Never

Daily Prompt: Never Again

Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” Tell us about it.

~*~

“So, what was it like, Aunt Sal?” Manda begged to know what it was like to dine in the dark.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“Just that. I never did eat in the dark.”

“But you went, didn’t you?” She sits up abruptly, knocking popcorn from her large bowl onto the floor beside her. Now she’s getting frosty.

“Yes.”

“So?”

I sigh and lean back in my nice, comfy, floral arm chair. The fire’s roaring in the hearth, barely beating the chill of this brutally cold February day. Manda’s sprawled again on the sofa opposite, munching on her popcorn and waiting for me to begin. So, I guess I better get on with it.

“Well, let me begin from the beginning.”

“Sounds good,” she munches and slides her bare feet under the sleeping collie curled up at the other end of the couch.

“We had planned a trip to Paris several months in advance and I’d heard about this interesting dining experience where you eat in the dark.”

“Yeah …” She already knew this. Twelve-year-olds know everything.

“I checked with your uncle Bill and he agreed that it would be a novel way to spend an evening, so I made a reservation … for three as his daughter was going to join us.”

“You mean Mary?”

“Yes, Mary.

“Okay … then what?”

“You know, if you’d stop interrupting I could get on with my story.”

“Sorry,” Manda crunches contrition.

“Well, the much anticipated evening arrived. It was pouring rain as only it can in Paris, so we were pretty soaked when we arrived at the restaurant.” I take a sip of Malbec, a favoured wine I picked up on during a drip to Argentina, and then continue. “When we entered it looked like any other fine dining restaurant you might frequent. It was warm; inviting; had a bar, and ambient music … you know, that sort of thing. However, when we were greeted by the Maitre D, well, that’s when things began to look a little different.”

Manda finishes a mouthful of popcorn and sips from her glass of homemade lemonade. She’s all ears, and I’m grateful for a break from the crackling of corn. Then she grabs another handful.

“Do you think you could stop eating that stuff long enough for me to tell the story … please? It’s most distracting.”

Manda puts the bowl to the side and hunkers into the couch. She’s a smart, obliging kid, this one, not prone to arguing even if she can be a bit petulant at times. “So, what changed?” she asks.

“The Maitre D showed us to a wall of small lockers and assigned us one. Then he asked us to leave our bags, and anything we had that might emit any kind of light, inside it … you know, watches, cellphones, that sort of thing. Of course, it made complete sense that we would do that. It’s not in the dark if there are watches and cellphones lighting up all over the room.”

Manda giggles, as do I.

“So we did that, and then they gave us each a flute of champagne, reviewed the format of the dining experience and showed us the menu offerings. We weren’t going to be able to see our food, but we did have a say in the kind of food we would eat. For instance, as you know I’m not a fish eater, so they needed to know that. The point of dining in the dark is to get an amplified sense of taste for the food. If I don’t like fish by the light of day, then eating it in the dark would be … well, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.” I sip my wine.

By the quizzical look on Manda’s face I can see she’s chewing on this new bit of information.

“You mean you had no idea what you were going to eat?” she asks, amazed.

“Nope.”

“I don’t know if I could do that.”

“Maybe we ought to do an experiment of our own at home, some time.”

“Maybe …” Manda responds with caution.

“Anyway,” I return to focus, “Next thing I know a blind waitress …”

“You mean vision-impaired,” corrects my politically-correct niece.

“Okay, vision-impaired waitress has us forming a congo line, one hand on the shoulder in front of us, the other holding the flute of champagne, and is guiding us through three sets of heavy curtains into a pitch black room. I mean, there’s not a stitch of light anywhere even though my eyes are searching for it. In fact, it’s so dark in there I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”

Manda gasps. “You mean you couldn’t see at all?”

“That’s right.”

I let her sit with this notion for a moment while I grab another sip of Malbec and reach for a handful of popcorn.

“So, how were you going to see your food?”

“Huh?”

“How were you going to see your food?” The look of abject horror on Manda’s face is remarkable.

