I feel 26…..

156743_1723899223980_6197747_nI saw a post on Facebook the other day. It was one of those inane tests we take to gain insight in our lives. As if by pushing the ‘start’ button, we are going to find out a hidden secret that will change our lives. This particular test was about our age. Specifically, how old you felt right now. A friend of mine commented on the post saying “I think all women still feel 26, no matter how old they are”. I have been reflecting on this since. Have I thrown off my girlhood? My innocence? Have I let go of that cherished time?  How old do I really feel?

I still clearly remember my first kiss. I can transport myself back to that single moment. I remember the surprise when I realized he was about to kiss me. I can shift myself to the right just a bit and look up and see the brightness of the light we were standing under. I can still feel his mouth. The softness and warmth of it. The sheer thrill of slipping across a mark in my life. I can recall the terrifying thought that I might not be doing it right and the goosebumps I got when he put his arm around my waist to pull me closer in.

I also remember, unmistakably, the most horrific thing any young girl could experience. My dad walked around the end of the skating rink and caught us locked in an embrace and yelled, quite loudly and publicly, “QUIT SUCKING ON HIS FACE!”. I say this will all sincerity, I don’t think I was ever more humiliated as a girl than right then. I remember the boy abruptly letting go, hanging his head, walking away. I can still rouse up the feeling of embarrassment and the sting of the first tears as they started to fall. I know the sick feeling of wondering if, not only the moment had been ruined but the relationship as well. I can still taste the bitter taste of hate that I had for my dad and the heat of the humiliation that ran through my core.

When the boy finally tired of me, the second chances all gone, I remember the first time I felt the true feeling of rejection and heartache. The loss I suffered and the love that still dwelled, ir’s still here. It has smoothed over and healed, but a scar takes it’s place.  The feeling of not being wanted anymore, the hole it left, the words he said, his voice comes back to me. Will that ever be lost? Will I keep all of these bright spots and low carvings until I am an old lady?

These emotions and responses are still so real to me. I don’t feel as if they happend to a girl thirty-some  years ago. It’s much closer than that. It was just the other day. The details are sketched in a flash-back that is so easily recalled. I can summon this memory with barely a whisper. It doesn’t seem so long ago, how could it be that long ago? Is that even possible?

Did my Grandmother’s remember their first kisses with such clarity? Did they wonder what ever happened to that sweet boy who stole a kiss from them under the street light or the bright light of the moon? Did they remember the smell of his cologne or the feel of his hands? Can my Mother call up memories with such ease?  The thought that they did is a dreadful feeling. I  may have missed the opportunity to ask the questions and store their answers. I can no longer  learn from and pass down their most precious memories to their great-grand daughters. I pine over the loss of not being able to share this part of their lives. My Mother is still here, I won’t miss her stories.

12105863_10208289563583413_8576046580673694269_n

I have children older than I feel. They shouldn’t be grown, having children of their own. We should still be playing little league and chasing fireflies.  There is a line in an old country song, “I still remember, when 30 was old.” Can you remember that? Do you feel that? That unrealistic realization that 30 is behind you? Does it startle you once in a while? Some days I can hardly comprehend the reality that my youth is behind me and I have a son who is 30.

I still blush when a pretty man appears to be flirting with me. I still swoon over my favorite movie star. I can listen to that special Journey song and be in the that Trans Am, pushing at the boundries that my mother laid down. Watching Footloose takes me back to the theatre at the Mounds Mall with my boyfriend and the anticipation of what would happen on the car ride home. I remember my first ‘I love you’ that really meant something. and the way it made me feel. The security of knowing he was really mine. Does that feeling ever go away? Will I have that precious memory when I am 60? 70? 80?  Where did my life go? It’s happening so quickly. The more I try to slow it down, the more slippery it becomes.

I have accomplished a lot in my life and I have raised five amazing children and I am proud of that every day. I love the life I have, I am blessed in every way. I think what I am saying is, I don’t feel 50.  I am surprised by the flaws in my skin and the weight of my breasts. I am taken aback with how my body has begun to betray me. I mourn the loss of the ability to conceive another child.  My uterus is gone, my eyebrows are disappearing at an alarming rate. My hips are wide and  under all that platinum blond hair that I work so hard to maintain, I have just a touch of gray, though you will never see it. All that just surprises the hell out of me. It’s hard to wrap my head, arms, heart around. Was it hard for my grandmothers in the same way? When my Mother looks at her reflection, what does she see? Is it at odds with what she embraces?

