I was afraid to wake up the next morning, dreading the icy weight of the night before. Though the inner distaste and anguish remained, I was relieved to discover that the icy weight had mainly lifted. I remembered now. I knew that never again could I slam the door shut on those memories and throw away the key. It was also a relief to discover that, like I had always done with other things, I could compartmentalize this too in a part of my brain until I had time to deal with it. Only this time, I didn’t close the door completely. The memories remained there, a new awareness in the back of my mind. But I knew I didn’t have the time or the energy or the knowledge to deal with them now. I had no idea where to start, or if I even dared. The memories and thoughts were too distasteful to even contemplate! So I closed that compartment and promised myself I’d deal with it later.
My cousin Luanne and I went out to the orchard that morning to pull weeds and clean up dead branches. Luanne had only recently broken up with her boyfriend of six months. My concern for her was the main reason I had decided to stay with Luanne and her family for two weeks. Luanne and I were close, and I wanted to be there for her.
As we worked, I let my mind drift over the events of the past six months during our moments of silence. I’m so glad I’m here with Luanne for two weeks, I thought. I think I needed this time away from home even more than she needed me to be here. This morning, I even sang without thinking about it. I don’t know when I did that last! I smiled wryly to myself. I wondered if other people ever guessed that my singing rarely indicated my happiness. It usually indicated that I was stressed out or close to tears. But this morning, I had started singing because I wanted to and felt peaceful and happy!
I didn’t realize I was so depressed and worn out the past few months. But it’s no wonder, I told myself, with everything that has been happening. Guess it kind of all started when everything blew up at home last Thanksgiving. Nothing has really changed or gotten better at home, even though the ministry and my married siblings think so. I still don’t get it why Dad let the ministry persuade him to let Mom come back home. We would all be better off if Mom and Dad would just separate. Dad keeps putting himself through such stress in hope Mom will change, but she never will. Don’t ask me why Dad keeps torturing himself!
And I thought we would never get moved! I yanked on a stubborn weed as I thought about the weeks since January when Dad had purchased the new house. In fact, Dad, Jesse, and I had looked at the house while Mom was gone to Ohio in November, and Dad decided to purchase it while she was gone. Just thinking about the last five months of the moving process made me exhausted all over again. Oh, Mom had been so angry about moving. She had not wanted to leave the large house that she had redecorated so beautifully. The funny thing was, she had claimed that being allowed to decorate her house would make her happy. But she was more miserable than ever. But common sense had told Dad and the rest of us that he and Mom could no longer handle the large house and acres of lawn to mow with only two children left at home who were already teenagers and moving onto other things. Moving to a smaller place that was only 45 minutes from his job made so much more sense than the large house and too many acres 1 ½ hours away.
But all Mom could see was her anger. Don’t ask me why she was angry, I thought. It defied all common sense. I suspect though that she fought moving so hard just to be able to fight Dad. That’s how Mom is, anyway. It seems like anything Dad decides is a signal to Mom, almost like a red flag to a bull, to attack him and his decisions just out of spite. Will it never end? I felt weary just thinking about it all.
Since we had purchased the house in January, there had been nothing but stress and tension and anger. I wondered how many times in those months I had been close to tears, how many times I had stood in my bedroom with clenched fists, refusing to cry, forcing a smile onto my face and a song on my lips before going back out to face the world, namely Mom, Dad, and Jesse.
Because Mom had been so angry and stubborn, she refused to help and plan the work at the new house and the moving process. Every week, I made detailed work lists on what needed to be done at the new house: spackling ugly walls full of holes, painting walls and ceilings, laying carpet in the basement we were finishing, shopping for and purchasing curtains, planning meals and menus for each day, sorting through all our belongings at our old house, planning what to move and when, and so much more. Dad practically lived at the new house for a couple months to complete the many projects that needed done. I was the one who talked to Dad and planned with him so we could get things done. All of it, every bit of it, had been on my shoulders, and I had dragged Mom along with me to and from the new house, pushing and planning and pushing, refusing to let her anger control me, the tension thick and the air stifling.
