It's been a long time since I posted and so much has happened. I want to write a separate post to say all the big things that have happened since my last post. Like Samantha graduated from high school. Alyssa returned from her mission. Both girls started college. Alyssa got engaged last night.
So, yeah. I have a lot to catch up on. Obviously. And I will. I really will.
Last night I went out to dinner with very old friends. These are ladies that I grew up with. Some I've known since I was as young as 6 years old. Others moved into the area later in my life but were just as important to my formative years. These were the girls that I went to church with, was awkward with, grew up with, and had important events with. These are the girls I should have known the best. What I discovered is that we were all in our own little worlds and never really knew one another.
I consider my childhood to be normal. I am the third child of five. My mother stayed home and my dad worked hard. We lived in a hick town that has now developed into an exclusive community that doesn't include me. We had a lot of land, a lot of rocks, and few neighbors. Our social life was whatever was happening at the church or with the church group. We had Mutual, volleyball, basketball, softball, camp, tubing in the winter, waterskiing in the summer, and just growing up together.
We graduated from high school and went our separate ways. Many of us eventually settled nearby. Except for Andrea who is now living in Dubai with her husband and 9 children. Ironic since she was the one with the separation anxiety, I believe. So we met up last night to catch up.
I picked up one friend who lives nearby yet I never see her. I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with her. Admittedly, I had some preconceived ideas about this woman that I am ashamed to admit. She's beautiful. She's always been beautiful. She had a handsome husband and four gorgeous children. But now I get to put those preconceived notions aside. She and the other ladies that were my girlfriends as kids are very real and they recounted what really went on away from church and church activities.
I have some new heroes. In particular, two of these ladies shared and bared their shame. Somehow, they have figured out that shame abhors the light. So they shine light on it whenever they can. Their past pains no longer carry the shame they once did. The secrets that once held them powerless are exposed and they are powerful, mighty women. They are not just survivors. They are mighty and strong. They are thriving and accentuating the blessings they have as a result of their surviving.
Living on my own block was a little girl who waited for the sound of her dad closing the door when he came home. The way he closed the door spoke volumes to all the children and the mother for what kind of night they would have. Some nights the dad would line up the children and emotionally traumatize them for hours. Then he would beat one or another. There were broken bones and the mother's broken spirit. The mother who had the car keys and would leave. The details that were shared so matter-of-factly were worse than I ever imagined. Because no matter what this friend intimated (and she kept the family secret and shame for years), I had nothing to base this reality upon.
Living on my block was a little girl who had no friends and cried every day after school. Her father's job fell through and the family lived on welfare. Her mother continued to keep a nice home for them. She creatively came up with ways to have cute clothes. Yet she was unable to finish this girl's dress in time for the 9th grade night dance so she wasn't able to go.
Living on my block was a girl who was finally feeling accepted and feeling in sync. One night after a church activity a man came to her door and told her that her 12 year old brother was lying in the road after being hit by a car. She was 17 years old and her parents weren't home when she ran out to the busy street. First she found his shoes. A few steps later she found her brother. Behind her she heard her 15 year old brother approach. She watched him take in the scene before him then run off. The 12 year old brother died. The 15 year old brother suffered for years, a cascading effect of seeing the horror before him in the road.
These girls grew up. They are remarkable in their own right. I am so impressed with the women they have become and the choices they have made over the years. Those little girls who were so wounded, so isolated, so broken no longer exist. The women I know today have addressed those needs, forgiven those that harmed them, and have moved on to become beacons for girls and boys who are in situations where they feel isolated, broken, and wounded. They want to give hope.
Yet just for today I am grieving for these little girls who had such huge experiences and incredibly large burdens to bear. Those little girls that, as a 51 year old woman, I wish I could hug, comfort, remove. I realize I have a lot to learn about the Atonement. My dear friends have applied it to their lives and they have been healed by it.
They are my heroes.