Please note that this is a series. If you haven’t read Part One and Part Two, please click on the “My Life” page at the top and dig in!
Note: You may want to have a coffee ready. Or chardonnay. Depending on the time of day of course…
So I found myself fatherless with divorced parents by the time first grade rolled around. It was a horribly confusing time because I was rebounding from the trauma of my father’s erratic behavior and the yelling. The yelling…
I began to nibble. Too much. I particularly loved junk food of all kinds and found myself eating anytime I felt confused or lonely – which was pretty much always. I soon became a chubby little girl that needed to wear JCPenney’s “Pretty Plus” sizes for girls. I began to be teased about my roundness. I sunk deeper.
I’m pretty sure I just survived.
I remember sitting in my second grade class and listening to the boys in the back make “fat jokes” about Natalie. The teacher would reprimand them which, of course, made it worse – it drew more attention to my shame and embarrassment.
Oddly enough, I still had many friends – I was like the chubby Natalie from “Facts of Life” which was a hugely popular sitcom while I was in elementary school. The irony is not lost on me. No. I realize we were both named Natalie. I heard about our similarities constantly. I grew to hate her. I grew to hate my name.
I didn’t know at the time that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I had no idea.
My mother entered a relationship that stunk of bad news from the beginning. He had a son, Stephen, exactly my age. He had been told his mother had died in a car accident. My mother had been told the same thing. I continued to just survive.
I will be honest and say that I remember telling my mother how much I disliked him (not in those words). Call it the intuition of children if you will. I screamed it in the stairwell of the castle. I remember. I was eight.
I saw something she didn’t. I possessed an uncanny intuition at such a tender age.
This intuition still haunts me now.
To give my mother the utmost grace, she was also in survival mode. I can’t imagine her anguish. She was alone. She had a child. This was not in her plan. She just wanted to be settled and she thought he was the one to be settled with.
Not even remotely.
Friends, maybe someday I will spill all of the contents of this, but let’s just say that it wasn’t a pretty time. And we were coming off of a not-so-pretty time already.
Let’s also not forget that I wore Pretty Plus sizes. And I was being teased at school.
I distinctly remember eating dinner around our wooden, 1980’s style dinner table one night when the phone rang. Stephen answered.
It was his mother.
Turns out, she hadn’t died in a car accident after all. Huh.
And that, friends, was the beginning of the end on that one.
More stuff happened. Stuff I may spill someday but not now.
Suffice it to say, the relationship ended when he started to sleep with the middle school art teacher. Sometimes our biggest blessings are wrapped up in a big sheet of sadness and despair.
And my mother. My mother. Bless her soul. She was done.
I became emotional. I was in fourth grade at this point and cried at the drop of a hat. Sure, many fourth grade girls cry at the drop of a hat. But this was constant. This was an anxiety that caused me to cry when I missed an assignment at school. When I forgot my lunch. When my gym shoes had been left in my bedroom.
Stuff that wasn’t “cry-worthy” caused me to completely lose it. In front of everyone. So now I was the “fat girl” AND an emotional basket-case.
I know it was no accident that I was placed in Mrs. Bogan’s fourth grade class that year. She knew what was happening. My mother was her colleague. She grabbed me and held me close. She spent time with me before school. She was there. Present. She looked into my eyes and told me I would make it. I would pull through this and there was no need to freak out about every little thing.
She was the second lifesaver in a sea of despair. The first being my grandparents.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14