When bad things happen to young people, it’s often hard for them to shake that memory. Being judged and misunderstood was the cross I needed to bear from a very young age, even until today. I was certain I had reprogrammed those old tapes or that my calloused skin would shed judgmental comments or thoughts. But I was wrong.
(Susan age 8)
I have sold many copies of my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos, since April 2020. I featured my rural Nebraskan childhood in the first few chapters and mailed several copies to my hometown friends. My curiosity went wild wondering what my classmates from grade school and high school would think about my story. 6-8 weeks had passed since they had received the books, but I had heard a favorable response from only one. What about the others?
Finally Karen, (here at age 8) a grade school and high school friend texted me and asked if I could call her. My monster of being judged and misunderstood reared its ugly head. I was certain there was something about my lifestyle, how I wrote about my high school boyfriend, or that she found a gross inaccuracy somewhere in my book. Certainly she would have something to say about me not wanting to be a “farmer’s wife.” After all, that’s what she became after getting married shortly after high school.
After almost an hour on the phone chatting about the farm, the weather, the crops, the children, and grandchildren she said, “Oh, about the reason I wanted to talk to you…” My shoulders tensed. I grabbed the arms of my chair. She went on, “I want to order another autographed copy of your book.”
“For who?” I queried.
“For my granddaughter who is graduating from high school. She and my son are struggling in their relationship and I’m hoping that your message of forgiveness and unconditional love will help her.”
I stammered to say, “Oh… um, thank you so much for recommending my book to her.”
I told her that giving my book to a seventeen year old seemed surprising, particularly because of my unconventional lifestyle that I lived when I was close to her granddaughter’s age. Our conversation deepened and she explained that life is different now. “Kids know and talk so much more. People express their feelings,” she said.
I was told never to talk about my feelings. “Don’t hang out your dirty laundry for everyone to see,” Mom often said. We never talked about our family issues to others or even to best friends when we were young. So there was no surprise that Karen didn’t know all the family issues I had in my life through high school and she was sorry she had not known.
Karen admitted that my rejection of becoming a farmer’s wife did not bother her. She knew I would not be happy in that role nor did she want to follow my journey. She was pleased with her life and she was happy for me.
What a wonderful acceptance from a lifelong friend. I can only hope that my old tapes running in my mind are getting worn and won’t play as often.
Here we are at our 40th high school reunion. Due to Covid -19 our 50th high school celebration was cancelled. Hoping for a trip back to Nebraska in 2021.