certainly gave the natives a run for their money. He is smart and hilarious and jovial.

He is deep.

Bob is also soulful and resilient. He is fervent. He is compassionate. He had been dealt a tough hand, but he rose above it. At  22 years old he had lived, and gracefully survived, a life that some have not lived by the age of 90.

What I learned was far beyond the syllabus.  I learned about strength and resilience.I learned about hope. I learned that I got to decide how I allowed others to treat me. The unfortunate thing?

It took almost 25 years to sink in.

What was mesmerizing about Bob is that he spoke in a way that lacked SHAME. He had been through the ringer. He had struggled. And he was shameless.

Holy. Holy.

For two months, we developed a friendship. We shared our stories.  My poor choices in life became apparent.   It was inspirational to see how he came out beautifully healed, gentle and in tact.

I had so far to go.

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Just another day exploring the countryside (in my green mohair sweater)

He offered such support and kindness. Tragically, it just whizzed past me.

I shared a few stories about how great Guy was. Then I shared stories about how NOT great Guy was.

Bob looked as if I had hit him in the gut.

He could not believe that beautiful (?) me could live with that.  He was filled with compassion.

He stood up and positioned himself as a boxer. He talked about being knocked down but that we have to get up, take our stance and fight back. We feel hurt and beaten. At the time, we can’t see it but eventually, we get it. And we mend.

And our beautiful scars show growth.

It was inspirational. It was moving. He was rattled by my pain. But I was not rattled by own pain.

Or so I thought.

I thought I was in love with Guy. I stayed with Guy in that horrible place because it felt familiar.  It was my comfort zone. It is what I had come to expect.

Here was the thing.

I loved Bob way you love your best friend. The friend who accepts you warts and all.

He loved me differently.

He could not understand why I would continue to stay with the abusive, cheating boyfriend. I could not accept his concerns or heed his advice.  I was young, naive and busted.

My benchmark for love was tragically shallow.  Guy was the “greatest.” The greatest to me was the one who made me feel like I was the worst, like I was in that familiar place. I attracted abusive men.

They were like moths to a lightbulb.

In hindsight, I understand. If I had gone to that loving place with him, I would have hurt him deeply.  On some subconscious level I believe I knew that I could not reciprocate.

Yeats refers to Ireland in his poem Easter 1916 as a “terrible beauty.” His metaphor is about Ireland’s emerging independence, what it took to get there and what would be the result from the Easter Rising.

Yeats said Irish Patriots suffered and died during the Easter Rising, which was both terrible and beautiful. There was beauty in their courage and fervor for independence. It was terrible that they suffered punishment and brutal defeat by the English.

But this it speaks on other levels, too. Ireland has lush green landscapes, pots of gold, but it also has the Dole. There has been illness and strife and poverty and plague. The sun shines simultaneously during a soft rain.

Ireland survived. And it is beautiful.

I was in a beautiful place full of hope and promise with grace all around me.  Grace was inviting me to step out of that dark place. Grace urged me to look at my choices and make different ones. I could not do it. Dark was better. Standing in the rain was better even though the sky held rainbows. I did not have what the Patriots had.

It was a terrible beauty.

On one of our final weekends in Ireland my dear friends, Jane, Bob and I took a road trip.  We stopped at a shop in Galway where I fell in love with two beautiful mohair sweaters. One was green and one black. I could afford only one. Bob wanted to buy the other for me, but I wouldn’t let him.

I didn’t deserve that!

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 Here we are discussing green? Or black?

(There has never been a greater negotiation as this one since my son hit his teens.)

Later that night we drove along Dingle Peninsula.  At the pinnacle, we pulled over next to a celtic cross. There were crashing waves, a full moon and a random lone sheep that jumped over the stone ledge that defined the narrow road from the sea below.

It was a beautiful night and a holy moment. I felt happy and full.  My summer had been magical. The three of us were quiet and took it all in.

I took a photo of Bob standing on the stone ledge.

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Look at his sweatshirt (Holy Cross). Look at his halo.

In December of our senior year, he showed up at my apartment with a gift. It was the black mohair sweater we saw in Galway.

I  never saw him after that. I never communicated with him after that.  I tried and tried, but he did not respond.  Ask my bestie, Clare.  Looking for him over the years became a “thing.” I was sad.