When I was 17, I loved Prince. Amy Jo and I watched Purple Rain too many times to count. We dressed like Apollonia and tried to mimic her sultry pout. Jumping into that old Camero, we would push the Purple Rain cassette in before we even started the car. The music pounding, we sang all the words we knew so well. Words I still know. We didn’t have a care in the world. We were free. Yesterday when I heard that Prince had died, I thought of Amy  first. A piece of our youth died. We made memories to his music. I still remember the summer nights out on Gun Barn Road, drinking Bartles and James and shattering the hot, quiet night with his songs. My mind can still be there in the blinking of an eye.

I miss the youthfulness of my body. However, my mind still holds on tightly to the tender pleasures of being naive and the suppleness of my younger years. I can’t imagine letting this part of myself go. I hope all the yearning in life is always there. I won’t throw that part of  myself away. The precious memories and the awakenings of pleasures so sweet,  I will hold on to that with a strength that will never allude me. I still feel relevant. I feel young even though my body reminds me daily that I might not be. I feel 26. How old do you feel?

 

Amy Jo

A best friend is so many things. She is there in the hard and in the good. She keeps you grounded and encourages you to jump. A best friend is so important. You have to have somebody to keep all of your secrets. You need someone to jerk you back to reality when you’ve left the building. My best friend is Amy Jo, and this is for her.

Amy and I met at church. I don’t even know who she came with the first time. What I do know, is that we hammered out a friendship that has stood up to 38 years of lunacy, madness and screwball ideas. We have journeyed to the other side into a bright light of love and laughter.

Amy and I got into trouble. A lot. I can honestly say,  she was my one friend that was equally at fault in our endeavors. I didn’t have to talk her into anything. If I suggested it, she was up for it and vice versa.

We were together constantly. She was at my house or I was at hers. Our parents laid a track from one house to the next. Amy and I always went to different schools, with the exception of our eighth grade year. My Mom was divorcing and we moved into town for almost a year. It was nearly impossible to handle the reversal of fate when the divorce was over and I moved back to Yorktown. I was reunited with my friends but was ripped from my life with my best friend. Amy eventually went to Anderson High School and I stayed at Yorktown. The distance never mattered but getting our drivers license greatly diminished our parents part in the jaunt between my house and hers. Besides, that just doubled the amount of boys we were privy to, you can’t oppose that too much.10850000_10205752157349843_5314070878216385640_n

We were much more free to come and go now. We just borrowed a parent’s car. Occasionally a broken curfew, smoking or disrespect would get  us into trouble.

We were NOT supposed to smoke in Mother’s car. She had a new Pontiac 6000. It was spotless and we were to keep it like that. We were sitting at the stop light at the intersection of Mounds Road and the bypass one summer. Windows down (also a no-no), cigarettes lit and music loud. My Mother’s husband pulled up right beside us, looked over at us and waved. Holy crap. I got into trouble and was grounded from the Pontiac permanently. We had a big ‘ol Station Wagon and I was relegated to driving that. It was AWFUL!!! That horrific Station Wagon in the Vacation movies? The same car, only cream-colored instead of green. It was four miles long and had the big wooden panel down both sides. I thought I would die. I totally own now that I had done this to myself, but at the age of 16, this was utter humiliation and I was sure I would die of embarrassment. I loved a boy back then who went to school with Amy, Chris Hooten. I actually met him at church, he came with his grandparents. I chased him in that mortifying way only a teenage girl can aspire to. So, I drove the car. I wanted to see him and he lived across from the Wigwam, Anderson High School’s gym. That was forty minutes from my house, so I drove that damn car. I parked in a vacant lot caddy-cornered from his house, in hopes that no one would notice. That would be about like not noticing I’d had my head removed. No one said anything, though. (Ginormous sigh)

When I was seventeen, I finally got my own car. A 1977 powder blue Camaro. Oh my goodness, I was so excited! My step dad worked at the Pontiac dealership and he took it in to do some work on it. He added a spoiler and took the front passenger seat out to replace it with a new one. He had to order a new seat for the car, so I was left with a new car and only one seat in the front. Amy and I were determined to go cruising. At first, we just tried Amy out in the back seat. That didn’t work. She was too far away. We settled on a milk crate. We set it in  the spot where the passanger seat would eventually be and Amy hopped in. This was before seat belt laws. She was just sort of precariously balancing herself on a little plastic orange milk crate. Every time I took off, Amy went flying into the back seat. She would  haul her butt back out of the back seat and onto the crate and situate herself and I would have to stop and start again and off she would go. We were so tickled.

