An Aside: Memory, Kindness, Trust

A story for y’all on how important is to talk to children to save them, and the echoing effects of kindness. Now, in memoir I don’t know how much is True, and how much my brain has written, rewritten, or invented. (I asked my mom about another memory I have from elementary school, and it turns out very little of the detail was right, so I’m hesitant to say this is a true story.) But this what my child-self remembers:

A very long time ago, when I was in elementary school, I was a crazy A-student perfectionist. (Hard to believe, right?) I developed an unconscious habit of rubbing my temples, and developed burns. Someone, no idea who, eventually decided I should see the counselor. The counselor (though I would see her officially only in school) lived two houses down from us. Mom said it was okay to talk to her, that sometimes we just need someone safe to talk to someone that doesn’t know us, and who isn’t allowed to tell anyone else.

At one point, I talked about how sometimes I wanted to kill myself. How things were overwhelming, how I didn’t feel good enough. How I wrote goodbye letters. When she asked, I told her I did have a method planned–my dad’s white handled chef knives to my throat. Little bitty me thought that slicing the carotid would be a fast way to go.

Little bitty people have grown up thoughts.

I don’t remember a whole lot about that sort of stuff, other than that she was very kind and didn’t yell at me when I told her about that. I’m sure there were discussions with my mom, who had all along been doing good mom things. She didn’t pressure me, I did that myself.

Kid brains don’t always do kid things.

I’m sure we talked about all manner of things that stress, inspire, and impact a child and the way they approach the world. I bet she had very wise things to say. I don’t remember any of that.

What I do remember is that after the talking was done and I didn’t have to see her in school anymore, when my counselor had her first newborn, she asked me to babysit. (I babysat around the block.) Sometimes she was home and just needed space and time to do household things, or shave her legs, sometimes she was out on errands, or if she wanted to go out to dinner, and I bopped around with her chubby little baby boy I called my Buddha baby. He was always smiling. I adored that child.

I was a little surprised that she asked me to babysit, knowing I was crazy, but it didn’t really strike me until I was much older just what a gift she gave me, that kind of trust. I think of myself, of my friends who have children. I don’t know what I would have done, but I don’t know if I have that kind of kindness in me, to recognize what makes a child happy, what makes her feel responsible and valued but not anxious.

She just posted pictures–my Buddha baby, who just finished at the Naval Academy, got married this weekend. I may have rewritten history a bit above, with what I remember with flawed Memory. But I remember her, and the baby, and how she made me feel good about myself, trusting me with her most precious thing.

Memory is a hell of a thing.