It was all my fault. I blew it.

Sometimes people love you no matter whether you allow them to or not.

At age 22, I was broken and hurting. I was in denial. I believed that Guy loved me.  He treated me beautifully on the surface, on stage, but he desecrated me.  He was an unfaithful playboy. He was disrespectful and cocky.

He treated me in a way that felt comfortable.

I am not sure that women realize something immensely important.  Just because he is your “boyfriend” you are still an individual who gets to pick how you are treated.  He is not the boss of you in any way, spiritually, physically, soulfully. You are IN CHARGE.

My Michael has a key chain that says “I’m Third.”

God is first; others are second, and he is third.

It is beautiful.  He lives it.  He is loving and kind and gracious. He is thankful and appreciative. He looks out for others. He does not kill ants. That is our only problem.

Bob was right. Grace gave me a hint, a promise. And 25 years later here I am.

My Michael is my forever Grace, loving me with kindness and an open heart and respect. I am treasured.  I never knew that would happen. Even though Bob told me that it could.

God loans people to us.

We never know for how long or for what reason.

We eventually realize it, and it is simply divine.

Thank you, Bob.

Thank you, God, for My Michael.

You kept good on your promise!

That’s all.

re- “Do”- nion

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Last year I decided to do what I love and love what I do. So, I started a business called “table24.” I offered personal chef and small-scale catering.

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Clams Casino and the logo

Out I ventured with grand plans, a beautiful website and chef’s jackets. Oh, the chef’s jackets! I was off to the races. I immediately had clients! I was busy in the kitchen! I was trying all sorts of new recipes! I am yelling right now!

Just what I wanted. Or so I thought. It was a huge disappointment. It was also a huge lesson.

You see, for me, cooking is a creative and cathartic outlet. Best of all, cooking is the means by which I express my love and affection for others.  In my family, food is glue for our togetherness. We all participate in it, find joy in it and, well, love to eat.  And I get to put it all on the table. YAY!

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Shrimp Etouffee- On My Michaels “A” list

My Michael and My Three Musketeers (a.k.a. my boys) get jazzed about giving me cooking challenges. We have had some doozies. One of their all time favorites is Fried Chicken and Waffles. It was love at first bite.  I am so happy when they are happy. And when mention of our evening meal gets airtime at bedtime prayers. Alleluia! Score!

As the head chef (and only chef) at table24, I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen.

Alone.

Alone and I are not a super combination. I am far too social. I started to talk to myself. I began a love affair with Dierks Bently and Keith Urban over Pandora. I developed a tick. It was worrisome.

Then, it dawned on me.  All of a sudden cooking carried a new meaning, a new stigmata- money.  It was my business so I charged people. I was expressing my affection for those about whom I cared and my new clients. And  I expected to be PAID for it?  Oh, how very wrong.

Talk about conditional love.

I packed up that carnival and left town.

Much like cooking, writing is cathartic. When I started MARYMORPHOSIS last month, my goal was to help others, to serve others, in sharing my story.

I recently attended my 30-year high school reunion. I had not been back to Ursuline in 15 years and was so looking forward to seeing everyone. Going back to Ursuline feels like going home.

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The motto of Ursuline Academy is Serviam, Latin for “I will serve.”

I was pleasantly surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the number of women, classmates and otherwise, who actually pulled me aside privately to express how impactful the content on MARYMORPHOSIS has been.

That to me is success.

When I first attended Ursuline I was thirteen years old and entering the 8th grade.  It had been a year since that day in the kitchen when I “outed” my abuser.  I was still reeling from the response, or lack thereof.  I was also still being abused.

My parents sent me to Ursuline primarily because it was an outstanding school.  But also, they pulled me out of public school because I was so horribly bullied that it was unbearable.

That is a story for another post, however.

This was on the tail end of the time span that my grandfather abused me but it was still happening. Simultaneously, I was traumatized by a handful of horribly cruel girls who victimized me because I had a new pair of Nike sneakers or a cute boy had a crush on me and not them.  How Cinderella-esque, hmm?

The Ursuline girls were beautiful in every way.  I was made to feel welcome. They included me. They were so kind to me.  Thank you eighth-grade friends, Gaby, Lisa, Anna, Sarah, Christine, Kim, Sheila and on and on.