This is how all of our stories went. Improvising and laughing and if the night was awesome, libations and a bit of larceny. We watched Tom Cruise in Risky Business a thousand times. We learned all of the Thriller moves. We watched the very first video ever played on MTV, Video Killed The Radio Star. We watched Bandstand and listened to Eddie Money. We went to concerts and ballgames. She was there when I had my children, she cried with me when my grandparents died and she carried me through my divorce.

Amy is a beautician. Or she was. She had an ATV wreck several years ago and broke her back. I happened to be in town for a funeral and Lynnetta called me at Mother’s and told me that Amy had been in an accident and she was in the hospital. I went immediately. She was pretty high but she did remember my being there. Nothing like scaring me to death. Her life has changed drastically. So has mine. We have learned to adjust to our new lives together.

Amy and I now live 500 miles apart. Thank God for Facebook. We see each other when I am home and I am waiting on her to come and see me. (hint hint AJ) I hope you have a best friend. She is so important to me. My children know our stories, I hope her children do too. Find someone to share your stories with. There is nothing as precious.

262355_2218025256822_5645402_n

I didn’t need a psychiatrist, I needed the dog whisperer….

I see a lot of posts on Facebook about anxiety. I suffer from anxiety. Whether it is from years of living a very stressful life or because of my heath, I don’t know. No one seems to be able to figure that out. So, it’s kind of irrelevant. I am on medication. Actually, a few medications, but I still have meltdowns.

I get very ‘nervous’ for lack of a better word to describe it. I feel as if something bad is about to happen. I go through a little routine where I list all the things that might be wrong, but aren’t. I may text all the kids to make sure they are ok. I don’t actually say. “Hey, I’m havng a total nervous breakdown right now, just checking to make sure you’re still alive.” Now, that is what I am really wondering, but I usually just say hello and if I get a response, I can check them off of the list.

Now, I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s kind of embarrassing. No, it’s really embarrassing, but I feel like you should know this. It’s so simple, maybe it will help you if you have these issues, as it has helped me. It’s not a cure and I don’t plan on not taking my anti-depressant (Tom Cruise can go flip sand), but it really has made a difference.

Ok, here it goes. We have an unreasonable amount of dogs. Through no fault of our own, really. Some people are babe magnets, we are dog magnets. They rule our house and are completely out of control. We decided to watch a show on Animal Planet with Caesar, that dog whispering guy. I mean, it couldn’t hurt…Anyway, in one episode, this woman was making her dog incredibly tense because she was so tense. Her anxiety was making this poor dog nuts, and he acted out. Ceasar The Fantastic dealt with the dog, but he also sent the woman to someone to help her with her feelings of anxiousness in hopes that she would calm down.

The woman showed up for her appointment and a bunch of stuff happened that I can’t really even remember. She was going to be shown how to breathe, to take some of her anxiety away and the hope was that she wouldn’t freak the dog out if she was breathing the right way. I watched this whole episode in kind of distracted way. Ken and I were laying in bed watching TV with all of our bad dogs and I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention. But, God was watching too, I guess, and he thought I needed to pay attention. I starting watching what they were teaching her. Literally, they were showing her how to concentrate on her breaths. What did her body feel like while she was inhaling and exhaling? That’s all she was to concentrate on. Simple, huh? Sounded like snake oil to me.

Of course, when she and her pooch were united, she breathed the right way and he followed her commands and stopped trying to kill everything they passed while they were taking their walks.