At first, I had been so frustrated and angry myself. Here I was, an eighteen-year-old girl, trying to fill the shoes of my fifty-year-old mother. I shouldn’t have had to do all that! I was angry at the responsibility thrust upon me for no reason at all. And I just couldn’t do everything. I didn’t have the experience to plan it all and get everything figured out. I made so many mistakes. I didn’t know how to be a mom and wife. But here I was, doing it anyway. My anger and frustration threatened to swallow me.
I moved to another tree and picked up more branches. That didn’t change until I surrendered, I thought. I was just being selfish, not wanting to help my family. I finally told myself that Mom wasn’t going to help and there was nothing I could do about it. But all the work needed done anyway. So I made plans and just didn’t count on Mom and didn’t expect her to help and plan. And I finally got down on my knees and asked God’s forgiveness for my selfishness and anger and asked Him for His help to do what needed to be done. Sometimes it still seemed too much, but at least it went better after that. I’m just so glad we are finally moved, and that it is all finally over.
I thought of moving weekend so recently passed and winced. Now that was something I didn’t want to think about! The hurt still throbbed when I let myself think about it. Why did I respond like that anyway? I wondered. I was so emotional after Dean and Lori left. That’s not like me.
My brother Dean, though four years older than I, was the next sibling above me. He had moved to Ohio a few years ago and was now engaged to Lori Weaver. In fact, they had only recently gotten engaged. Or at least, I had only recently been told. I was kind of hurt when I found out they had been engaged for a while, and that not only had Lori’s family and Dad known for quite a while, Dean had even told Mom before he had told me! Dean and I used to be quite close and told each other pretty much everything. And now, I didn’t even count enough for him to tell me personally about the engagement? That wasn’t exactly a good feeling.
However, I had been looking forward to Dean and Lori coming to help us move. I really wanted to talk to Dean. I had been through a stressful six months, and hadn’t had anyone to talk to about them. Dean and I had always talked and understood each other. We had always bounced ideas off each other and supported each other. I needed his support and understanding after the way Mom had been acting the past few months.
And then Dean proceeded to ignore me nearly all weekend. It was Lori this and Lori that. On Saturday, he and Lori sorted through his belongings that were still at Dad’s rather than helping much with moving. He didn’t make any effort to talk to me, to find out how my life had been lately. He stuck to Lori’s side. Suddenly, it was as if I didn’t count anymore, as if I was a piece of goods he could pick up and drop at will anytime he wished. And I had been thoroughly dropped.
As if the weekend wasn’t bad enough, Dean, Lori, Jesse, and I traveled to St. Louis the following Monday to spend a day at the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis Science Center. It had been awhile since we three youngest siblings had spent much time together. Jesse, four years younger than I, was the youngest in our family, and we three youngest had grown up together and stuck together.
But that day together was worse than even the previous three! Every conversation somehow turned to Dean and Lori and their plans and the upcoming wedding. Finally, while at the museum at the Gateway Arch, Dean gave me the hint to get lost and let Lori and him alone rather than walking through the museum with them. That was the last straw! Fine! If he didn’t want me, I certainly wasn’t going to bother him. But something inside of me turned over and died. I had all I could do to hide my tears of hurt and frustration the rest of the day. It didn’t take long to develop a pounding headache from holding myself stiff against the pain and tears. I was so relieved to finally get home. I crawled into bed that night, exhausted, and cried myself to sleep.
Just reliving that weekend in my mind made me angry and hurt all over again. I worked with a vengeance on the weeds around the last apple tree. I sure did wear my heart on my sleeve for the next week, I thought. Every time I thought about what he did, I started crying again. I couldn’t even talk to Dad about it without almost crying. And I NEVER cry in front of Dad! And I’m sure glad Dean couldn’t see me when we talked on the phone later that week. All I did was cry during that phone call!