“Well, that’s the whole point, we weren’t supposed to see our food.” It’s then I realize that, like me at the time, she hadn’t thought the experience all the way through.

“Oh no, so what did you do?”

“Claustrophobia kicked in. I had a panic attack and was gently escorted out of the room to the bar downstairs. I ate there … alone … and wrote about my experience on a napkin. My notebook was in my purse which was in the locker, and Bill had the key. I felt like a colossal fool, to be honest, forgetting about my fear of enclosed spaces. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I’d managed to let it go. Maybe.” I sigh and stare at the fire. There are lots of things I don’t do because of claustrophobia.

Manda moves to the other end of the couch and wraps her arms around Maggie’s voluminous, silky haired body. Comfort in an uncomfortable moment. I know her to be claustrophobic, too. She moves the moment along. “Did Uncle Bill and Mary eat in the dark?”

“Yes, and I understand it was quite the clumsy adventure. And noisy because, remember, all the other senses are heightened. So it’s not just about the food, the whole ambiance is altered as well. But they seemed to enjoy the challenge.”

“Would you ever give it another go, Aunt Sal?” Manda wondered aloud while giving the dog another squeeze.”

I drain the last of the Malbec from my glass.

“Never.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Another Writer

Daily Prompt: Life After Blogs

“Honey, I remember life before computers, so imagining my life without one isn’t much of a stretch,” I wink at my 12-year-old niece, Manda, who simply stares at me in disbelief. Of course, her generation has practically been raised by computer, so imagining a world without one would be a challenge.

“So,  what was it like?” she asks, tentatively while gnawing on a homemade oatmeal cookie, part of a batch we made this morning.

“Well, life was simpler in a more complicated kind of way.”

Manda gives me the wooly eyeball. “What does that mean?”

I set my tea cup back in its saucer on the table and look past her through the window to the snow-covered garden. Cardinals are flitting back and forth from tree branch to tree branch, enjoying the sunny respite from what has turned into a frigidly cold winter. I feel old even thinking about the way things were before computers, so I stick to thinking about what it would be like to live without a computer now.

“Well, as a writer it means that I’d be doing my work on a typewriter, which is far more arduous, but in some ways,” I muse, “it’s more connected to the page. You make typos and learn to let them fly or risk interrupting your train of thought. With a computer you can back track and correct ad nauseum, which is great, of course, but it’s just not the same. There’s something rather grounding about using a typewriter. And perhaps this just makes me a nostalgic, old fool, but so be it.”

I gather by the look in Manda’s eye that something hasn’t registered.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?”

She hesitates. Takes another bite of her cookie and a sip of tea ~ such a sophisticated young lady for her age, full of curiosity and honest to a fault.

“C’mon, dear. Don’t be shy. I know you want to ask me something.”

Manda sets down her cookie and leans back in her chair. The kitchen table wobbles as she bumps the leg. The tension breaks with a giggle.

“I really must get that fixed,” I smile and nudge her calf with my foot. She smiles. There’s my girl.

“Go on then,” I prod, “what do you want to ask?”

“Well,” she looks at me with resolve, “what’s a typewriter?”

Of course, I didn’t see that one coming. Why would she know what a typewriter is? Still, I laugh.

“Hey, don’t make fun!” she squeals, “I can’t help it if I don’t know what it is.”

“You’re right, sweetie, and I don’t mean to make fun. It’s just when you say things like that I realize just how old I really am, and how much has happened in my life time. I laugh more at myself than I do at your naiveté.”

Manda turns her smile upside down and waits for some action on my part that will turn it right side up again.

“Here,” I stand up from the table and walk around to where she is sitting.

“What?” she snarls. I deserve it.

“I want to show you something.” I take her hand, which she allows with some reluctance, and together we journey up the stairs to my writing hide-out.

“Where are we?” she asks.

“This is where I write.” I tell her. “I haven’t brought you here before because I didn’t think you were ready. But since you’ve asked such an important question I wanted to show, rather than tell you, what a typewriter is and looks like.

