White box, blue box, white box, blue box, blurry box, blurry box, blurry box.
“Oh, stupid tears! You’re getting in the way of my pattern finding!” I angrily pulled my eyes away from their gaze at the plaid canopy fabric arched overhead. I forced them instead to stare at the white wall next to my bed. At least there, the blurrs from my tears wouldn’t be so obvious.
But even that bothered me. I buried my head in my pillow and sobbed and sobbed loudly. “I hope she hears me and comes to my rescue.” The concept of turning ten years old still overwhelmed me and somehow, crying eased my panic.
I heard a door creak open and felt the presence of someone sitting on my bed.
“What’s wrong Tre?”
In a moment I knew it was my sister, Tanya proving to me yet again her mastery of ‘big sis’ role, especially when mom was out on stupid dates with stupid men like stupid Spud. (yes, that was his name).
“It’s not fair!’ I shrieked. “I am now a 1 and a 0. Two numbers Tan Tan. It’s going to take me that much longer to head all my papers. I don’t wanna be ten. I really loved being 9 and even 8. Why must I now be a 1 and a 0?”
I turned away and sobbed and sobbed. I avoided big time telling her what I really feared. Wearing bras and getting my period. That’s what happened to ‘Margaret’ when she was 10, my favorite character in a Judy Blume’s “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret.” And both things symbolized growing up. I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to be a little girl forever. And a one digit one at that, preferably 8!
Tanya did what she does best. She let me cry. She stroked my bangs, my hair, and she even put Trina, my favorite ‘ugly’ doll, in my arms.
She was an expert at growing up, her 11 year old wisdom shockingly genius to me. And while her strokes comforted me temporarily, the fear of getting my period and real boobs just bothered me so much.
“Everyone’s gonna make fun of me even moreso Tan Tan. They already call me
Tresha tubbolard. Now it’s gonna be ‘torpedo titties’ and ‘on the rag’. I’ve heard them calling out to Michelle like that. I don’t ever wanna go to school again. And where’s mom? Why is she out on a date on my birthday?”
It was a downpour of emotions on this, the evening of my 10th birthday, the first one I could recall despising. No cake or song or party for me that night. My newly divorced mother was out on the town with a date, my birthday cake still frozen (she’d told me we had to wait) and now I had to swallow never being one digit again.
My sister must have felt the need for more than stroking hair comfort.
She said, “Tre, let’s see what God has to say about all this, okay? Go get your Science and Health.” Oh, she was so wise. I’d plum forgotten to pray! And here was my genius sister once again working her wise ways.
She turned on my bedside lamp and snuggled under the covers with me. And just as she was about to read, I gasped in fear “Tanya, what’s Betsy gonna say if she catches you in here?” The babysitter had been given strict instructions we were to sleep in our separate rooms.
“Tre, she’s probably watching TV or talking on the phone. She’s not gonna get mad. Besides, we’re talking to God.”
She held my hand. “Now hush and close your eyes and listen to God.”
And then she did that amazing thing she always does when she prayed with me.
She started to pray out loud the ‘Scientific Statement of Being’ that we’d learned from studying Mary Baker Eddy’s ideas in Science and Health. I tried really hard to focus my thoughts and listen, tough to do when you’re in absolute awe and wonder of your sister. She was nothing short of a goddess to me at that moment. And when she saw me staring at her lips mouthing the words, she squeezed my hands, told me to stop peaking, and started over. Here’s what she said:
“There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.
All is infinite Mind and it’s infinite manifestation. For God is All-in-all.
Spirit is immortal Truth;matter is mortal error.
Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal.
Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness.
Therefore, man is not material; He is spiritual.” (p. 468: 9)
I felt calm. I stopped crying. My sister reminded me that I was spiritual. I didn’t really know what that meant. But I knew it meant that I had to think about myself more than just a number. I had to think of myself as “the image and likeness of God.”
She continued to comfort and teach me.
“See Tre. God loves you. You are His image. So that means that you are everything good: you are happiness, and joy, and you are smart and pretty. Why? Because you reflect God. You are His image. And you are not just a number. You are an idea that is always good. God never wants you to feel bad, or sad, or scared—ever! So you have to throw away all the thoughts that are making you sad. God isn’t making you sad. And you don’t have to listen to anything unless it’s a God thought.”
“How will I know?” I pleaded.
“Oh, that’s a cinch!” she exclaimed. “Just see if it feels like love. If it doesn’t, it’s it’s not a God thought and you don’t have to believe it.”
“So let’s pray together” she encouraged.
And she squeezed my hands tighter and said “God loves us, right now, always. We are His image and likeness. We are spiritual and good, loving and honest. We are not listening to fear stuff. We can only hear God’s thoughts. We are not afraid.”
And then she added: “Tresha doesn’t have to be scared about being 10 or getting boobs or getting her period. She is just growing up. And she will feel God’s love and only ever that. She will know that she only ever has to listen to God’s thoughts, not fear. And she doesn’t have to expect people at school will be mean or call her names. And if they do, she can turn right to God and feel that Love she expresses. She can feel happy about being in 5th grade, changing classes, and making new friends. And she doesn’t have to be mad at mom because mom’s trying to be happy too. And tomorrow we will make sure to light 10 candles on her birthday cake and blow them out after she makes a wish. Amen.”
She squeezed my hands, kissed my cheek and asked, “Better now?”
“Yeah. Thanks a lot.” She crawled out of my bed and tip toed to the door. And as I heard her leaving, I already knew what I would wish for when I blew out my candles:
I closed my eyes tight, squeezed my hands together and with my 10 year old faith begged: “Dear God, Please make me as smart as my sister — but I still never wanna wear a bra.”
And I fell asleep staring at the crisscross pattern, blue box, white box, blue box, white box, this time, no blurrs.