I have always thought I’d try yoga. But really, you know, who just sits down one day and does yoga? I have tried to meditate several times, but my mind is a whirling dervish of chaos and I just can’t do it! Never-the-less, I got anxious one day about nothing. I was stressed and freaked out and upset and tired. I started to breath. Just like that gal did on Ceasar’s  wonder dog show. I concentrated on how each breath felt on the inhale and the exhale. I paid attention to how it felt in each part of my body. I started with my head, feeling each part of my body on the inhale and exhale. I did this three times. It lasted about 20 minutes, I guess. I just concentrated on breathing. Because I chose to concentrate on each specific part of my body and each breath and nothing else, I was able to keep my mind focused. When I stopped, I was so calm. I wasn’t nearly as anxious and I really did feel more relaxed.

For a few days, I would get anxious and think, this won’t work this time. It can’t be this simple, yet it was. Now I’m not telling you that I am this non-crazy, peaceful, Dali Lama-like person now. I never will be. I’m just too high-strung. What I am telling you is, this really does work. If I find myself freaking out over nothing, I just start breathing. It may not completely fix it, but it always helps. That’s a win in my book.

So if you are a nut like me and you find yourself in a fit of crazy, just breath. I hope it helps you like it helped me. Just don’t tell anyone you learned it from a dog trainer. I mean really, what does that say about us?

My Kadey is 24 today

It’s my Kadey’s birthday today. It’s hard to believe that he is 24 years old. There were times when he was growing up that I wasn’t sure if he would make it. Or I would make it. Or both….

Kade was always an ornery child. He started really young. He was always into everything. He found things to make me crazy. I’m not saying that facetiously. There were times that I thought I might go bat crap crazy.

He got stuck in the clothes dryer one time. I can’t tell you how tempted I was to just leave him in there a while. At least I could relax a while, certain where he was and couldn’t destroy anything.

He made me cry. A lot. I would get so frustrated with him. Then I would feel horrible. He would look at me with his big blue eyes, so serious, and say “What’s wrong Momma?” He truly didn’t know. He was curious and I think that he really just wanted to ‘see’. See what would happen if he cut his sister’s hair off. See what would happen if he put the car into drive while Nana had it started. See what the dog would look like with a mohawk. See what would happen if he shook an entire can of Comet all over the bathroom. See what mom would do if he hid in the closet or the dog house or the barn.When I was frantic and crying and getting ready to warm his butt, he’d say “I was just playing Momma.” To be really honest here, sometimes he got spanked out of pure frustration. I never claimed to be the best mother, sometimes I just lost it. When you can’t find one of your children and you have screamed yourself horse and the little shit comes up and tugs on your shirt with a big grin on his face…Sometimes he got a beating. I have prayed and asked for forgiveness. I am not even sure how necessary that was, God was watching the whole thing.

1930630_34789637941_94_n

Then his teenage years hit. His favorite show was Jackass. He and about twenty of his friends formed a group called White Picket Fence. I’m thinking, great! A positive outlet. I thought is he was busy making silly videos, he might stop beating the crap out of people. Not that he was a bully. Kade was never a bully, but he loved to fight. Any reason or excuse. Someone picked on one of his siblings? Oh heck no! Someone said something about one of his friends? It was on. Goodness, that boy loved to fight. And he was GOOD at it. That was the scary thing. I was afraid he would beat someone to death. Maybe this would take the ‘fight’ out of him a bit. Well, it kinda did. In a messed up, sort of self-inflicted pain, sort of way. Oh the things those boys did. For some reason, they all liked to tell me all about it. The boys have always been that way. You don’t tell your mom these things! These were the things you hid from your mother. Not my boys and not their friends.

They SHOWED it to me! My new motto was, ‘Ignorance is bliss’. I would plead with them to not continue with the story or not to show me the latest video. The crap they pulled for these videos. Oh good grief. I will say though, after making dozens of these videos, they did finally get one on GAC, Country Fried Videos and Spike TV. Kade biggest ‘stunt’ was that the guys nailed his lip to a board. Yes, you heard me..1931038_40386902941_3532_n You’d have thought they had made a movie with the Cohen Brothers

Kade always had good friends. I miss them all being at the house. You never knew what they were going to be up to. I just pretended they were really good boys and were probably just our mowing an old lady’s yard or volunteering at the Food Pantry in town. They got into trouble once in a while. Lucky for all of them, I was the Mayor’s Assistant and the Chief of Police and I were good friends. They both got called on a few occasions when a policeman would show up at the door. Nothing serious, just stupid. A lot of stupid.

