“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
We had different colored eyes. She was blessed with beautiful blue. Me? Plain brown.
Her face was square with a perfect button-shaped nose and high cheekbones. My face was long and oval with a bigger, protruding nose much like my Grandmother Mona. She had a thick mane of hair, while my baby fine hair was thinning with multiple cowlicks. She had large pouty red lips compared to my disappearing slivered opening.
Everyone always raved to my parents: “She’s beautiful and doesn’t look a thing like your other daughters!”
Both good and bad, these words seem to typecast my younger sister’s future in some twisted way.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone is born unique and special – and with their own issues and problems. My younger sister not only looked different, but was born almost subdued. She was unlike the rest of our loud, gregarious brown-eyed family members. She was sensitive and quiet.
Out of jealousy of her obvious beauty, I would tease that she was adopted.
Not only was my little sister born a striking beauty, she had a remarkable sweetness and gullibility on the inside. She was giving and kind.
Growing up, she loved baby dolls and small animals. She always played animal doctor on our farm and rescued all kinds of creatures. Being only two years apart, she became my primary playmate. This was a particularly important time of closeness between us when we lived on the commune farm as there were no neighborhood kids to play ball in the street, or run through the sprinklers with during those years.
As a small child I remember her having some type of urological surgery. My parents bought her a new silky pink nightgown when she returned from the hospital. Back then, “new things” were not the norm for my working class hippie family.
I felt another tinge of jealousy.
It also didn’t help that our own father was an alcoholic and often checked out. However, years later a dramatic change took place…
She started skipping school in junior high and high school. Her grades slipping, she began smoking cigarettes and hanging out with the “wrong crowd” down by the creek and liquor store. Her physical appearance changed dramatically as well. She bleached her beautiful locks of hair platinum blonde white, and wore thick makeup that masked those sparkling blue eyes. She would spend hours baking in the sun to achieve a deep bronze tan.
Could this just be rebellious teenage puberty – or something more?
Emotionally, her shyness turned into hiding in her room as a teenage recluse. A few years later, we found out she was being abused by her boyfriend, who we fittingly nicknamed S.O.T. E. (pronounced soh-dee; AKA Scum Of The Earth).
He had been torturing her for many years. She felt trapped and alone.
As time went on, I think my mother especially became desperate and worried. She offered to enroll her in a local modeling school. Perhaps this could boost her self esteem and bring her out of the darkness?
I think this was a brief time of “shining” for my sister and mom. My formerly shy sister had learned how to walk the runway, build a portfolio and film commercials. Sadly, her confidence would boost only temporarily – only to return to the abuser.
And yet, another sting of disappointment.
By the time she reached her senior year of high school, she was working hard to break off the relationship with her abuser. She began to focus more on her inside beauty; and breaking the stereotype and cycle of abuse.
Could there be brains behind this beauty?
She graduated from high school, and officially broke off the relationship with her abuser boyfriend. She took a part-time job at a local restaurant while attending junior college. Around the same time, I was about to graduate from college (a first in our family).
While talking with her one day, she told me pointedly: “I thought if you can graduate from college, then so can I.”
I was touched. No sting at all.
A few short years later, she transferred to a four-year university. The day I stood in the audience during her graduation ceremony, tears welled in my eyes. I knew what this day meant: my beautiful blue-eyed sister with the button nose had beaten the odds of escaping abuse. She had achieved straight As throughout her college career.
Naturally, her college major was human services, which has allowed her to counsel at-risk families and battered, abused single mothers.
The exterior, vain differences and comparisons of years past were unimportant. The stings of jealousy had vanished. There was nothing but love remaining.
Did you know? One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. #loveisrespect Source: http://www.loveisrespect.org
To read previous Summer Blogging a Book Series:
For more than 40 years my mom took in people to our eclectic, hippie home.
The pained filled.
Sometimes, the unwanted.
And a vast majority of those who captured my mom’s heart were runaway girls. There seemed to be an unlocked, rotating door with a line of girls every day of the year.
There had been so many girls. Each with a name and a story.
There was Missy, a tiny teenage girl with long, straight brown hair and twinkling hazel eyes. A friend of my younger sister she ran away from her overbearing mother. During those months, it was as if a weight had been taken off her shoulders, and she needed space to breathe. Eventually, she reached a truce with her mother, and returned home.
And then there was Deidre, who was a college friend of my sister. The feisty, petite strawberry blonde was a computer science major and college soccer player. A good student with street smarts, she was bound for a college degree and career. However, her life changed forever when she became pregnant her senior year. My mom being the “cool mom” had talked with her about the options. My mom had pleaded with her to move in and raise the baby at our home. We, once again, welcomed two additional new girls into our home.
Jennifer was an awkward long-legged tween who wore braces. When she first moved in, she was like a timid abused animal. She walked with her head down and slowly slid her feet. If you approached her to quickly, she would startle. Molested by her father, and living with a cold-hearted mother, she lived with us for several months. After awhile, her smile beamed, and a bounce of self confidence and happiness returned. I remember when I heard her laugh aloud for the first time.
I think it was then I realized the gift my mom had given these girls and so many others like her.
It was love. Love does cure and mend wounds. It gives hope in a world that seems lost.
Most recently, Jennifer, who is now a grown woman returned to the home she began healing as an abused teenager. Looking around the home, she was overcome with emotion. This was one of the few places she considered safe and full of love and hope. This was the place she found hope and light in the dark.
In that moment, she cried while hugging my mom, and was thankful she opened her home and heart at a time she needed it most.
Now that’s love.
You have just read an excerpt from my manuscript…more to come in publication. Read about another sweet girl who lived with us in Ready to Run.
Have you ever ran away from home? How long did it last? Where did you go? As a parent, if your child’s teenage friend asked to live with you because of turbulence and/or abuse in the home would you allow it? Why or why not?Follow