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  • Writer's picturesadie.speaks

Quote, Unquote

“Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

Mr. Magoo scribbled those words to me shortly after he admitted his impropriety. Me, still reeling in shame, embarrassment and confusion, he shoved the envelope at me in the parking lot of a laundromat.

Him, trying to gather up the loose ends of his ‘mistake’ with a greeting card. Wheat on the front, feeble apologies and manipulation on the inside. Each phrase continuing the facade that we were equals, peers, and friends. Him, reminding me how safe I felt with him and how comforted I felt by his presence. Me, soaking it all in as any barely sixteen year old would do. Me, never reminding myself that he was my superior twice my age and that he was using me in the worst of ways. The imbalance of power made equal by preying on my kindness. The dark reality of how he treated me blown away by my breath instead of the hanging halitosis of three years of grooming coming to light. Him, reminding me of my faithful hand of friendship to solidify my loyalty to him. The scribbled card, a tangible reminder that I promised my silence. I promised to protect his reputation. I promised to lose my adolescent voice so that he could keep his ‘grown up‘ one.

Years and years I memorized that quote. I hung the card on bulletin boards and tucked it away in boxes of memorabilia. Then, abuse’s effects came to call. Counseling ensued and I burned the card in a purge of all the things he gave me. I burned the card in my back yard. The token items he had given me to keep the heart ties, to remind me of my promised silence, they worked. Because grooming works on the mind and tears away at the soul.

He mucked up my ideas of God, true. But he also mucked up my ideas of myself. He took virtues of my naive and innocent personality and made them vices. For years and years, I cherished that card and boasted in its contents. I wanted to be thought as a comfort, a kindness too hard to express, a faithful hand, safe— a great sifter of every person’s chaff— all their ugliness dumped into my hands to sort and forgive. No one had to weigh themselves with me. Treat me any which way you want, I am a forgiver. He told me so in that greeting card.

Then, my voice. The great awakening when it all dawned on me as an adult, a mother myself and a teacher. All the realization of an adult (and not that of a child) and that greeting card became a sort of sympathy card to me. Those virtues died in me. Kindness got me abused. Faithful loyalty to others got me beat. Not weighing another’s words allowed them to manipulate, groom and deceive me. Comfort and safety for ‘everyone’ meant discomfort and danger for me. In a swing of emotions, I rejected the quote on the greeting card of wheat. My cynicism surpassed my will to breathe. My hands could no longer hold grain because the chaff was too heavy.

I have found that one way my abuse stays with me is a strong attachment to places, people, things and even quotes that remind me of those times. The only way to shake them is to have those same places, people, things and quotes redeemed.

A paper coupon gets redeemed by trading it in. What you get as the ‘real thing’ is much better than a piece of paper. I could be on the reality show ‘Extreme Couponing’ with all the memory coupons I hoard of people, places and things that haunt and demoralize me. I haven’t made the exchange for some time so as to get the ‘real thing’ of healing. The new memories of the people, places, things....and quotes— those vouchers are nearly expired.

Today, I got another greeting card in the mail. The front is dotted with cute little Russian dolls and happy little flowers. It is a thank you note. Not a groomer’s ploy. Me, touched by the card’s thoughtfulness. It came quietly to my mailbox.

The penmanship was familiar as my oldest daughter wrote beautiful things about me I often find hard to believe. On the inside, she said I was strong, an encouragement and a comfort. She reminded me of my calling as a Mom and a Gramma [sic]. She said my ministry was a balm and my wisdom, a beacon. She said she was safe with me. Her, communicating all the love a daughter can to her mother. Her, thanking me for carrying her and her baby through a traumatic birth.

Then, redeemed. The coupon traded. On the opposite page in her distinctive handwriting is this quote, just for me:

It took 35 years to trade in that coupon. She had no idea the adversarial relationship I had with that quote once used to silence me. That quote: once used to broker a bargain basement forgiveness toward a man who has cost me a whole lot of confusion and heartache. And with that poetic sentimental quotation, she gave me a part of my voice back.

She made virtuous again those beautiful words to be a safe comfort to another. She reminded me to put away the scales and allow my faithful hands to fill with another’s chaff and grain. She emphasized the sifting and the sorting of what is good and what can be gently, kindly blown away. She gave me the real thing. My Mama voice replaces my adolescent silence. Words offered in love expecting nothing from me in return. Words of life to shout; not words of death to keep secret.

Mr. Magoo wanted to trade a greeting card for silence. He wanted his words and this quote to hold me close - to gift me a token of his manipulation so as to gain a form of forgiveness rooted in deception and power.

But beautiful words carry life when nestled in a Babushka doll greeting card. They carry life from generation to generation. All the way back to 1867 when Dinah Craik first penned them in a book called A Life for a Life. From life to life to life, words can redeem old memories and hoarded coupons.

Return to sender, Mr. Magoo.

Send all future correspondence to Sadie Speaks: Finding My Voice after Abuse.

And thank you for a safe and sacred space of comfort, friends. Thank you for your kindnesses and for your faithful hands that keep what is worth keeping as you read this blog.

Make the trade. Let your memories be redeemed. Happy {Extreme} Couponing!

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