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I was shocked.  How was it possible that all of a sudden I was liked?  I had a warped perception of myself. I loathed me. How on God’s green earth could anyone like me?

As the years passed my network of friends grew and changed.  I always felt liked and accepted on some level. But that deep-rooted hurt dominated.  Having been the victim of sexual abuse killed my spirit, robbed me of my purity and stripped me of my childhood.

Then vicious, vulture-ish girls took what was left.

Chin up!

I should have won an Academy Award. I played the part well. I was wearing a costume and by that in no way am I referring to my green plaid skirt and sensible brown shoes.  It was four years of “Showtime!”

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I still have my beloved green plaid skirt.  My Dexter is its best accessory!

I put my head into my books, and I pulled my grades from a consistent B/B+ average to a straight A average. Ursuline was HARD. And my classmates were brilliant. I did homework until 1:00 AM most nights. But I did it.

I was in clubs and committees, the class VP and the captain of the cheerleading squad at our brother school. I had great roles in school productions. I was cheerful with a cute and popular boyfriend who was the lead in the school musical. (Incidentally, while I was on stage he was backstage with one of the dancers. Yawn- you know that deal.)

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“S-U-C-C-E-S-S!! That’s the way we spell success!”

And, of course, I accomplished all of this on about 300 calories a day. I starved  myself so that I would be the skinny “-est.”  Eshh

Prior to the 30 year mark, former Mary would have fasted, had a fabulous hairdo and the perfect slimming outfit prior to attending said re-union. This year I didn’t iron my pants and I had roots. Oh, and I had dirt under my nails from gardening earlier that day. I did shower, however.

But in 2015, for the first time, I felt as if I could show my high school classmates the real Mary. The real, raw, honest Mary.

It felt so good just to be myself.

And my classmates were STILL nice to me.

When I post I often feel as if I have taken off all of my clothes and am doing high, deliberate kicks with “jazz hands” across stage of  the nationally televised Presidential debate.  I feel like I am the half-time show at the Superbowl.

It sounds mortifying, doesn’t it? Strangely, there is great comfort in vulnerability.

Every day I remind myself to “love myself with the heart with which I love my child.” And Honey, let me tell you, it is a hell of a lighter load.

I left my high school that evening feeling lighter and happier. I felt as if I were re-writing part of that sad high-school past. I felt as if I got a do-over.  I was able to accept the kindness of others. It was joyful.

Writing has become a part of my daily life. I know that some of my friends won’t read what I write. Some are probably shaking their heads and snickering with others on the ball field but want in on something?

I.COULD. NOT. CARE. LESS.

HA ! Imagine that!? It feels LIBERATING!  People can relate! Through one’s honesty, others find their humanity and feel a sense of community.

But, the best feeling is that I genuinely believe that I am helping people.  And folks have told me just that. And I believe them. So there.

“I will serve.”

It is such a juxtaposition that there is power in vulnerability, don’t you think? One would think that being vulnerable simply makes you weak. That is wrong. Bet on it.

“I am she. She is me.”

When my cousin wrote “He Wrote It Down” and I subsequently wrote “BEFORE He Wrote It Down, “ THOUSANDS no… HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS read our story. HUNDREDS WROTE TO US.

Over and over we read the response, “ME TOO.”Maybe you said it, too.

Do you see what I mean? In telling our stories, in our bare, honest truth and without shame, there is power. Good power. Power in your freedom, your happiness and your self-talk.

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There is an abundance of love that we all have deep inside ourselves that is meant for US. WE MUST LOVE OURSELVES.

And that, my pretties, is it for today.

That’s all.

Jeans

I rejoined Weight Watchers last week.

Weight Watchers and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship for the past fifteen years. Weight Watchers and I get along great each time we come together. We are committed to each other. Then, I get frustrated and need space. Or I decide to go back to my “buffalo wings and pizza” ways. It’s not you, Weight Watchers. It’s me!

I paid my forty-five big ones last week and attended a meeting with my favorite coach, Nancy.

Nancy, “Welcome, Mary! What brings you back today?”

Me, “Umm, I broke the zipper on my jeans twice.”

Other weight watchers, “Giggles.”

The following Saturday, My Michael and I went off to the mall. Jeans were our mission. We started at Nordstrom where he patiently sat and critiqued about twenty-one and a half pair (I could shimmy one pair just to the knee). Over an hour later we found the perfect pair that cost more than our monthly cable bill.