I’m just glad I finally scolded myself and told myself to quit the hysterics and the crying about how hurt I felt and just get over it. I’ll make it just fine without him. If he wants to drop me like a hot potato, fine! I’ll survive. At least I’ve stopped crying all the time now. I didn’t let myself think about the previous night and how I had felt like I’d never stop crying. Never ending tears wasn’t something I wanted to think about. So I sternly called my mind back from dangerous territory.
Luanne’s call broke into my lengthy reverie. “Are you finished over there? I’m finished here on my side. I think we should go into the house and see if Mom needs help with lunch. Then I think I’m going to nap after our late night last night.”
“Yes, I’m finished. And lunch and a nap sound like a great idea!” We emptied our pails of weeds onto the compost heap and then trudged into the house for lunch. My morning of mental sorting had done me good. For too many months, I had been too busy and exhausted to sort through all the events and emotions that kept piling up. I had been too busy even to journal, my normal outlet for all things good or bad in my life. Just to have the time and freedom to let my mind roam had felt good, even though it did call up things I would rather not have thought about.
The rest of the week with Luanne’s family flew by. Like Monday, we spent much of our time outside, doing the spring work. We cleaned up flowerbeds and planted flowers. We spread mulch and worked in the garden and helped with the few chores in the barn. My aunt Paula, Luanne’s mom, loved the out of doors, and the lush greenness of the many gardens and flowerbeds were mute testimony to her green thumb. We worked hard. But in between it all, Luanne and I had time to talk, to share with each other, to catch up on each other’s lives. We had been favorite cousins with each other since early girlhood. Over the years, I had spent so much time with my uncle’s family that their home had become a home away from home for me, an oasis of rest. Here, totally free from any stress or tension, I felt the anxiety and exhaustion of the last months fall away, and I felt happy again.
Since Luanne and her family loved to sing, many happy hours of work were spent singing song after song, or learning new songs in the evenings, or memorizing songs of inspiration together. Luanne’s younger sisters and my aunt Paula would join in, and we could sing all four parts in ladies’ voices. My sisters were both a lot older than I was, so I had not grown up with sisters. Luanne’s sisters had become my sisters too.
Later in the week, I called Renae. “Hello, Renae. Luanne’s family has a family gathering on the Martin side tomorrow. I don’t exactly want to go along when I don’t know the people very well. Could I come over to your place for the day?”
“Of course,” she replied. “I’d be delighted if you’d come!”
“Okay. I will plan on being there around 10 o’clock tomorrow.”
As I got off the phone, Luanne said, “Aren’t you coming with us tomorrow?”
“No, I’d rather not,” I answered. “I really want to spend some time with Renae, and I thought this would be a good time to do that.” Luanne’s face screwed up a bit in disappointment. But I wanted the chance to talk to Renae without Luanne present. Though Renae and I already felt like we knew each other very well, most of my time with Renae had been when all three of us were together. Renae and I were kindred spirits in a way Luanne and I weren’t, and I really needed to talk to Renae.
Friday morning, I pulled into Renae’s drive. I was so eager to talk to her. My two weeks with my uncle Julian’s family would be over all too soon, and I needed to sort some of my feelings out about Mom and Dad. Somehow, I knew she would understand. Talking about my family to Luanne just made me uncomfortable. With Renae, I knew it would be a different story. So I was looking forward to the day, but I was apprehensive too. How I wanted to tell Renae about the revelation of Sunday night, but did I dare? What would she think? Would she truly understand that? Deep inside, I knew she would because of her own painful story, but I didn’t know if I could even speak the words…
“Good morning.” Renae greeted me at the door. Her mom Victoria looked up with a smile as I entered the kitchen.
“So what are we planning on doing today?” I asked.
“Want to help me house clean my bedroom?” Renae grinned at me.
“Sure thing!” I replied. We grabbed our cleaning supplies and the sweeper and headed upstairs. As we moved the furniture, wiped the walls, and cleaned the windows, Renae and I shared heart-to-heart. Though I had already heard general details of her story from Luanne, I learned much more that morning as we worked and talked.