As we enter the sun beams in gently from the southwest window which overlooks a mature forest of maples and firs. Book shelves line the walls, filled with the works of my favourite and inspiring authors, interrupted only by the occasional large, framed photograph of a favoured spot on our property. I lead Manda past the Apple to a corner of the room where sits an old oak writing desk. Upon it a lumpy form covered in a dust cloth, which I gradually pull back to reveal a vintage black Remington Rand manual typewriter, complete with ribbon. Beside it, a stack of paper.

Manda looks at it, the little laugh at her expense forgotten as her eyes wander its curves and crevices. She takes a step closer to the Remington and then turns to me. “May I touch it, Aunt Sally?”

“Of course, but be gentle with her. She is old.”

Manda lightly touches the keys and runs her hand across the top toward the cylinder.

“Mind the ribbon, though sweetie. It’s full of ink.”

“It still works?”

“Yes, except when the keys get stuck, or I run out of ribbon. But yes, it works wonderfully.”

“Do you ever write with it?”

“Occasionally, when I need to slow down my process. Sometimes my fingers get whipping on that computer over there and the magic doesn’t feel the same.”

“May I try?”

Without answering I reach for a piece of paper from the stack and feed it into the cylinder, rolling it to the perfect start location about two inches down from the top of the page. I show her the space bar and the carriage return. With a look of intense concentration she pushes down the letter I. There’s a chirp of glee as she experiences the mechanisms click into gear and the letter lands on the page. She types another letter, and then another, searching as she goes; frustrated a couple of times, until she’s typed I love my aunty Sal. I beam with pride.

“Oh, aunty, this is amazing! May I keep going?”

“Yes, Manda, of course. I’ll leave you to it.” I smile and give her shoulder a gentle pinch as I turn to leave.

Another writer in the family. She, like me, would be fine without a computer.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

Do Over

Daily Prompt: If I Could Turn Back Time

~*~

“I have no regrets, sweetie.”

“Yeah, but if you were given a chance to live another part of your life again … you know, a do over, would you?” Twelve-year-old Manda’s digging for a story.

“Hmmm … let me think about that.” I pour another cup of chamomile tea and reach for a fresh-baked double chocolate cookie. Manda takes one as well, and dips it in her chocolate milk. A triple chocolate delight. We both giggle when the kitchen table wiggles on its three good legs, the foot on the fourth having disappeared a long time ago. I really must fix it.

Memories flood back ~ memories of lost youth; lost love; lost opportunity. Years on I understand the root causes of so much loss, but that doesn’t make up for lost time. Now I’m simply trying to make the most of the years I have left with the awareness that I have struggled so hard to achieve. Such a wonderful gift I give myself.

“Have you thought of anything, yet?” Manda asks while agitating her cookie in her milk. “And nothing sad, like the last time. I don’t want to cry.”

Ah, the innocence of youth and their penchant for associating tears with all things sad. She’ll learn one day, I hope, that tears cleanse the soul in preparation for new horizons. If I cry for the past, it’s only because I’m giving myself permission to let it go and move into the future. Accepting permission is almost harder than the letting go.

“Okay, then …” I squint my eyes as if peering into the distance for a point of interest. “Right … I have a funny story about a botched date.”

“Oh, goodie!” Manda shrieks with glee. She leans back in her chair to get comfortable, and fixes her beautiful brown eyes upon me. “Tell me everything …”

“Well, I was 16 and just starting to date. I met him at school … or was it church? … gosh, what was his name?” I stumble for a moment fumbling with memory. “Doesn’t matter … let’s call him Rick.”

“You don’t remember his name?” Manda is astonished.

“Well, you need to understand that my tendency has been to block unpleasant memories. And while this seems funny now, it wasn’t at the time so, I’m afraid, I don’t recall the young man’s name.” I take a breath. “What I do recall is that he shared my birthday and was exactly one year older than me. And, oh yes, he was quite cute.”

“Oooh, that’s interesting.”