Then, we trekked to the other side of the mall to continue our mission and found ourselves at Lucky Brand. This time, I tried a mere ten styles of jeans and landed with a pair of adorable “boyfriend jeans.” How fitting!

The most delightful thing happened.

I tried my usual size that were enormous on me. After a few attempts, the adorable sales girl finally brought me a pair that perfectly fit. They were a size two. I have not been a size two since I was starving myself in high school. My Michael gave me the “VA VA VOOM!” and it was all settled. I was a two-jeans girl.

There are two things worth mentioning here.

First, Lucky Brand has a brilliant marketing program.

Second, the jeans were appropriately named “boyfriend jeans.”

For years, I dated guys who were so very wrong for me. Most treated me poorly. Almost all of them cheated on me. So many times I found myself in “negative Marymorphosis.”

If I were not thin, enough I would starve myself eating only celery and cabbage soup. If he preferred blondes, I would go off to the salon for highlights. At one time, I even changed my political party to appease a boyfriend. It’s a good thing we broke up before the Presidential election.

I tried over and over to fit into that size 2 “boyfriend jeans.” Standing in the fitting room, I had a moment of “Ah-HA!”; I did not have to force myself into those size two jeans. They fit me just as I was. My Michael would love me at any size, no matter what. The fact that I could be myself and wear a 2 was freedom!

It has taken me so long to reprogram my brain. I have had to learn how to change the voices in my mind prattling that I was worthless and terrible. It was brutal to myself. My Michael often reminds me to put down the bat with which I repeatedly beat myself.

My grandfather did not see me as a beautiful little girl full of delight, innocence, and wonder. He saw me as a physical object that he chose to dominate. I was not a person to him. I was not the sweet child of his eldest daughter. I was the vulnerable baby emu in the herd. Harsh but true.

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(I was so very little)

I was a physical object without emotion or blood running through my veins or a heartbeat. That is what I accepted as my role. That defined me. I, in turn, started treating my body as an object of control. That, my friends, is why I almost starved myself to death.

The aftermath of sexual abuse rears its ugly head in numerous forms. Victims suffer from a warped sense of body image, we develop eating disorders, we accept ill treatment in our relationships. We suffer from depression and anxiety. We are prisoners in our minds and bodies.

Look at media. In so many cases, images used in advertising are about appealing to one’s physical attraction and desire. Gorgeous, stick thin women with bedroom eyes and wearing little more than that sexy pout infest the pages of countless advertising campaigns.

Sex sells.

When you are robbed of your sexual identity before you hit puberty, it is highly unlikely to learn what self-respect and self-love are. Then, you see beauty and glamor and sex appeal all over, and that is such discord. How does sexy feel good? Why did I feel so undesirable and used?

Almost forever I have felt powerless, ashamed and distrustful. That is why I inserted myself comfortably in abusive relationships repeatedly. As survivors, our comfort zone is to be that object.  It is to be a nonperson- it is to be undesirable.

Many years ago I dated a man who was a big golfer. I spent many weekends at his summer home and enjoyed the summer social events, many of which were held at his country club. There was a particular group of guys who could be equated to the “popular clique” if we were still in high school. One of them included the club manager.

He was charismatic, good looking, a tiny bit curmudgeonly and “happily married” with an infant son.

One afternoon I was shopping in Boston with my good friend and we were at the Chanel counter. The woman was a talented makeup artist and even better salesperson. I left with a heavy bag of cosmetics and a lighter wallet.

Club manager called and said that his meeting in Boston ran late, and he missed his train. Would my good friend and I like to join him for dinner? After dinner, could he crash on my couch? We had a delightful time as friends do. We dropped my good friend off and went back to my apartment where I made up the guest room and said goodnight.

Use your imagination.

I was able to escape to my room and lock the door eventually with several bruises, but the next day I woke up covered in hives. I was convinced that I’d had a reaction to Chanel.

No, I truly did believe that.

Then, I drove him to the train. We barely spoke. I am not kidding.

I never mentioned it again. I was so ashamed. I had hives from that darn makeup.

It was upsetting, but I just passed it off and ignored it. I was ashamed of my naiveté in allowing this “friend” to stay with me. I never imagined that he would do what he did. What I SHOULD have wondered is why Club Manager could not book himself into the Marriott.

