I wish I had the picture that I’ve somehow misplaced, as it would speak volumes all on its own.
It’s a moment permanently wrapped tight in my memory.
I was 12 or 13, and I wore a baby pink dress with tiny, white polka dots. My grandfather bought the dress because my mother couldn’t afford to.
The dress hung on my skeletal being as if it knew how I felt.
My grandma had set my long, brown hair in ripped bed sheets the night before. Long corkscrew curls dangled past my shoulders.
A crown of the baby’s breath sat like a halo on top of my head for the occasion. In the image, I do not smile.
One long, lanky arm wraps around my grandmother’s shoulder—her arm tight around my waist.
I am at least a foot taller, and it looks as if she is holding me up.
It was the day of my confirmation; the baby’s breath was worn because it was also Mother’s Day, and I was chosen to crown the blessed mother in front of the whole church before my class was confirmed on that day.
Not remembering the timeline, and only guessing that it had to be weeks before this day, I had been called from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) class to the priest’s office.
I don’t remember the moment much.
I don’t know his face or his name or if I sat down in a chair or stood before him.
But I remember him, along with the familiar scent of frankincense. He told me that of all the girls to be confirmed, my name was picked.
I imagined they did the little papers crumbled up and put in a hat or bowl.
He told me that the mothers were angry, disappointed.
I don’t remember his words exactly. But if I close my eyes and remember the smell of frankincense, despair fills my heart.
They wanted another drawing.
He told me that they felt I didn’t deserve to represent the church. They had daughters who came from glowing families. Their daughters received good grades in school, their families sat around the dinner table each night. they felt they were made pure of God’s love and deserved this.
Not me. I was a walking billboard of my circumstance.
How could I be allowed such an honor?
I’m not sure if he told me this so I would bow out humiliated and broken. I mean, I was a child. No other adult was next to me while the congregation told me what they’d thought of me and my place in this world.
Unfortunately for the girls and their mothers, I did not bow out. I told no one of my meeting with the priest. Who could I tell?
My mother and grandmother sat in their own despair, which they could not escape.
All I know was that God knew and God saw all that was taking place. I knew that this was a contradiction to all the hymns I was taught to sing and all the homilies I sat through in mass.
The God I had to confess my sins to every Saturday at 4:00 pm (4 p.m.)would never think this treatment was okay. How could his people?
Once again, I had been chased into the light for this event.
I don’t remember the day at all; I only have the picture.
I was told that it was a standing room only.
I was told I walked down the aisle and I placed the crown on Mary’s head.
My grandma said I looked like a beautiful angel.
I was told I loved church as a child, and I still can recite many prayers and songs. But today, I pray in a different language.
A long time ago, I was split in two and I am here today because half of me held onto an indelible belief in the light that kept me. A light like no other. A light that is nowhere but everywhere at the same time.
Although it touched me and it surrounded me, I couldn’t touch it.
My fingers would glide through it. And I watched as it, along with my breath, flowed through me, keeping me suspended in its glory.
I try to go back in time to remember when this light with no voice first spoke to me. I’m sure it came to me in my very first escape from reality.
I believe I am remembering, and with each walk down my broken memory lane, I am healing. And I hope you are, too.
And so it is and so it shall be.