We talked about a recent event in their church circles. “Do you think it’s possible for anyone to change?” I asked.
“Of course I do!” She exclaimed. “Jackie, there is just as much hope for your mom as for anyone else. God can work any miracle. He can bring her to her knees in surrender. Don’t lose faith. God can change her.”
Tears filled my eyes, and I focused intently on the window trim I was scrubbing so Renae couldn’t see my face. “Thanks, Renae, for that. I think that’s been part of my problem the last while. I’ve just lost hope: for Mom, for Dad, for everyone. I quit praying for her or for any of us. I just focused on all her faults instead and got angry.”
“You know, I read something a while ago that goes something like this,” Renae told me. ‘If a relationship is not as it should be, but cannot be made any better, accept the relationship and the person as they are, then go on to love more deeply.’” I pondered her words quietly.
Yes, that is exactly what I’ve not been doing, I thought. I’ve just been so bitter all I could think about how bad everything was and what Mom was like. I was so angry and disrespectful, too. The truth is that there are no conditions in the Bible about honoring your parents, such as ‘if they are good parents.’ And I was just disrespectful in the way I treated her during all those months of moving preparations. Maybe she wasn’t acting the way she should, but that doesn’t give me a reason to treat her like a naughty child. Hmm. I think I have some attitudes to change.
I turned to Renae and said softly, “Thanks for telling me that, Renae. I think I’ve become bitter towards Mom in the last few months.”
Renae smiled slightly. “Yes, I noticed.”
I stopped, my rag in mid-air. “You did?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes. I’ve learned how to read body language and expressions, and when you talk about your Mom, the bitterness shows.
“You know, Jackie, you are in the perfect place for bitterness. It could be very easy to hold your Dad up on a pedestal and push your Mom down. This could either make or break you, you know.”
“I know. I think I do have Dad on a pedestal. I have for a long time I think. In many ways, he is both my mom and my dad because I don’t really have a mom. I don’t want to be bitter, but it’s so hard….”
“I know. I’m praying for you, you know.
Quiet reigned for a moment as I finished the window I was cleaning and went to the bathroom for a fresh bucket of water. Coming back into the room, I started scrubbing the wall behind the bed. So should I say something? Should I tell her? What do I say? I contemplated actually saying the words, but the horror rose in my throat and choked me. I just couldn’t! I didn’t dare! I couldn’t say them, but I had to sometime, didn’t I? How much longer could I keep all this to myself?
Well, maybe I can dance around the topic, I thought. “So what was Oasis of Peace like?” I asked her. Oasis of Peace was a Mennonite place of refuge and counseling for struggling girls and women.
Renae looked at me and smiled faintly. “Awful, at first. I didn’t want to go. My parents made me go after everything that happened. I was very angry and bitter at first.”
“How long were you there?” I asked.
“About three months. When you first arrived there, you aren’t allowed to communicate with friends and family for a few weeks or to have visitors. I was just hard at first and didn’t want anyone to help me. But my counselor, Mary Beth, wouldn’t give up. And neither would God. It was there I finally repented.
“So how could you tell a counselor all about yourself?” I wondered. “I don’t see how I could ever do it!”
“It was hard. In many ways, we literally trusted our counsellors with our lives. In the end, they know so much more about us than anyone else. But they keep confidentiality, and it is a very good place.
“As hard as everything has been in the past year, I know now that it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was a member of the church, but I had no idea what it meant to be a Christian. I was forced to come face to face with who I really was and that I was helpless without God. It was at Oasis of Peace that I found God.”
“Do you still have contact with your counselor?” I asked her.
“Yes. We still talk on the phone. Not as much as we did after I first came back home, of course, but still sometimes. She is one amazing person!”