Kade and Zack always fell asleep cuddling. I have a lot of pictures of those two. Kade and Sam fought a lot. Well, Kade beat him up a lot. Kade and Zack decided to cut their hair in our bathroom. Kade used clippers with no guard on and ended up looking like a skin head. They called my office one time and acted like they were the Newport Police and they were in jail for ‘Tagging’ the McDonald’s with the WPF logo. They ate everything in my house, and destroyed Kade’s room. Kade and Kyler fought all the time and they kept slamming their bedroom door so I took it off of the hinges and they went doorless for about two months. They snuck girls in and I ran them out. They terrorized Kennedy, finally breaking the lock on her door (Tyler Fortune). She ALWAYS locked the door, (Logan Loftis) seemed to have a real knack of walking in on her when she was indecent. I’ve thrown them out, banned them from the house then welcomed them back because I loved all of them so much.

I can’t tell you how much I miss those times. I would go back there in a minute although at the time I wanted to kill them all.

Kade has grown out of most of this. He is the caretaker and worrier of the family. He comes up to the house every Sunday to spend the day with me. He is a hard worker and he makes friends with everyone he meets. He is fiercely protective of his sisters and he loves the bond he has with his brothers. He is so excited about his new nephew. He has the biggest heart and he is the most loyal person I know. He has a girlie we all love. He has huge dreams and I would bet all I have he will make it all happen.

Today is Kade’s day. His new trip around the sun. Today is the day we celebrate him. He is my  Kadey and I am so blessed to have been able to take this funny, stressful, sweet trip with him so far. I’m looking forward to the next 24 years, these ought to be easier, he has quit nailing parts of his body to boards. Happy Birthday, Kade. Momma loves you.

Oh, and you are really curious, you can go to YouTube and search White Picket Fence Videos. Enter at your own rish……

The Ebbert Women

My Grandma Ebbert was my Mother’s mom. She was a little woman. When I was young, she was maybe 5’2, she seemed to shrink a bit each year. When she died she was nowhere near 5 feet tall. Her size didn’t matter, though, she was fierce.

There were three girls and one boy in their family. Grandma’s first child was a son, Billy Byron. He died when he was 10 days old. He had scratched his face with his fingernail and it got infected and he died from Staph. My Uncle Monty was 20 when he died. He was in a car accident, his injuries weren’t life threatening and he was preparing to come home. He developed a blood clot and it went to his brain and it killed him.

My Grandmother NEVER talked about my Uncles. I would occasionally ask questions and although she was always nice about it, she was curt in her answers. I remembered my Uncle Monty. I had pictures of the two of us together when I was a baby. I could ask Mother, but I learned early on to not bring the subject up with Grandma.

Because she was so undemonstrative about anything emotional, I was under the impression that it really hadn’t affected her that much. After I started having kids, I remember talking to Mom about it. I made the comment that it didn’t even seem like she cared. Mother told me a story about Grandma, shortly after Uncle Monty had died. He died in the fall and Thanksgiving was the first holiday after his death. Mother said she went into the kitchen to see if Grandma needed help. Grandma was standing at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes and crying. At first Mom didn’t realize it, but as she got closer, she could hear Grandma quietly sobbing. I had no idea. It made me look at my Grandmother differently.1919234_1253775871190_627736_n

My Grandmother wasn’t affectionate. She didn’t hug or kiss you. She didn’t say she loved you. I knew she did, but she wasn’t a person who showed any sort of endearment. I can remember exactly when I realized that she really did love my Grandpa. My Grandparents bickered. A lot. He picked at her and she ignored him. When I was in my teens, Grandpa had to have open heart surgery. As usual, Grandma showed no emotion during this time. Everything was treated as matter-of-fact. After the hoopla was over, we all got to go in and see Grandpa, two at a time. I went in with Grandma. He looked awful. He was yellow and he looked so small in his hospital bed. He was hooked up to dozens of wires and he had an oxygen mask on. It scared me and I started to cry. Grandpa motioned me over and told me that he was going to be ok, not to worry. I told him that he looked like something out of a scary movie. He got tickled and when he laughed, you could tell it hurt him. That comforted me. If he was laughing, he was going to be fine. We got ready to leave so he could get some rest and I saw the only intimate moment I ever witnessed between my Grandparents. She went over to the side of the bed, stood on her tiptoes and leaned in to give him a kiss. She had her hands on the bed rail, pulling herself up and forward and Grandpa patted her hands. Neither of them said a word or shed a tear. The moment was so intimate, I was suddenly uncomfortable. I felt like I was peeking in their bedroom.

