While visiting my parents in their new place I explored a little loft they had for a grand kids playroom. It was a very emotional experience. Seeing all the little toys that we had played with growing up it felt like someone had taken a bunch of my memories, put them in a box, shaken them, and then poured them out all-out of context. One toy in particular caught my attention. There was a little plastic toy music box shaped like a radio that played over the rainbow. I can still remember seeing it on the shelf at the store and imagining that if I moved the little blue slider up and down that it would play different "channels" or songs but I was pretty happy that it just played over the rainbow. I really liked musical toys growing up and this was one of the three that I at times insisted should play simultaneously while I was going to sleep. Finding it in the playroom, my son took a liking to the box and insisted that I play the song over and over again so he could listen entranced while watching the little display showed pictures of kids flying over a rainbow.
Growing up involved its hard knocks. I was ordered twice to leave the home and never come back and once walked the streets for a good part of the evening before a member of the church found me and took me back home. I can remember being screamed at to ask if I thought my mother was stupid because I couldn't accept her word as perfect truth 100% of the time even on matters as trivial as what size clothes would fit me or not, being told that I would never accomplish anything in life, being laughed at for being stupid to try to motivate me to think harder on math problems, being told that I was inherently untrustworthy to figure out life skills my own way, and being punished as intentionally rebellious when I honestly had trouble figuring out all my life skills as fast as was wanted. I rarely had any issues where I intentionally and blatantly tried to defy my parents, but was treated more or less like I was on a pretty regular basis. Or there were the ways my emotional needs were kind of steam rolled over to make room for the emotional needs of other family members. These are memories I more or less try to avoid. They don't bring me happiness to dwell on them.
I prefer to remember how I beat the system and convinced my mother that I wasn't evil. Like how I chose to have my biggest fight with my parents where I intentionally defied them about whether I was being an evil rebel child for staying up late to read my scriptures more. If you pick the right ground to fight on its hard to loose and I won my parents respect. I won what one of my sibling told me at the time was the first time in which any of us had convinced my mother that we were privileged to conduct our own direct conflict resolution with another sibling instead of having it all controlled and done in isolation by my mother. I remember doing the math to prove that the rate at which I was doing my homeschooling work had me on pace to complete everything we had planned before I went to college almost an entire year early- that kind of shot down the you'll never get to college put down that I was zinged with on a regular basis before. I remember being put in situations where a lot of parental support was withdrawn to intentionally try to make me fail at something to force me to accept increasing levels of control and I fought back by achieving my own independence- simultaneously withdrawing my trust in my folks while winning their respect. These are victory memories which helped define the kind of person I wanted to be. But victories happen in battles, and battles happen with a lot of bloodshed. You can be glad you fought the battles, but you don't want to relive them.
Listening to that little music box play over the rainbow was a reminder of all the bright moments, times when there was joy and peace. The memories of the song aren't about how I survived emotional abuse or even about any other person but me. Its about laying in bed quietly waiting for sleep while thinking about hope. Its about finding joy in the beauty of music. Its about remembering that there is something more to your past than just the dragons you had to slay to survive growing up. Or a smile or laughter that spilled out often in spite of the circumstances, because life is just a happy place.
5 weeks ago