After the aftermath of all this trauma, I feel very lucky that I was able to get help. I have invested years in therapy, and I cannot tell you how many journals I have filled. It has been a painful, grueling road filled with hives and poor decisions, but I got out. I changed it. I shed the shame.

I met My Michael.

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(Happiness is….)

Now, despite my Weight Watcher on-and-off relationship, I do see my body as a vessel that holds a loving and compassionate soul. My Michael tells me over and over all the time how beautiful I am and how he adores me. I believe what he says although it is a conscious decision to do so.

After my son was born, I was drunk in love with him. I created a saying that has become my mantra.

“Love yourself with the heart with which you love your child.”

I wish that for survivors. I wish that for all.

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My wonderful boy!

Animation 101

It was time to register for my fall classes. I chose to opt, again, for an elective in studio art. Art was one of my great passions. I enthusiastically poured over the course selection and decided to mix it up from my usual drawing classes. Animation 101 was offered from 12-2, three days per week.

Here was my logic. First, who doesn’t love Walt Disney? Second, and more importantly, the class was held at noon. Translation: it would not interfere with my sleep schedule.

Very quickly I learned that Walt Disney had the patience of Job. Aside from watching paint dry, animation was the least fun and the most tedious art medium I could imagine. It was just another challenge to my perfectionism.

One afternoon, “Professor Animation” assigned our final project. We were required to create an animated flip-book themed “Rites of Passage.” I just wanted to pass the class. I decided a ballerina dancing and morphing into a beautiful butterfly would be easy enough. Boy, was I wrong.

You create a flip-book by subsequent images that are connected by the slightest changes. It’s a grueling and tedious process. It felt like my recurring dream in which I cannot arrive at my desired destination. It took me longer to draw this flip book than it did to write a 20-page paper on D.H. Lawrence.

Finally, my ballerina danced and twirled herself off of the dance floor and then fluttered herself right off into the sunset.

I earned my lowest grade of all time-C.

Like traditional animation, change can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Change can be excruciatingly slow and scary. Changing is stepping into the unfamiliar.

I had much in common with that ballerina, except, I never studied ballet.

 

It just wasn’t in the cards.

I was only eight years old when “The Thief” robbed me of my innocence and chastity. At that young age, I was unaware of sex. I did not know what it was or what was happening to me. He clearly defined it for me. It was about dominance and power. And it has held such power over my decisions, specifically relationships throughout my life.

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Little Me. Age 8

My baseline for relationships was poor and defined by disregard, disrespect, and abuse. My baseline was at the level of the bottom feeders.

Let me give you an example.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I met “Finance Boyfriend” at a happening bar. He was handsome in his Armani suit surrounded by his buddies. He was loud and overly confident, drinking his Maker’s Rocks. He put the full court press on me to go on a date with him. He made me feel as if I was the most beautiful and special girl in the whole smoky place.

It did not take me long to agree.

We started out with a bang! We talked endless times per day, and we saw each other every chance we could. He told me that time was irrelevant when we were together. When he met my parents in our THIRD week of dating, he brought my mother a bouquet and my father, a devout Catholic, a book on Pope John Paul 2. He was too self-assured and too good-looking and MOST CONVINCING.

And I fell for it.

One night we dined at an expensive, hip new restaurant.  It was crowded, loud and full of the beautiful people. He ordered an expensive Cabernet and the Kobe. I stared at him adoringly. Ah. Bliss! Then the bill came, and I pulled out my credit card and I paid.

I ALWAYS PAID.

A show followed dinner. I was excited to surprise him with the best seats in the Colonial Theater. I paid more for those tickets than I did for my new fashionable outfit and “6 hour-new” auburn highlights. We settled in said best seats. He turned to me and told me that it was not working out.

He told me about Brandy.

At first, I thought he was joking. I thought that he was changing his beverage choice. Then, it hit me. Brandy.

He dumped me third-row center. Again I felt disregarded, disrespected and abused.

I remained in those seats. I did not get up and walk away from him. I sat there and just watched the show play out. I did not change frames. On stage, the men in blue pounded on drums and splashed paint.

The audience and Finance Ex-Boyfriend delighted in the show. I sat quietly. Then I went home and wept.