My Grandmother was stubborn and funny. She didn’t mean to be either. Most of the time when she made us laugh, she didn’t understand why and most of the time it aggravated her.

We all went on a trip to Washington State when I was in 8th grade. Grandma didn’t like going out to eat. She was extremely picky and she ate like a bird. She also had cataracts and she couldn’t see a thing. We stopped at a buffet for dinner on the way out there and she went to fill her plate. She came back and sat down in disgust. She couldn’t find anything that looked good, finally settling on some ‘pudding’. We had all filled our own plates and were digging in. All of a sudden, Grandma tossed her spoon into the middle of the table. ‘Dammit! I thought that was pudding! It’s Thousand Island dressing!’. We all died. We were all laughing so hard. She was not. She was MAD! She refused to go get anything else to eat, she just sat there fuming.

On holidays, all of the women would gather around and play Rook. At the beginning of each hand, you placed a bid based on the cards in your hand. Grandma could have the worst hand, no point cards at all, and she would bid the highest every time. Then she would WIN!!. She never remembered what the trump color was and she couldn’t see the colors if she did. My Aunt Vicki, Tana, Erin, Mother and I would all by hysterical. As we were gasping for breath and trying not to pee our pants, Grandma sat there irritated. She never understood why we would get so much humor out of this.

I have so many fond memories of my Grandma. She always wore an apron when she cooked. She sang Alto. Bad Alto. She loved old country, honky tonk music. She would stand in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner, belting out Hank Williams in this nasal twang. She always used a pressure cooker to cook her roasts. Potatoes with every meal and always a plate of white bread on the table. She loved sweets. She would eat a bite, literally, of each dish that she would have for a meal. then eat a ginormous piece of pie. She made the best Texas sheet cake and a pineapple salad that Tana and I always fought over. She worked at Sears. I thought she was so important. To me, she seemed to run the whole store. She loved flowers, kept a spotless house and she would scratch my back until I fell asleep. Everything was routine with her. Household chores were always done on a specific day and she usually planned her meals around what chore was to be done that day. For instance, Monday was always laundry day and that was the day for beans and ham.

As I grew older. I started asking questions about her youth. She had another boyfriend before Grandpa, and after 50 years, he was still jealous. She worked at the Pentagon during the War. She and her sisters went to an all girls boarding school. Her family was wealthy, she made the comment one time that she didn’t even know there was a depression going on. Her father owned a mercantile. They moved around a lot and later in life she hated traveling because of it.1919234_1253775791188_2540146_n

My Grandmother made a tremendous impact on our lives. It seems it was always the women in the family that pulled together during any crisis. When we are together, we laugh and reminisce about how crazy she was and the fact that she didn’t know it. The women in our family are very close. We all live apart and we seldom see each other. It doesn’t matter, we come together and the comfort we all share is immediate. Grandma left us a want, a need, to be together and to remain close to each other.

If I do ir right, my girls and my boy’s girls will be able to continue this. We will recreate the kind of relationship that my Grandmother taught me to aspire to. If I’m lucky, we will form and forge the intimate connection that she paved the way for. Grandma left a group of women who remain standing no matter what. I hope and pray that I can stay true to her and leave all of my girls the same legacy of strength and hope.

 

 

Making amends

I was a rotten kid. I was mean. I was a bully. I lied and manipulated and snuck and did things that I shouldn’t have done. I didn’t care about the consequences and I didn’t care who I ran rough shod over. I used people and I made excuses about my behavior so that I didn’t have to deal with me. No one ever asked me why I was this way. No one sat me down and told me that this would affect my self-esteem for the rest of my life. I just got grounded a lot.

