If my mom hadn’t been so sad, and my dad hadn’t been so scared, they would have noticed that I loved to dance.
If my mom hadn’t been so depressed, and my dad hadn’t been so oppressive, they would have taken me for dance lessons.
If my mom hadn’t been so blue, and my dad hadn’t been at school, they would have watched me dance with delight, exchanged happy glances, and clapped their hands while I moved.
“Look at me!” I would have asked silently with my eyes, and their gaze would be approving.
Instead, I watched my mother’s back as she cooked at the kitchen stove, and felt her emptiness with a searing intensity, though she did not speak.
Instead, I listened to my father’s childhood stories of poverty, and felt his deprivation with a selfless longing to give him what he did not have.
I was lonely with a loneliness that has no words, and rather than dance, books became my friends. Books, the rescuers of the lonely, absorbed my pain, offered me compassion, told me I was not alone. Writers knew what regular people did not say out loud.
Writers knew “kind” is better than “smart” and “tenderness” so much more important than “braininess.” Writers cradled me, comforted me, said what I had no words for … writers absorbed my pain and selflessly filled me with their compassion.
This pain that I was carrying was greater than I knew. I had been trained by my family culture to not know what I felt … to not know what I needed. This was the way of Not Bothering Anyone, and my parents were equally inculcated in this way of being … that was how they so masterfully passed it down.
But somehow, they also knew to give me books. The silent remedy for the family pain that could not be exposed, discussed or healed … except in private with your favorite authors.
As an adult, children’s books are still so nurturing for me … grown-up books, too. If you’d like to know some titles that transformed me, read Books That Saved My Life, part 1 and part 2.
P.S. Question: What you be if you had been seen and nurtured?