“Yes, I put rather too much stock in the birthday thing, to be honest. Like it was kismet, or something.”

“Kismet?”

“Fated that we should meet.”

“Oh,” Manda nods in understanding. “And was it fated that you should meet?”

“Well, we met, didn’t we?” I twiddle with the corner of the table cloth, remembering my pain. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be sharp with you. Still a bit of … never mind.” I gather my thoughts and begin my story. “As I recall we hadn’t been dating long when he decided it would be wonderful to take me to the opera. At first I was excited that he should be so thoughtful. He knew my mother ~ your grandma, Esther ~ was an opera singer and I guess was trying to impress me with his sophistication. And he did. Golly, what was the name of that opera? I don’t know. Anyway, as the date got closer I started to back off.”

“Why?” Manda asks between nibbles of cookie.

“Fear, I suppose. Fear of getting what I wanted; of being happy ~ you know, having a nice boyfriend who wanted to do nice things for me. I guess I didn’t feel worthy.”

Manda frowns. “This isn’t sounding like a fun story.”

“You’re right,” I agree, and continue. “I decided I wanted to put him off, but he’d already bought the tickets and I’d made the commitment to go, so I went. But I didn’t dress up, I didn’t wash my hair, and I acted like a cold fish.”

“You did? That doesn’t sound very nice.”

“No, it wasn’t very nice. He’d gone to so much trouble and I was pushing him away, the same way I used to defend myself from all kinds of good things and people. I guess it was easier for me to be unhappy. My father had been such a deadbeat and so emotionally distant that the moment any decent man tried to get close I’d push him away. I just didn’t understand healthy, emotional interaction with the opposite sex.”

Manda gives me a quizzical look.

“Hmmm … I didn’t understand my own feelings let alone someone else’s … never mind being able to relate to them. I was guarded and insecure and it played out with me pushing back all the time.”

“This isn’t funny at all.”

“No, it isn’t. Poor guy was so bewildered and, frankly, so was I. And I felt terribly guilty about it. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. Just horrible …” I attempt to drown my sadness in a sip of tea and realize something a little stiffer would probably offer better success.

“So, how would you do it over?” Manda grimaces, so far not impressed with my funny story.

“Well, that’s the thing about do overs, isn’t it? Hindsight always gives us the perspective of age and experience,” I pause and sip more tea before continuing. “I would be more gracious, that’s for certain. He’d spent the money and gone to so much trouble. I recall us sitting in the gods ~ it’s all he could afford ~ and wishing I could be anywhere else, all the while conscious of my dirty hair and poor behaviour. He tried so hard and I was such a … oh, dear …” My thoughts trail off for a moment as I consider how many moments of my life I’ve missed because I was too afraid to enjoy them.

“Aunt Sally?”

“Oh, sorry,” I shake my head and smile. “I’d have washed my hair, that’s for sure,” I wink, attempting to be light-hearted, and take another sip of tea.

“Sorry, Auntie, but it sounds like you have some regrets after all. And your definition of funny is not at all accurate.”

I sigh and gaze upon the loveliness of this innocent old soul. “Not regrets, sweetie, remorse. It’s not nice to hurt people’s feelings, and I’m afraid I hurt his. Still, I didn’t know any better at the time, and I have learned since then to be kind even when I may not necessarily feel comfortable. Not everything is about me.” Another sip of tea. Another wink. “And not everything is about you either, dear.”

“It isn’t?” Manda jokes in mock astonishment, her eyes big as coat buttons.

I shove the cookie plate in her direction with a playful flourish. “You’re funny. Here, just one more before dinner or I’ll give you something to do over.” We both giggle and take a cookie.

There’s nothing about this moment I’d do over .

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Blank

Daily Prompt: Childhood Revisited

What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.

~*~

“Aunt Sally, what’s your earliest childhood memory?” asked Manda while  thumbing through the pages of an already treasured new horse book. Christmas had been good to her.