At Kendall’s baby shower, one of my best friends, Lynnetta Luallin, made a comment that I have never forgotten. She said that the only time she got into trouble was when she was with me. It stopped me in my tracks and I started reflecting on the kind of person I was.

It started when I was pretty young. The first instance that I can clearly remember was at a dance recital at the Wigwam. I tapped and twirled the baton. We had finished one part of the show and we were waiting to go on next. I was sitting in the bleachers, all dressed up and sassy. There was another girl from a different class, younger, by maybe two years, sitting below me and over a few steps. She was so cute and I was jealous. I was always jealous of people.  I was looking at her and she glanced my way and saw me staring. She kind of smiled at me and with the most hateful intent I said ‘You are so ugly’. She turned around and put her head down and I got up and went on with the second part of my recital. This has haunted me for years. I have no idea who that little girl was, what I do know is that I was so mean to her. I wonder if she remembers this with the same kind of lucidity as I do. I also remember wondering what would make me say something so horrible. What was wrong with me??

I got my friends in trouble a lot. I was sneaky and I lied to get my way. My Mother was getting a divorce when I was in 8th grade. We moved into Anderson and for the first time, I lived in town. Mom was gone a lot. She has always worked her butt off. I took full advantage of this.

I had the biggest crush on Tony Harless. He was four years older than me and I certainly wasn’t supposed to be chasing him around, but I was. He came to the house one day with one of his friends and wanted me to go riding around with them. Now first of all, my mom would have crapped and second, I had Lynnetta over. She did not want to go. I wheedled and manipulated and promised no one would ever know. She finally gave in and off we went with two boys WAY too old for us. We were in the 8th grade, remember. We were too young to be going anywhere with ANY boys.

Kevin Roberts was the other boy and he was driving. Oh my goodness, I thought we were so cool. I was actually going out with Tony Harless! You might be asking yourself why a junior in high school would even want to take a 14-year-old girl out. The answer is quite simple, I had big boobs and good hair and I looked 16 instead of 14.

Anyway, Kevin took us to his house. His parents and little brother were home. We ate brownies and horsed around with his little brother. There was no making out or dark bedrooms. No drinking or smoking. It was very innocent. Well, except for the fact that my mother had no idea where Lynnetta and I were. We stayed a couple of hours and Kevin drove us home. I made him drop us off down the block so that Mother wouldn’t see us. Tony kissed my goodbye and I absolutely floated home. Oh my goodness! And Kevin liked Lynnetta! He was adorable and she was smitten. We giggled and danced and planned all the way home. We were on cloud 9! Then we walked in the front door…..

A few of you have seen my Mother mad. It’s scary. Really. And she was calm, that’s a really bad sign. As we walked in the door she said ‘Where have you been?’ I immediately made the decision to lie, big time. I told her we were just down the road at Tabby Hudson’s house. Then she pounded the final nail in my coffin. ‘I was just at Tabby’s house and she hasn’t seen you all day’….Let the fury begin.

Poor Lynnetta. She looked like she was going to barf. Lynnetta didn’t get into trouble. She made good grades, was respectful to her parents and she certainly didn’t get into cars with boys that were too old and too ornery for us to be with. She just stood there, shaking, trying not to cry. My approach was different. I was defiant. I got slapped and grounded to my room for a month. Mother didn’t tell on Lynnetta. She knew whose idea this was and she knew I had pressured Lynnetta into doing it. Lynnetta was furious at me. We didn’t talk for a while. I acted like the little snot I was and I’m pretty sure I called her a baby. That’s what I did. I was mean.

When we eventually moved back to Yorktown into our old house, I continued to act like a juvenile delinquent. The Coopers lived next to us and I was friends with Lori. Her brother, Brad, had a crush on me and I used that to make him do anything I wanted. I got both of them into trouble on more than one occasion. Their parents eventually banned me from their house. Lori wasn’t to hang out with me and at that point, Brad hated me. I don’t blame him one bit.  I lost my best friend because I acted deplorable. I told myself it wasn’t my fault though. Her parents were obviously just too strict.

I could sit here all day and give you examples of what a little bitch I was.  I was mean to my brother and his friends. I would pick at Jeffrey until he would be crying. I was so horrible to him that it actually affected our relationship as adults. It’s just been in the last year or so that we have made amends. He hated me for always being such a terror to him.