“I’ve wondered if a place like that could help me,” I said. “It’s not like I’m falling to pieces or anything, but I could use some redefining in my life. But there is such a stigma in our church about going to a place like that. If you need counseling or anything similar, you are seen as damaged goods, maybe not quite right in the head. I’m not sure I want that. I already have enough of a stigma in our circles. I’m a daughter of the troubled William Hurst family.”
Renae nodded. “I know. I’ve faced some of that. There are some girls who still won’t spend time with me because of everything that happened. But going to Oasis of Peace was worth it.”
We were quiet again for a moment as we focused on our cleaning. “Renae, have you ever had something that you want to think about and talk about, but your brain says, ‘Don’t go there,’ because it hurts too much? I have something like that I want to talk about sometime, but I just can’t right now.”
“ Yes, I know a little what that is like. You can tell me anything you want any time you want. You know that? Right?”
“Yes. Sometime I will tell you, I think. But I just can’t now.”
“That’s okay, Jackie. Like I said, I’m praying for you.”
Even though I still hadn’t actually said what I really wanted to say, just hinting at the possibility of talking about it made the burden a little easier. The uneasiness in my stomach calmed a bit. Sometime, soon, maybe I could talk about this.
As the end of my two weeks with uncle Julian’s family drew near, my dread grew. Go back home again to all that? How could I? How could I keep from getting as depressed as I had been the past few months? How could I possibly stand it?
A few days before Mom came back to pick me up, I sat down with my journal. Writing was my control valve, and I badly needed to write all of this out before I went home. I was desperate to find a way to survive while at home. I opened my journal and re-read the last entry or two. Over the last week, I had written about the revelation of that Sunday night and the need to address it somehow, sometime. But right now I just couldn’t, so it still sat the back burner, waiting until I could think about it without mentally shutting down. Right now, what I needed the most was to figure out why the last few months had gotten me down and what I could do to handle living at home.
I picked up my pen and started writing.
Dear Diary: I feel like screaming, “I don’t want to go home! I’m not going to go home!” But…in two days, I have to go home! And all I want to do is run, as fast and as hard as I can. What a sad way to end a wonderful two weeks!
Diary, I didn’t realize how depressed and repressed and tied into knots inside I am at home, especially lately. I did not know how much it had gotten me down until I started feeling a lot better emotionally while I was here. And now, I don’t want to go back. I don’t think I ever felt this strongly about going back home as I do this time. I feel the depression setting in again, as strongly as ever. I don’t want to go home! I’m so tired of the strain and stress of living at home. I just wish I could rest awhile….
But Diary, I don’t have a choice. I must go home to take up the cross that is mine to bear. But I do need to figure out why the last few months got me down so badly if I’m going to go back.
One reason was that I was just so busy that I didn’t take any time to journal or to sort out myself and my thoughts. Everything just piled up and buried me. When I go back home, I must take time for myself. But I think the biggest reason was that I just got so bitter and just focused on Mom and all her failures. I took my eyes off God and forgot that He’s still a miracle worker. I just got so mired down in all the tension and frustration and I just plain lost hope that anything at home will ever get better.
Renae helped to set me straight on that. There is hope for Mom and for all of us. Just focusing on all that’s wrong doesn’t help. So my prayer from now on is that God would place in my heart a love for my mom. No, not the daughter-mother kind of love, but a deeper love in spite of what she is and what she does. And I must start being respectful. During the moving, I was often disrespectful and just charged ahead and did things and treated her like a child. And that is not right!
But, Diary, that is going to be difficult. Why? Because of Dad. Dad and I are used to discussing Mom and her faults and hashing and rehashing everything that happens. Dad is used to just spilling to me, just to free his mind. I think Dad has developed some bad attitudes about Mom and what she does. I think he’s kind of bitter too. So he talks to me about it, and it gets me down and bitter too.
I guess I have in many ways become wife and daughter to Dad. He tells me things a man would usually tell his wife because his wife is not there to listen. As a result, I get an extra burden.