Another month lost. Another heartbreak.

A few weeks later, at the same loud, smoky bar, I saw Finance Ex-Boyfriend. He was with the same buddies and wearing a different Armani suit. He had his Maker’s Rocks in one hand and Brandy in the other. He introduced us. They told me how happy they were.

Get me a bucket.

Just like that ballerina, I stayed stuck in this pattern, frame after monotonous frame. It was a perpetual ride of hurt and disrespect and disappointment. Sadly, the feeling was so familiar. And that is what kept me there. It was my comfort zone.

At last, I reached the denouement.

“Other Boyfriend” and I had just returned from an indulgent Caribbean vacation where we enjoyed the sun, delicious food, and caloric tropical beverages.

One night we got into it. He predictably said something snarky, and I unpredictably retorted. He stopped, his face contorted, and he said, “Why don’t you do some sit ups you fat cow?”

I left the room and stared at the wall with eyes filled with tears.

Ten minutes later he entered the room, set a wine glass in front of me, filled it with Chardonnay and said, “I don’t want to fight, ok?” He walked out.

Shortly after that, I mustered up every bit of courage possible. I threw my shoulders back, stood tall, and I joined him in the kitchen. I poured the wine into the sink all the while staring at him.  I said, “I am done.”

I reached my breaking point. I had been at the bottom of the sea in the company of the bottom feeders for way too long. I desperately needed air. I had to surface.

I raised the white flag. It took a long time.

My best friend, Clare has always loved me unconditionally, respected me and had my back. She held my hand through all my breakups and answered calls at all hours. She was steady as a rock. It dawned on me that if I could have that steadfast and loving relationship with my dearest girlfriend, why could I not have it with a man?

I did not believe that it was in the cards.
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But then, I met My Michael.

He adores and cherishes me. He loves me for who I am and who I am not. He believes in me and shows me every day that I am a gift to him. He respects me. In my wildest dreams, I would never believe that I could marry a man like  My Michael. IMG_2735

He threw me a 48th birthday party.

Here I am showing my appreciation.

 

After My Michael and I met we tested each other over and over. We had our ups and downs, but we both knew that we were meant for each other. Finally, I emerged from my cocoon. We married. Our marriage is full of mutual kindness, unconditional love, and respect. He is my miracle. I am blessed. And he feels the same way that is wondrous in itself. I broke the cycle.

 

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And we are living happily ever after!

That’s all.

 

A Few Thoughts

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You may not invite change but try to accept its invitation to you.

Make someone’s day.  Even if you are having a tough one.

Volunteer. Serve. Appreciate.

You are valuable.  Don’t give yourself away.

Give freely and don’t keep score.

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Elders are just older models of ourselves as we are right now.

Elders have wisdom. Don’t speak down to them. Just listen. You just might learn something.

Quit rushing the future. Live for this instant.

Love your job and if you don’t, quit and move on.

God is First. Others are second. You are third.

Study for life not just for the test.

That’s all.

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Happy New Year to You!

grace happens…

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ˈmirək(ə)l/

Several years ago I leased a beautiful, new car and was reveling in its purity. It was not yet tattooed by the hands of urban parking, and the rims were still gleaming. On my new shiny’s maiden voyage from the dealership, I drove to collect my son from school.

As I waited for him in the pickup line, I spotted my boy joyfully skipping to the car grinning ear to ear, backpack trailing and waving what I thought to be a piece of paper.

“Guess what, Mama?” he asked, out of breath.

“What, Sweets?” I responded.

“I won STUDENT OF THE MONTH!” he proudly announced.

I beamed! I wanted to shout it from the top of the Hancock Tower! I wanted to send out an email blast! YAY!

Then, he handed it to me. Yes, IT.

The sticker read, “MY SON WAS STUDENT OF THE MONTH AT BLAH BLAH SCHOOL.”

Oh, Lord.

first Grade School year (22)

This was, most likely, the only instance I voluntarily (was it voluntary?) slapped an announcement on my bumper. If given a choice, I would have publicized my son’s success in my way to my family and friends, not necessarily to my fellow commuters. TMI.

I can think of one other exception to sharing a message on my tail, however. I would be willing to post the sticker, “Grace Happens.”

Have you ever seen that bumper sticker? It has a white field with a serendipitous font and little yellow stars on it. It is light, hopeful and divine. I love it.