Last Christmas, a boy who lived across from my grandparents as a child, ran into my Mother. He told her a story of me feeding him dog food and telling him it was just a snack. When my ex-husband told his sister who he was dating, her comment was ‘She is meaner than a snake’. This was how people thought of me. No one EVER said, ‘Tracey? Oh she is the sweetest thing!’

I stole boyfriends, gossiped about everyone and walked around as if I was superior to everyone else. I was a horrible person. But why? Why was I so awful and mean? It really wasn’t until Lynnetta made that remark at Kendall’s shower that I started to really look at myself. Although I no longer acted this way, the damage had been done. I had left a blazing trail of animosity and hostility that I knew I needed to mend. I needed to get to know me and why I was filled with all of this anger and bitterness.

It took a lot of counseling with Don McLaughlin and a lot of soul-searching and a lot of truth-seeking to figure this out. No, I wasn’t a bully anymore. In fact, I was so nice and accommodating now, that frequently I was the one who was taken advantage of. I couldn’t tell anyone ‘No’. I took it though, I thought I deserved it. I had no right to take care of myself at all. I was a horrible person and if I wanted to change the way people looked at me, I better just suck it up and do everything I was asked to do. Paybacks are hell.

What I finally figured out was, I was angry. I was so damn mad. I felt rejected. In fact, rejection ruled my life. If I rejected first, I had the control. I felt inadequate in all aspects of my life. I learned I had gone through things that I had shoved so far down in my soul, that I didn’t even remember them. I learned that I had no self-worth because of things that had happened to me when I was so young. I was terrified of abandonment. In one of our first sessions, Don asked me if I thought I’d go to Heaven if I died that night. I told him no, I had been too bad of a person. Keep in mind, I was about 30 at this time. I wasn’t that person anymore. I hadn’t been for 10 years. But that didn’t matter, I was so ashamed. I felt empty inside. My marriage was awful. My relationship with my Mother was awful. I felt worthless. Then I started talking. I let all of it out. I cried and sobbed and told things I swore I’d never tell. Once the dam was opened. it all spilled out. I learned why I was so angry. I learned who I was angry at. I learned what that can do to an adult, let alone a child.

Slowly I started to change the way I saw myself. I started to  feel better about myself. I understood why I acted out in the way that I did. Don helped me to put my childhood into perspective and I learned how the abuse I suffered caused me to act out in horrible ways. I forgave myself. I accepted me. All of me. The whole crazy, mixed up mess. I became kind and empathetic. I wasn’t embarrassed to be me. I quit isolating myself. I gained confidence. I knew that God had forgiven me and I was at peace. For the most part. Part of me will always have a sense of guilt. I made the choice to act the way I did, there is no excuse for it. This wasn’t about making excuses, this was about learning and accepting and forgiveness.

I talk to my children a lot about what kind of people they want to be. I started when they were little. I taught them humility and to have a gentle spirit. I talked to them about how you act will always affect your self-worth. I have tried to teach them to be kind to everyone. My children experienced a lot of the same abuse I did. I have talked to them about rejection and what that can do to you. How rejection and a damaged sense of self can rule your life if you don’t learn how to control it. I want this cycle broken.

Our children have Health class in school. They learn about safe sex and how to use condoms. They learn about STDs and how to protect themselves from that. They learn about birth control and how to use it. I think what we need to be teaching our children is how to love themselves. How to accept their bodies just as they are and how to deal with all of the negative emotions. They need to learn about self-worth and how to gain confidence. I talk to my children about these things every chance I get. I wish someone would have explained these things to me. I thought I was flawed and not worth loving. What a sad way to feel growing up. Adolescence is hard enough. It’s impossible if you don’t love yourself. Talk to your children. Buy a book about how to teach your children to love themselves. If you can’t afford a book, check one out of the library. This is the most important thing you will ever teach your child. It took me 30 years to start this process, I’m 49 now and still working on it. That’s a lot of wasted time.

If you are reading this and I was a total crazy to you, I’m sorry. Really, truly sorry. I can never take it back but I will try to make it up to you. Maybe I can bake you a cake or clean your toilet with my toothbrush or something. I hope you’ll forgive me, it will make you feel better, I promise.