“Why do you ask, sweetie?” Sally hesitated. Her memory of those early years were foggy at best. And not all the memories good.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just wondered.” Manda stopped admiring her book and sat back in her chair, arms folded waiting for an answer. She loved her Aunt Sal and was curious to know all about her. Besides, there’d been an assignment at school to discover hidden depths in a favourite family member. For Manda, Aunt Sal was that person.

Sally thought for a moment. Her earliest childhood memory that wouldn’t throw them both for a loop. Hmmm … it had to be qualified. “Give me a moment, please dear.” She stood up from the kitchen table and walked over to the counter to fetch a piece of homemade shortbread from the tin. Her mind was a blank. Searching for memories had always been troublesome for her. She’d spent so much of her life somewhere else. Dissociated. She could recall the cumulative trauma, but that was hardly a memory she could share with a 12-year-old girl.

“Aunt Sally … can you even remember your childhood?” Manda was beginning to feel concerned.

How perceptive she was, thought Sally brushing a tear from her cheek while still bent over the counter eating her cookie. Finally, she turned to face her niece.

“Auntie!!!” Manda squealed, upset at the sight of her aunt’s watery eyes. She jumped from her seat and ran over to give her a big hug. “What’s wrong? I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

Sally choked back a sob and cleared her throat. She wrapped her arms around Manda and gave her a big squeeze. “Sweetie, you didn’t make me cry. My lack of memories makes me cry. I wish I could share with you my earliest childhood memory, but I can’t. It’s just too painful and I don’t want to hurt you.” She knew it was better to be honest. A lie simply bred more lies.

“Oh, auntie, I’m so sorry,” Manda pulled a piece of paper towel off the roll and gave it to her aunt whose only tissue was now in tatters. “If I’d known I’d never have asked.”

“But you weren’t to know, Manda, so please don’t worry. I have many good memories, just not too many good early ones. There was too much trauma in my life too soon, which is to say life became overwhelming before I was mature enough to handle it. Traumatized little ones develop all kinds of coping strategies to help them get through life. Often these carry on into adulthood and can be quite destructive if not addressed. My strategy was to check out when my life got too stressful. That’s why I don’t remember a lot of it. Sadly, a lot of grown ups never seek, or find, the help they need.”

“Like uncle Ted?” Manda wondered about her aunt’s ex-husband.

“Yes, like your uncle Ted.”

“What about you?”

Sally sighed. “Oh, I was finally able to get the help I needed a few years ago. That’s made my life more liveable now, but it still doesn’t reclaim all the lost memories.”

“Do you have any nice childhood memory you can share?” Manda asked, her eyes wide with hope.

Sally beckoned Manda to the kitchen table where they sat down across from one another. She thought for a moment, and then smiled. “When I was six years old,” she began, “I lived for a year with my grandmother … your great granny, Esther. Mother was off on a world tour and my father was absent, so I lived with gran. Of course, I went to school ~ grade 2 ~ and it was about that time that my musical talents began to surface. So, for the school play, Bambi, I was given a song to sing.”

“You were! Which one?” Manda was excited to know.

Drip, drip, drop little April shower …” Sally sang what she remembered.

“Oh, I know that song!” Manda squealed with joy, remembering the animated movie soundtrack.

“I’d be surprised if you didn’t,” Sally grinned.

“Were you happy?”

“Yes, I was happy. Gran had outfitted me in my favourite red velvet dress with gold buttons down the front and put tight ringlets in my hair. For just a little while I was the centre of her universe, so I felt pretty special.”

“What happened next?” Manda was all ears.

Gran took me for a hamburger and milkshake at the old hotel on Main Street. Bit of a dive, but it didn’t matter. I remember her boasting about me to her friends. I have good memories around that.”

Manda was entranced. “Oh, auntie, thank you for telling me your story. You have such a beautiful voice.” And then Manda paused, a look of curiosity swept into her eyes. “Why didn’t you grow up to be a singer?”

“That, my dear,” sighed her aunt, “is a story for another day.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

 

 

 

Forgiveness …

The pain is deep ~

You put it there.