So now what? Do I tell Dad not to talk to me about Mom and their problems? Do I question him about his bitterness? Yet, he needs someone to talk to! I feel responsible for him. I can’t just dump him and turn away when he needs to share things to keep his sanity. He’s told me so many times how he feels like he’s going crazy and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about Mom and their relationship, and that talking to me helps him so much. But is it right for him to tell me everything he does? Then again, is it in my place to call my Dad down?
Diary, I just don’t know what the answer is. I will have to pray about this and maybe put some feelers out when I talk to Dad. Oh God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference! Oh, God, I plead that wisdom!
I closed my journal. Writing all this out had calmed the screaming in my brain. I was still afraid of going back home, but at least now I had a blueprint on how to keep from getting so depressed. I needed to love Mom more and respect her. I needed to take time for myself. I needed to focus not just on myself and my problems, but care for other people too. I needed to keep a positive attitude, sing no matter what, and trust God to help me. It’ll be okay, I thought. I can make it. I always have before. I will again. And that was that. I closed the door on my fear and turned my face towards the future. I was going home, and I’d deal with it.
“Hi, Mom,” I greeted her at the door, my luggage already piled in my aunt Paula’s kitchen.
“Hello. Are you ready to go home?” She asked.
“Nope. Not even close,” I replied. “I’d love to stay, but I can’t stay here forever, so I guess here goes.” Mom and I loaded up the car with my luggage and headed towards home. Silence reigned for most of the six hours home, a mostly strained silence. The anger and tension of the last few months stood like a wall between us, and I was too afraid to make any effort to break it down. Walls were safer, anyway, since Mom and I no longer connected. We were more like two individuals living in parallel worlds. On this day, our parallel worlds had to collide, but I didn’t have to like it.
The fear squeezed at my insides again. My decision that my attitudes and actions had to change seemed so difficult now. How was I ever going to change any of it? My determination to not let home depress me and my grand plans to stay on top seemed paltry and small now that I was again surrounded by the impossible tension and relational walls of the home I lived in. Home? I spat the word out in disgust. It had been a long time since home was a place of safety to me. Actually, if I was honest with myself, it never had been. I was just putting in time here until I could get out. The only reason I stayed was for Dad and Jesse’s sake, unwilling to leave them in the craziness and turmoil of it all. How many times have I wished that Mom would make good on her threat and just leave? Or that Dad would just get some guts and make her leave? I wondered. Sure would simplify life for the rest of us! The silence hung over me like a black cloud, and I felt the darkness descend over my spirit. Would life never end? I wearily asked myself, for the umpteenth time.
We pulled into the driveway at home, and I lugged my suitcases inside and started unpacking. I liked my new bedroom. The soft lavender and aqua lace curtains made the room so feminine. Mom didn’t particularly like the curtains I had chosen and sewn, but it was my room, so she hadn’t protested too much. And I especially liked my new bedroom suite, a beautiful oak set with a large bookcase headboard that had compartments that actually locked!
Oh yes, that was another bone of contention with Mom, I thought. This bedroom suite had been Mom and Dad’s at the old place. In fact, Mom was the one that had chosen this bedroom suite for their recently redecorated bedroom at the old house. Mom and Dad are using the guest bedroom suite now. When Jesse leaves, that bedroom suite would be his.
I cringed as I remembered that day a few months ago when Dad informed Mom of his new plans for the two nice bedroom suites they owned. We had been at the new house inspecting the rooms and planning where everything would go. Dad had already told me of his plans, that I would get their bedroom suite and the largest bedroom at the new house so all the furniture would fit. Mom was only now finding out. Mom exploded. “What in the world will we do without a nice bedroom suite? It’s not fair! This is the furniture I chose and I want! You can’t be serious about putting Jackie into the largest bedroom and giving her that furniture! If you give all our stuff away, we won’t have anything left for ourselves!” Mom’s eyes looked haunted with anger, but also a strange look of fear. Was Mom so attached to things that losing them scared her? I wondered.
