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

Reminiscing Revisited

Daily Prompt: From You to You

Write a letter to your 14-year-old self.

~*~

Sally gazed thoughtfully through the kitchen window toward the hammock strung between maples where her 12-year-old niece, Manda, was once again happily swinging. The sweet tones of the young girl’s voice reverberated into the summer stillness, singing the tune to Reminiscing even though she’d only heard it for the first time a few minutes earlier. What a remarkable ear for music the young girl had, her aunt mused. A chip off the old family block, that’s for sure.

Sally smiled as Manda stopped to take a breath and inhaled chocolate ice cream. Oh, to be young again.

She returned to sit at the kitchen table with her glass of iced tea and sighed, remembering how much less idyllic her life had been at that age. And then her thoughts shifted to that favourite song and being 14 years old, and she sighed some more. Fourteen. What a torturous year that had been.

Sally reached for a notepad in the middle of the circular pine table, kept there for random thoughts, and dug for the fountain pen she always carried in her apron pocket. Perhaps it was time she wrote her 14-year-old self a letter. For some reason she felt prompted. Taking another sip of iced tea she set to work.

~*~

Dear 14-year-old Sally,

(She hesitated, not knowing where to start and then decided it was best to free write and see what happened … )

Oh, I remember you so well. Does that please you? To have not been forgotten? I hope so, because there are so many other periods of my life that have disappeared from memory liked clouds in the ether. But I remember you, and I wish it was for completely happy reasons.

(Sally took another sip of iced tea and peeked out the window. Manda was still happy. Returning to her missive, Sally continued to write … )

Having said that, I remember only part of that year ~ a time where you ought to have been most happy and were, instead, most traumatized. I know how you loved to visit your grandmother; to be in the small town where she lived, so close to the countryside where you and she and your brother would take long drives up to the old family homestead and stop for ice cream at the greasy spoon. I know you loved that. It helped you to feel rooted to hear the family stories of homesteading and hardship and ultimately, family success.

However, I also remember the terror you felt of  …

(Sally stopped. Was it too painful a memory? She took a deep breath and continued …)

Oh, if not for that dreadful man your whole life might have been different. If only people had known how despicable he was. If only gran had understood she would never have continued to let him visit knowing what he’d done and how much you feared him. Did she just not see? I know you were never able to tell her about what had happened eight years before ~ he’d made you promise. And you, being the good girl you were, kept your promises. But at such a cost! No wonder you ran away to your friend’s farm for weeks at a time to escape the prospect of him dropping by unexpectedly for tea.

Such terrible arguments you and gran had about your absence, but she never understood why.

If only you’d been able to tell her. 

(A deep swelling sigh freed itself from the depths of Sally’s chest. If only … )

I know you did what was necessary to protect yourself. Made yourself invisible; escaped however you could. It was no way to live. You missed so much, and I am sorry for that. What ought to have been the most care-free time of your life was made complicated by the sins of a nefarious heart. I’m so sorry.

(She wiped a tear as it trickled down her left cheek.)

All the trauma you felt lingered for years, and though I did as well in life as my invisible self would allow, I had to get help eventually. Your pain, I’m sad to say, crippled me emotionally. Still, the worst is behind us.

(Sally smiled to herself. Of course her 14-year-old self should know this!)

While your tenacity and sense of self-preservation served as a form of protection it also put obstacles in the way. I’ve been clearing those obstacles so we can both be free of suffering. I say “we” because you will always be a part of me. “We” are free to experience life fully and completely, now. It is such a wonderful gift. And I want to help Manda to do the same.

Thank you for taking such good care of yourself the best way you knew how. Perhaps now we can start to reminisce about more of the good ol’ days … like being on the track team at school, or spending time with the horses, or those lovely drives in the country with gran. You know, she did her best, too, with the limited understanding she had. We must always remember this.

With much love,

Your Self as a woman-of-a-certain-age,

Sally

~*~

Sally put the pen down and read over her letter. She smiled and pressed it to her heart. Somehow the exercise had been healing. Lovingly, she folded the piece of paper into quarters and slipped it into her apron pocket along with her lidded fountain pen. She would save the letter in her journal later. But now it was time to give that vivacious 12-year-old girl with those big, brown, sparkly eyes and the innocence of youth a big hug. Manda would always know who she could trust.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti 2015