Some of you have read the story of my 12th birthday present. If not, you can find it under ‘A Farewell to Shame’ category. The story title is ’12’. You should know that ‘A Farewell to Shame’ is my story and I posted it in the order I wrote it which means it’s backwards. So if you want the whole story start at the bottom and read your way to the top. As always I welcome your comments and feedback. I wrote it a couple of years ago and decided to post it here a little at a time. I have a few more thoughts in that series left to post. I’ll recap the story ’12’ now and explain how the story has developed in the last few weeks. God has swooped into this dark place in my heart bringing rescue. This chapter in my life’s story has left me in stunned disbelief — overwhelmed with God’s love, wisdom, and gentleness toward me.
In September of 1978 I was turning 12 years old. When my birthday rolled around my mom gave me a blank piece of paper and told me to go into my room and make a birthday wish list. She told me to list everything I wanted and wished for, even a little. She told me to take as much time as I needed and make it as long as I wanted. But when I brought the list back to her she pushed it away without looking at it and told me to go back to my room and go through the list and convince myself that I didn’t really want any of those things. She said to think about the bad characteristics of every item until I truly didn’t want it any more. She said that when I was done I would have her birthday gift to me: contentment, the secret to happiness.
Even though I knew my mom was very unpredictable I didn’t see that coming. I obeyed her and unwished every single desire I had completely and fully. Looking back it seems to me that on that day I with my own free will took a great big knife and carved my heart out piece by piece until it was all gone. This seemingly minor event has had it’s deadly hooks in me ever since.
I finally took this memory to God and asked Him to fix it so that I could do more than just survive it, but really heal from it. I asked Him to redeem it. After some listening I ‘heard’ the answer: make another list. OK, I thought but I want to take my time. Take as much time as you need and make it as long as you want. So I took a blank piece of paper and started filling it with wishes. I’ve grown so much in the last couple of years. I’ve learned to desire. I’ve learned to ask. I’ve learned to pray. So it didn’t seem hard to start a good list. All my usual requests flowed out, prayers for my daughters to be safe and happy, prayers to grow in my marriage, prayers for my church, money to go on a trip, you get the idea. Slowly it dawned on me that I was making the wrong list. My assignment was not to make wishes for me now, but to make a list for the little girl in 1978 who was turning twelve. My job was to become willing to wish good things for her.
1) I wish I had food that tasted good and had enough of it — including the right to eat junk food, fast food, and candy sometimes.
2) I wish I had clean, good clothes that fit. I guess if I could pick what I wore I would have gone preppy. ‘Izod’ shirts, sweaters, straight leg jeans, and Nike tennis shoes with a bright red swoosh.
3) I wish I had a warm winter coat. Maybe a colorful ski jacket.
4) R., I wish we could have celebrated our birthdays together by making beaded leather necklaces with our names spelled out on them. Then I wish we could have spent the rest of the afternoon outside by a river in the woods with a rope swing that goes out over the water and taken turns swinging out and jumping off.
5) D., I wish we could spend an afternoon together playing beautiful music. I have always wanted to play piano well too so I wish we could have played an amazing piano duet together in front of our friends and family. I wish we had a gifted and kind teacher who believed in us.
6) W.,, I wish we could spend a day at Disney together. I wish I could have asked you to ride Space Mountain with me and to talk to me through the ride — especially the first part — so I wouldn’t be afraid.
7) B.,, I wish we could have gone to a NYC ballet together and that you could have explained everything you know and love about ballet. Then I wish we could have met the dancers and talked and laughed with them.
8.) P.,, I wish we had a pair of brand new yellow Suzuki dirtbikes. I wish I could have spent an afternoon with you in a big open field making a track with banks and turns and ramps. I wish you would use your encouraging spirit to talk me through the finer points of riding and jumping until we could fly around it like real riders.
9) K.,, I wish we could spend the afternoon together planning the ultimate 12 year old birthday party — our birthday party. I would value your excellent taste when it comes to party favors, decorations, guest list, food, and entertainment. I would gratefully accept your gift of the stunning pink dress and purse and I would ask you to accept my gift to you in return, a matching peacock blue dress with matching shoes and a matching purse filled with monogrammed embroidered hankies, hair ribbons, a journal and of course a beautiful real silver fountain pen inlaid with aquamarine gems that writes in peacock blue ink.