Now that I had sewn the curtains I wanted and my things were all nicely arranged inside and on top of the beautiful furniture, my bedroom had become my little oasis. Now that I was home planning for school, I spent most of my time in my bedroom at my desk, the door usually closed, most often locked. Dad had even set up a computer for me mounted above my desk, and I rapidly typed up my plans and documents for school on it.
In my new beautiful bedroom, I felt a little safer. The locked door closed out the tension that hovered over our house like a cloud. I could close out the sounds of Mom and Dad arguing at night. I didn’t want to hear it anyway. And the locked door was a barrier against the constant uncertainty of how Mom would react to what and when. And for the first time ever, my personal belongings felt safe. I knew now that Mom couldn’t read my journal because it was under lock and key in the bookcase headboard and the key was hidden. My journal, my only outlet in my times of desperation, was finally safe from her.
And I could sort of have my personal devotions and quiet time with God now. My personal devotions and journal writing never felt safe when Mom was around. Always, always was the fear Mom would barge in, intrude on the personal time I desperately needed to stay safe, demand to know what I was doing, demand to know my thoughts. I still had my devotions with part of my mind on edge, tuned for the sound of footsteps outside of my door, ready to thrust my journal, Bible, and devotional books out of sight at the first hint of intrusion. But here, with a bedroom transformed into my own personal space, I could relax, a little, sometimes. Had Dad guessed that I needed this? I wondered. Is that why he had given me this bedroom suite and the largest bedroom? I didn’t know, but I was grateful.
The next week after my arrival home, I sat down at my desk. Now I definitely need to start planning for the school term in August, I thought. Guess I’ll use this extra notebook to record my ideas. I’m excited and scared both, I guess, about teaching school in about 3 months. There is so much I still need to do! It’s high time I get focused on school and all the stuff that needs done before school starts. I am glad I will only have two students. The idea of teaching a roomful of students gives me the shivers!
A month before, I had promised the school board that I would teach the coming school term at a new work starting just 2 hours north of my parent’s home. Jason Yoder’s, a family from the Andersonville area, had been attending at our church, Jacob’s Valley, for a few years and had become members. Most Sunday’s they drove two hours south to Jacob’s Valley to attend church services. Once a month, families from our church drove two hours north to hold church with them in their home. The Yoder’s had 3 children, two of them still in school, one in 2nd grade and one in 7th grade. The Jacob’s Valley ministry and school board had agreed to supply a teacher and schooling for the Yoder family until a church and school could be started in the Andersonville area. So I had been hired as the school teacher for the Yoder family.
I’m glad I spent a week with the family when I went up with Lynette in April to observe as she taught at the Yoder’s. At least I know basically what to expect. I wonder if I will ever get to know them, though, and feel comfortable. But I have an idea they wonder the same thing about me! I smiled slightly as I thought about Jason Yoder’s comments to my dad a few weeks after I had been there. “Jackie is so quiet! She hardly talked. I don’t know how it’s going to go. How are we ever going to get to know her if she’s so quiet? Lynette was so friendly, and she almost seems part of the family. We aren’t too sure about Jackie if she is so quiet. I hope it’s not always like this.”
Just thinking about his comments made me grin a little. Yes, I had been very quiet. Most people thought I was quiet and reserved, even rather stuck up, upon first acquaintance. Sometimes, I just didn’t have all that much to say. Especially among strangers. I had a stutter, had stuttered ever since I was eleven years old, and talking to strangers made it so much worse because I was nervous. So I didn’t talk around strangers more than I had to. I still wasn’t sure how teaching would go considering that I stuttered, but I also knew that my stuttering was worse when I was under pressure or nervous. Once I became comfortable with the people and the situation, I could talk relatively freely with only an occasional stutter. Once I got used to teaching and to my students, I hoped my stuttering would be minimal. I knew I could never hope to escape it entirely.