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It is TRUE! I believe that Grace happens all around us, all the time. It is a bestowal of blessings. Do you see it?

Each time I see that bumper sticker I am reminded to open my eyes and witness Grace. It is everywhere.

Grace has been present to me in remarkable ways on several occasions.

My dear dad passed away of heart failure in 2010. Clearly, it was sudden and the most devastating event in my life. I still miss him every single day.

Dad and I shared great passion and strong opinions on many topics, yet we agreed on few. Our relationship was a tumultuous one, but it never, ever lacked love. Looking back, I am thankful that, no matter what our differences, at least our relationship was REAL.

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At the time of his death, he and I were just starting to reconcile after a hurtful impasse that had kept us from speaking for months. Despite our past disagreements, we had never been so disconnected in my 43 years. Looking back, I would have given just about anything to have been on good terms when he left this life. I wished I’d had the opportunity for a do-over.

But he died. Grief crippled me. I could barely function.

One morning, I accepted that I could not face that day. I surrendered myself back to bed after I dropped my son off at school. Then, I had a dream that I am confident will remain crystal clear in my mind forever.

I dreamt that I was standing on a sidewalk on a rainy day waiting for my dad. He and I had a standing appointment each week on the same day. My head was down. I was studying a big, muddy puddle at my feet. Then, it dawned on me. He was not coming.

All of a sudden, to my surprise, a car slowly passed me, upsetting my puddle. It stopped when its rear bumper aligned with where I was standing. I looked up to see the driver’s window slowly roll down. My dad’s face appeared in the window, and he looked at me.

“Dad? But you are gone!” I said.

“I am not gone, Darling, I am still here with you.”

“Can you see me, Daddy?”

“I can’t see your face but I can see you from above.”

Then, I woke. The dream ended there. I felt enormous love in my heart and the deepest comfort imaginable. Grace happened. Reconciliation happened. I knew he would never leave me. It was finally clear. He loved me so.

I am so grateful that my dad continued to visit me for months after my dream. I understand that he was checking on me. He was reassuring me and he was trying to alleviate my excruciating grief and GUILT. Let’s not forget the guilt.

I felt his presence every Sunday at church and my husband made sure to have a clean handkerchief in his pocket. It became a thing. One day I saw Dad observing (inspecting) the landscaping of my new house. Good thing he could not speak. One time, for a split second, while waiting in the drive-through, I swear I saw my dad in the Camry two cars back. That was unexpected.

Life is messy. Life can be hard and tragic and disappointing and so many other things. On our journey, we don’t know where we are going to land. But, there is a plan. And Lovey, Grace has everything to do with it.

I do not know what inspired me spontaneously to look for and find my long-lost cousins on Facebook but I was overcome with the sense that somehow, that very moment, I needed to.

My friend request has reunited me with my Laura, who, in just five months, knows almost all the secrets I have ever kept. And if you keep reading my blog, soon enough you will know all of them, too.

We were meant to go to the police. We were meant to meet Officer Paul Smith. Officer Paul Smith was meant to find another victim of our grandfather’s abuse. Laura was meant to write her blog post, “He Wrote it Down,” which has resonated with SO many.

Now, Laura and I, holding hands, are about to do the next great thing. And guess what? We are certain that Grace will join us.

Grace happens! Do you see? It is a miracle. It is a marvel. It stupendous phenomenon and it brings very welcome consequences.

Thank you, Grace.

03 Native New Yorker (Radio Edit)

“Perfectionista!”

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“Hi! My name is Mary and I am a perfectionist.”

(Others in unison) “Hi, Mary!”

Being a perfectionist is a thankless addiction. That is because you can never truly succeed at it. Think about it. You can be a very successful alcoholic, drug addict, compulsive gambler, under eater, over-eater, shoplifter (well, that is debatable.) You get the picture. Try as you might, becoming a successful perfectionist is just, well, perfectly impossible.

Life’s little twists and turns have an irritating tendency of getting in the way of living perfectly. Just when you are on your way with a spring in your step, swinging your arms with great determination, whammo! You fall flat on your face. Owie.

