The day I walked home

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I remember one Sunday on the drive home from church, one of my parents got angry with me and forced me out of the car instructing me to walk the rest of the way home. We lived on a farm about five miles outside of town and I can’t say for certain how far it was I had to walk, but it was about a mile or less I would guess. I have no recollection as to why they were so angry or what it was I did or said. I don’t even remember which parent it was I had angered. Typically, when dad saw mom get mad at me he would get angry too. So it was likely both of them were upset.

But I certainly do remember that walk. It could have been pleasant enough as the weather was nice and the sun was shining. I would often take long walks on days like that around the grassy fields behind my parent’s house wearing blue jeans and a top appropriate for the weather. However, on this day I was wearing a skirt my mom had bought for me and a blue blouse. It was an outfit I was proud of and it made me feel like a grown-up. But during that walk, I was filled with so much shame. It felt like everyone was looking at me as cars drove past on the highway. That walk felt like it lasted forever as I struggled not to cry.

I was still very upset by the time I got back to the farmyard and wasn’t ready to go inside the house. So I decided to stay outside and play in the ash grove on the west side of the house. I’m not sure which parent spotted me and came out of the house, but I do remember being yelled at for playing in my “good clothes.”

It’s interesting the things memory retains. I can recall the weather, what I was wearing, and what I was feeling – but not much beyond that. I’m not even sure it was a Sunday. That’s just what makes sense to me given that I was all dressed up and the whole family was in the car together. And based on what I was wearing, I must have been about twelve or thirteen years of age. I remember that outfit quite strongly, especially how the skirt flowed gracefully around my legs.

That was about the age I really started struggling to maintain friendships. Unlike most of the other kids in my class, I had spent the summer isolated on the farm. So when I went back to school for sixth grade in August of 1995, all the other kids had stories and inside jokes from that summer which bonded them together.

My best friend, Samantha, seemed to be suddenly popular with the entire class. Some of our classmates had helped out on her father’s produce farm just on the edge of town tending to melons and tomatoes. She and I had been close since early elementary school. We were so close that I was even allowed to sleep over at her house occasionally – even when it wasn’t her birthday. But now, it seemed she had no time to talk to me. She wanted to talk to her friends and it seemed I wasn’t one of them anymore.

One of my most embarrassing childhood memories is Samantha’s (Sam for short) birthday party when we were in the first grade. Her birthday was in October and was always Halloween-themed. It was at this birthday I mistakenly called her mother her “grandma” because her mom had grey hair. At that age, I just assumed anyone with grey hair was a grandmother. I can’t recall who corrected me, but I remember my face flushing. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

When it came time to sit down at the table to eat dinner, I had expected that as her best friend (or that’s what I thought I was) naturally I would sit next to the birthday girl. Being the shy child I was, I said nothing when the other girls (again, I don’t recall who) pushed their way around me and took “my” spot next to Sam. Still, I said nothing – but my face flushed hot and tears welled up behind my eyes. I don’t remember who asked me what was wrong or how the situation resolved itself, but I do remember failing to hold back my tears that day. It was so humiliating to be vulnerable in front of all my classmates. I’m not sure why it humiliated me so greatly.

I don’t remember being told not to cry as a kid, but somehow I had felt that crying was bad and should be done in places hidden away from prying eyes. I remember seeing my mother cry gently while she watched television sometimes. For some reason, that was upsetting to me. As an adult, I recognize crying is quite normal for most women watching soaps in the afternoon while folding laundry. Everyone needs an emotional release from time to time and watching a sappy show or movie helps us “get it out.” A good cry can be healthy and cathartic and sometimes a stimulus is needed.

As I grew up, my sister and I would laugh often together in the room we shared. Sometimes we would laugh so hard and so long we would forget what started it all. We would laugh until our bellies ached. My sister and I would cry together too. Sometimes we would cry in our room and sometimes we would cry together in the bathroom. I remember some nights I would head to the bathroom to cry alone as my sister typically went to sleep earlier that I would. My parents didn’t usually purchase facial tissue so we used toilet paper instead. At least they bought good-quality toilet paper – a habit I continue myself to this day, but I also indulge in Kleenex.

I’m not uncomfortable about crying anymore… most of the time.

 

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