10) I wish I could have spent an afternoon on a trail ride with S. and F. It seems right that the three of us are in on this one wish. I wish we could ride somewhere out West and share a sunset together.
11) I wish I could spend an afternoon alone with E. in the beautiful garden, playing croquet, running through the flowers, all the things you described. I’d like to sing ‘church songs’ with you (I’ll harmonize) and see all your drawings. But mostly I’d just like to get to talk heart to heart so I could get to know you for the beautiful young woman you are.
12) (Wished for me by H.) My heart’s deep desire when we are twelve is to go for a walk in the woods with you. I want to splash through streams and dry in the dappley forest sun. I want to find a hidden spot where Lady’s Slippers grow. I want to leap from huge rock to huge rock. I want to hear a mighty crash in the trees and grab your hand and meet your eyes with terror-citement and wonder if we are in danger. I want to continue forward and come face to face with a big, surprised white-tail buck, who gazes thoughtfully at us for a moment before crashing off again into the underbrush. I want to discover the entrance to a cave and crawl in. I want to quickly realize that the light disappears within a few steps, but feel a big space open in front of us. I want to stand there with you, in the twilit transition, being pulled forward into the inky unknown and backward into the safe sunlight. I want you to convince me to shuffle carefully in much further than feels safe to me. I want to coax you back to the entrance with a fervent promise to come back tomorrow with flashlights. I want to stumble into an ancient, overgrown apple orchard. I want to find a couple of lumpy, deformed, little apples and find them to be shockingly delicious. I want us to notice a dark clump high in the trees and realize it is a porcupine. I want to discuss the pros and cons of climbing the tree for a closer look. I want to see something fascinating that we can’t explain or understand.
13) I wish I could spend an afternoon with 12 year old G. playing new records and then going to see Grease. It seems strange that this wish would make me nervous, but my mom had me convinced that if I listened to rock and roll and watched ‘worldly’ movies that I’d end up pregnant or strung out on drugs. Embarrassing, but true and it made me afraid all the time of the other humans in the world and how they might ‘influence’ me. My mom’s ‘safe’ influence on the other hand was bad for my heart. G., I trust you. My 12 year old self is ready to try something a little ‘grown up’ now.
14) I wish I could spend an afternoon roller skating with L. — each of us wearing a brand new pair of birthday skates. I wish we could top off the afternoon by eating home made ice cream so cold our brains would freeze.
15) I wish I could spend a 12-year old afternoon with M. talking about books. I’d give her my favorite set in English – probably A Wrinkle in Time, The Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I wish she’d give me a set of beginner books in Japanese and spend a few hours helping me understand the basics of how to read them.
16) I wish I could share my secrets and dreams with M. as her pen pal. We would look forward to each letter and share promises of eternal friendship and make solemn plans to meet face to face.
17) I wish I could spend time with C. writing, practicing, blocking, making costumes for and performing in a homemade play with her and her younger brothers and sisters that we could perform for all our friends.
18.) I’ve been saving this one. I wish I was Tamarshope’s sister.
19) Of all the people I know, I wish I could spend a 12-year old afternoon outside with 12-year old C. working on my jump-shot. I wish with his coaching that I got really good and that in the evening after it got cooler but but before it got really dark we could drink a tall glass of pink lemonade left over from the birthday party and then play 2 on 2 against a team of friendly rivals and beat them fair and well.
20) I wish I could spend a 12-year old afternoon with my 12-year old (meant-to-be-husband-one-day) M. playing on my brand new Pong game which he would have given me for my 12-year-old birthday. I wish we would laugh and share our separate future-dreams while playing and that our hands would ‘accidentally’ brush up against each other when we both reached for the reset button. I wish that while we were lying on our bellies on the living-room carpet looking up at the ‘big TV’ with dust swimming in the sunbeam shining through the big picture window that he would reach over and leave a gentle 12-year old kiss on my cheek. My first kiss.