Not that you knew it,

You were simply sailing

Your oblivious sea

And I, being an innocent,

Was caught in your toxic

Wake; my life line

The place in my Soul you

Could not reach.

*

I forgive you.

I forgive because

Drowning in the pain

Of you hurts only me,

I forgive because

The power is within me.

I forgive to be the peace

I want to see.

I forgive to be

Free.

~*~

Personal freedom begins with forgiveness.

May we all be the peace we wish to see in the world.

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

The Outsiders

Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

~*~

Well, this hits close to home, Sally mused as she listened to her niece, Manda, tearfully explain how she’d not been invited to a sleepover with her supposed friends … again.

“I don’t understand it, auntie, what did I do? Why don’t they like me? Why do I always feel like I’m on the outside looking in?” Manda snorted through heavy tears and a stuffed up nose. She snatched at the tissue proffered by her aunt and blew hard into it. Nothing moved.

Sally sat beside Manda on the soft two-seater sofa and put an arm around her distraught niece. What could she say? It was a feeling all too familiar, but one with which she had learned to live while finding strength in her own solitude.

“Now, now, my sweet girl, don’t you worry,” she gave her niece’s shoulders a squeeze and then moved away slightly. “Look at me … please …”

Reluctantly, Manda turned to look at her beloved aunt and wiped a shaking hand across tear-tracked cheeks. She sniffed.

“Listen, Manda my love, you’re a strong girl, born into a strong family. We’ve learned to stand on our own two feet, and while that can feel lonely at times it is, in the end, the better way because we learn to be our own best friend. To take care of our needs without constantly needing the validation of others.” Sally reached for one of Manda’s hands and held it gently.

“What’s validation?” 12-year-old Manda asked with a sniff.

“Well,” Sally began, “it’s when people need other people to tell them how great they are all the time to feel good about themselves. Instead of finding that confirmation from within, they demand it of others. The only problem is that people can change their minds all the time about how they feel about someone. One day they think you’re great and the next you’re yesterday’s news. That can be really hurtful. These friends of yours, if they were true friends, would include you and not hurt you this way.”

“And it hurts so much!” Manda howled while doubling over into her knees and rocking back and forth. “I don’t want to be alone!!!”

Sally rubbed her niece’s back and gulped back her own sob. Oh, how she wished this lovely girl didn’t have to feel the pain of exclusion.  And how long the journey would be until she found contentment in her own company.

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, Sally spoke.

“Manda, I know this feels horrible now, and believe me I totally understand what …”

“No you don’t!” Manda sat bolt upright and looked straight in her aunt’s eyes, still shaking. “How could you possibly know how I feel?”

Sally sighed.

“Of course, sweetie, you’re right. I am not you and cannot possibly understand how you feel. But, I’ve had my own experiences with this, and even now I struggle with it at times. But I would rather be alone, and happy in my own company, than with fickle friends who blow hot and cold. That is too painful. … You may have noticed that I don’t have many close friends,” she continued. “It’s not that I don’t want any, it’s just that I … ” How could she say it without sounding like a snob? ” … that I’ve learned to be selective. To only welcome people into my life I know want to be there. Life is too short to waste precious energy on people you have to chase to like you all the time. Believe me, sweetie, pretending to be someone you aren’t for the sake of being on the inside is exhausting, and debilitating, in so many ways you won’t understand right now. But one day …”

” … one day I can look forward to being lonely like you?” Manda wailed. “No thank you …” and she stood up sharply and stormed outside to drown in her tormented sea of self-pity.

Sally reached into her apron for another tissue and dabbed at salty tears.

Now she felt on the outside.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

Where The Path Leads

Daily Prompt: Que Sera Sera

Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?

~*~

Can we possibly know the end from the beginning?

Sally gazed thoughtfully at her 12-year-old niece, Manda, who was thumbing through old family photo albums at the kitchen table. She sighed. Who knows what will happen to this lovely girl as she gets older, Sally mused. It all depends on the choices she makes. And even then, nothing is certain.