I have strived to ensure that the world sees me as someone who is significantly pulled together, juggling a career, a home, getting the kids to all their activities and baking a batch of cookies at the end of long day.  You know, the one who never, ever, has a snack stuck in her teeth? Her. Despite my best efforts,  I have been derailed on many occasions while life chugs on. How dare you, life?

I am finally at a place where I am reasonably comfortable in my skin and accept that I am indeed enough and that “said skin” does not look the same as it once did.  Writing that feels like a relief.

Now, I can openly talk about my new job at home taking care of my loving family, waiting for the Geek Squad, organizing the junk drawer that refuses to close and picking up my dog’s doo doo in the back yard. Now, I don’t need the sexy, successful career to define me as it did in the past. I define me. Furthermore, my dress size and my self-worth are measured on very, very different scales. And I don’t floss. There. I said it.

There are days when I make a pork tenderloin for a post-op neighbor, throw a quarter in a stranger’s flashing meter and patiently listen to an elderly lady in line at the registry talk (slowly and in great detail)about her 17 grandchildren. On those days, I feel like a breath of fresh air.

Then, I have the days when I become impatient with the customer in front of me for chatting to the clerk about her guinea pig’s asthma, don’t allow someone to pull out in front of me or I beat myself up because it’s a fat pants day. Those are the days that I feel like, well, bad breath.

It is so much easier to accept that I am imperfect. I will share a story with you of how the pursuit of perfection almost killed me.

I was a senior in high school and felt as if my world was out of control.  To be specific, it was I who was out of control. The negative self-prattling in my head had me convinced that I was bad,  unlovable and on my own. My sexual abuse robbed me of many things including my self-love and respect, security.  I was filled with doubt and confusion and self-loathing. I was supposed to be able to trust Grandpa! As a little girl, I was rotting inside. And I was so ashamed. My self-worth was paper-thin. Don’t confuse self-esteem with self-worth.  They are two different animals.

Self-esteem comes from the confidence in one’s ability to achieve a visible and remarkable accomplishment,  outside ourselves.  That kept me alive. I could accomplish superficial things like good grades, good “high hair” and singing “We Got the Beat” in a Belinda Carlisle-ish way.

Au contraire, self-worth comes from a feeling within, a feeling of believing in oneself.  Within, I felt like that dog doo previously mentioned. Looking within meant shining a floodlight on all my secrets.  I could not tell my secrets to myself, let alone to anybody else. So I put my sight on that OUTSIDE accomplishment. I could trick everyone by giving the impression of being in high self-esteem. And so I did.

I was not overweight, but I decided that I wanted to lose weight.  Friends thought that I was a little lulu, but I convinced them that my plaid uniform skirt was getting snug.  I started dieting and learned pretty quickly that I was really good at it.  For the first time,  I was in control of something: food.  Weight loss was an endorphin, and I became a junkie. The more weight I lost, the better I felt and the more I wanted to lose.

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I remember my dad saying to me with a big smile one day, “Skinny Minnie!” I was SO PROUD of myself.  It was another motivation me to kept going.  Finally, I was skin and bones. My family and friends and teachers noticed and were gently suggesting in what felt like an adamant way that I had gone overboard. I was fine! Instead of listening I started layering. Layering allows you to be skinny and keep it a secret.

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“Layering”

(I was wearing two pairs of pants and, at least, three sweaters- effective!)

My mom took me to the doctor because I had become so thin that I had not had a period in over a year, and I started to get baby chick fuzz all over my skin. The mirror reflected an 103 pound,  5′ 7″ 17-year-old.  But all I could think of was that I looked so FAT. Oddly, that morning I  hit my head on the piano when I fainted from hunger.

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What does it take to be perfect? Everything. And it can even take your life. But Sugar, you will never, ever pull into that station because it just does not exist. I was eventually able to get control of my anorexia and recover from it.  It did not kill me, but it did not make me stronger, either.

Perfection is a hopeless aspiration, and the pursuit of it manifests itself in so many different ways.  This was one of the many ways I tried to get there, but I didn’t and I never will, and I am finally ok with that. While I am still very conscious of my weight today, I know how to keep a balance and live a healthy life that includes buffalo wings and pizza.

So, that is that.

“Hi! My name is Mary and I am a recovering perfectionist.”

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That’s all.

“BEFORE” He Wrote it Down

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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.

Bless!

That’s all.

 

http://inotherswords.com/2015/01/18/1473/

 

 

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