I’m glad it’s only a few students and only 3 days a week. I’m glad I can kind of “ease” into teaching this first year. This past year, Lynette drove up every Tuesday morning, taught school from Tuesday-Thursday, living with the Yoder family and teaching the two children in the basement, which was set up as a schoolroom. Lynette assigned the children lessons for half-days on both Friday and Monday, and Rosemary Yoder, their mother, gave them any help as needed on those days. I’m guessing I will follow a similar routine when the new term starts in August.
I bent my head in concentration over my notebook. Let’s see, what should go on my task list for this summer before school starts? I want to sort through all the old Blackboard Bulletins and Christian School Builders that we have for ideas. I should make copies of art and bulletin board ideas from those periodicals. I have some empty ring binders I could put the copies in. All I would need is some plastic sleeves. I also need to ask my sister Leah if I could go through her school ideas and supplies from when she taught school. That would be helpful. I’m going to need devotional ideas. I should plan out art for the year. Oh, and make bulletin boards. I also need to get the textbooks and teacher’s guides so I can study the books I will be teaching. 7th grade especially will be fun. My mind and fingers raced as I wrote down my work list for the summer. I had so many ideas on what to do to prepare for the new school year. I had already purchased a handbook about teaching and had started devouring it.
Planning all this makes me feel alive. I never realized before that teaching will fit my personality to a T, I thought. I’ve been a little scared that, at not quite nineteen, I’m not mature enough to teach school. But I love books and learning. And I will finally have a challenge! I get bored so fast with life! And, the bonus is that teaching will get me out of the house! But I can still be home on the weekends to support Dad and Jesse! This is just perfect! My enthusiasm built quickly as I began the first thing on my list: sorting through some old Christian School Builders for ideas and quickly making piles of the interesting articles and ideas I found. I can already see I’m not going to have time for everything I want to do before school starts.
“Jackie,” Mom’s voice broke into my concentration. “What shall I make for supper? It’s already 5:30. I forgot all about making supper.”
I felt the uneasy feeling in my stomach and sent a quick prayer heavenward. “I don’t know, Mom. How about you come up with something? Do you have any ideas in your head?”
“But why don’t you do it? Or at least come out and help me decide what to make. I forgot and I can’t think.”
“I don’t have good ideas either. I don’t care what you make. You could do cheese tato-topper or tomato soup. Or hearty hamburger soup. Or, I don’t know. There are lots of ideas.”
Mom was silent for a bit. “Well, okay. I guess I could make tomato soup. I don’t have much time anymore. That’ll work, I guess. But why didn’t you make supper?”
“I’m busy with school stuff, Mom. I don’t have time to stop and make supper.” I couldn’t tell Mom the real reason: that I wanted her to at least try to be mom and housekeeper again. I couldn’t keep going ahead even if Mom wanted me to. I couldn’t really even help her. She had to do it herself. If I even tried to help, Mom would begin depending on me to do it all, choosing instead to sit in her chair and read or daydream. And then she would get angry because I would usurp her position, and I would get frustrated because I was doing her responsibilities. I simply had to let go and maybe that would force Mom to get involved again. I desperately wanted to honor my mother, as I had decided while away in Indiana, and the only way I knew how to do that was to quit filling the place she was supposed to fill.
Mom didn’t say anything more, and the noises in the kitchen told me she was setting the table and making supper. I breathed a sigh of relief. God, I really want to honor her and love her and let go of my bitterness, and this is the only way I know how to start. Please help me. Please, just don’t let Jesse suffer from it.
I thought of my brother Jesse. At fourteen, he was four years younger than myself. I can survive fine if Mom doesn’t cook and clean and wash. I can take care of myself if I have to. And so can Dad. He’s pretty handy in the kitchen himself. But Jesse needs to eat and to have his wash done. I don’t want him to have to pull dirty clothes out of the wash for the next day, like has happened before. Then again, Jesse has been packing his own lunch for years now, first for school and now for work. Guess he’s learned to take care of himself too. Still, he deserves so much more than what he gets…. I turned my mind back to my work. That Mom was getting supper seemed to be a good sign. At least I hoped so!