“Aunt Sally …”

Sally drifted back to the moment at the sound of her name.

“Yes Manda, sweetie …”

“Did you and Uncle Ted plan not to have any children?”

Trust a child to get straight to the point.

“Why do you ask that, love?”

“Well,” began Manda, “you would have made a great mother. I just don’t understand why I don’t have any cousins … why I have you all to myself.”

Sally walked toward the small pine harvest table and sat on one of its companion chairs. She reached for a photo album and gazed at the page that had prompted Manda’s question. There it was … a family reunion photo of several years before, with all the cousins and their children, including Manda as a toddler, and no one under her and Ted’s wing. She pushed the album away and turned her attention to her niece who was patiently waiting for an answer. She’d have to have an answer or Sally would get no peace.

“You know sometimes, Manda, you can make all the plans you want about achieving a certain thing, but …” she hesitated, truth was a hard thing, ” … but unless you have a true understanding of yourself and the support you need you will rarely achieve it.”

Manda tilted her head toward her right shoulder in wonderment. “Hmmm … I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

Sally took a deep breath.

“Well,” she began, “I always wanted children. When I wasn’t much older than you I had dreams of having a large family. Wanted six children, you know.”

“Six!!!” Manda’s eyes burst open wide.

“Yes, six,” Sally repeated with a sigh. “Within a couple of years of getting married we started trying to have a baby mostly, I think, because all of our friends were having babies and we wanted to keep up. For some reason I couldn’t get pregnant. Your uncle went back to school for his Masters and upon his return we tried in earnest to create that first child. Even went for fertility treatment a couple of times.” Sally stopped, checking to see if she’d lost Manda, but her niece seemed fully committed. She took a deep breath. The memories were almost too painful to share, but perhaps in the sharing some of the pain would release.

“What happened?” Manda whispered, intent to know but somehow understanding the sensitivity of the story being shared.

“Nothing. Nothing happened. There was no baby. When I found out we’d failed the second time I was devastated; heartbroken, and my emotions got the better of me. I cried so much and your uncle was not at all supportive or empathetic. In fact, it was as if the whole episode had not touched him at all. Instead of offering me any comfort he told me I belonged in a nut house,” Sally paused seeing the shocked expression on her niece’s face. “I’m sorry, but you need to know this because it explains what I did next.”

“And what was that?”

“I was so shocked by his lack of empathy and the emotional gulf which seemed to divide us that I told him that I would never go for fertility treatment again. That a pregnancy had to occur naturally or not at all.” Sally sighed. “And, of course, it happened not at all.”

Manda shrugged her shoulders in sadness. “Is that why you left Uncle Ted in the end?”

Sally looked down at her hands and played with her wedding ring from the new man in her life who was everything Tim was not. “It was the beginning of the slippery slope as I realized I could not trust him to be there for me. It took a few years, but yes, it was the first step toward divorce.” She looked up at Manda and smiled, “By the time I met your uncle Bob the biological clock had wound down and my chances for bearing a child were gone.”

“Are you sad about that?” Manda wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

“Come now, Manda, you must not be sad. I’m not. I learned years later after meeting with a hormone specialist and having tests done that my body chemistry could never have supported a baby. My hormones were so out of whack for so many reasons. This, at least, gave me some peace. I could stop thinking of myself as unworthy of being a mother and focus on taking care of my body which my experiences with early life trauma had somehow compromised. You won’t understand all of this now. I simply share it to illustrate that we must really know ourselves to find our real dreams. And we must have support around us to help them come to life. I had neither.”

Manda sighed and smiled. “Do you believe it was your fate not to have children then?”

Sally thought before answering.

“I believe life unfolds the way it should, sweetie. Set a path and see where it takes you. Don’t be fixed to ideas or goals. Use them as guidelines. Perhaps they will lead to even greater things than you can imagine.”

“Is that what happened to you?” Manda asked, hopefully.

Sally pushed the family album aside and reached for her niece’s hand. “Well, I have you, don’t I?”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015