Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Aftermath of Angst (Following up on "I Promise...")

See? I told you I'd post about it...because I know you were holding your breath, just waiting. Hey, nothing's wrong with my ego - it's the rest of me that's nuts!

As for that pivotal night, something good came of it. The other relief houseparent had realized the oversight that afternoon and (on her own time, with her own money) bought some strawberries just for me. Beautiful, crimson, perfect, she was careful to choose the very best ones. She didn't say anything about them, hoping that the forgetful woman would at least make a minimal effort. Vain hope, that.

When I stormed off into the woods, Heidi followed me. Yes, that was her name, the thoughtful one, Heidi. She'll never read this, and if she does, well - she should be known for her kindness. She waited a few minutes (she knew where I'd go before I did) and then she followed me, carrying that pint of strawberries, through the woods and to my destination - another teacher's lodging. I won't use his name only because I named my son for him some eighteen years later, and I won't post my son's real name online.

In his room, I cried out the bitter disappointment over this and every other broken promise - promises of being a family, of having normalcy, of love and safety. I didn't know it, but I was also sobbing for the broken promise that the adults in my life would protect me from human evils.

Heidi waited a few minutes outside the other teacher's room before knocking. He let her in with some relief - dear man that he was, he wasn't in any way prepared for a hysterical teenager babbling about rice cakes but torn by some deeper, unspoken thing.

Heidi held me and let me have my cry, told me how sorry she was that the other teacher had been so careless, and wistfully added that she wished I hadn't stormed away before she (Heidi) could show me what she'd gotten for me when she learned of the oversight. She offered me the strawberries, and I cried again - this time because of that loving, gentle woman's kindness.

She and the teacher whose rooms I'd invaded were possibly the best people I'd know, up to that point. Don't get me wrong - I loved my Mum and dad, my brother, my grandparents - but at that time, at that age, for a variety of reasons, I hadn't seen a lot of compassion, a lot of tolerance, a lot of understanding (or at least effort towards understanding) from the people to whom I was related. My whole family was (and to some extent still is) a big old tangled mess, and if I'm the only one who admits to my madness, well...that doesn't mean I'm the only one who has it (I won't say I suffer from it - I don't. I like crazy - they keep a room there for me and my face is on the currency). They also had no idea some of the things I'd experienced, because next to a promise? A secret is something I know how to keep.

That night, in that room, I felt like someone loved and cared for me despite my many glaring imperfections. I was good enough, even though I was angry and dared to act on that anger. Someone thought I deserved a little care, not because it would gain them anything (because it wouldn't...all it would mean was trouble, since they weren't punishing me and I really shouldn't be in a male teacher's rooms) or because they wanted to buy my silence or sooth their guilt - just because they were decent people.

I credit them with reattaching my humanity to the rest of me...because I really could have gone the sociopath route with very little effort. They didn't give me my soul, but they bandaged the poor tattered thing and gave freely of themselves to the healing of it.

In a dark, tiny, crowded teacher's rooms, I ate the best strawberries ever grown and tried to get a damn grip, and the two adults in the room didn't chastise, didn't lecture, didn't make me feel guilty or wrong for having an emotional self - they shared the berries (at my insistence) and reassured me that it was OK to be angry (although throwing food at a teacher's head wasn't exactly how they'd suggest I handle that anger), that it was OK to be hurt, and that the other teacher was wrong when she made it clear that a broken promise meant nothing.

I didn't evolve my attitude toward keeping promises that night - that came after, from books and stories of honor, from the two teachers and other fine people who didn't talk...they showed. They did. It was my thoughts on breaking promises that crystallized, and my attitude towards promises made.

For losing my temper, however righteously, I was punished. I understood and accepted that. I never bothered trying to like the teacher who was such a bitch - this wasn't the only time she'd been a complete cow (and not just to me - she was equally horrid to the other kids, too).

The other two teachers and I didn't mention the strawberries, or our chat. That was between us. I'd found two allies that night, though, two friends that I cherish to this day.

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