She waits with her arms open and says, “It’s ok, baby.” Her eyes look like Jeannette’s, my friend and writing teacher who died in March of this year. Those big dark expressive eyes, her light, girlish laugh that belied her fierce, brave spirit. Jesus, God, I miss her. But she is in my heart, so close now. Closer than breath and she whispers, “it’s ok, you can tell the truth, I did.”
I was four years old. I started remembering after the birth of my first child. The memories were vague and I was afraid that it might have been our family friend or a beloved uncle. My therapist said talk to your parents. I was terrified but I told them about the memories. I fully expected them to say, “No, we don’t know anything about it.” But instead, my mother looked like she would vomit and said, “We didn’t think you would remember.” She told me then how I came in crying from playing outside. We were living on an Air Force base. I said that a man had pulled down my pants and touched me. They called the MP’s and took me to the base hospital where the doctor found “no evidence.” “We thought you would forget.” my mom said. But my body did not. My body remembered. Just because there was “no evidence” does not mean that it did not happen – but was the message that I got then “no one believes me even when I tell the truth.”?
The stuff going on in this election, the revelations of abuse; I have been in denial about how every new story triggers me. It’s like a horrible accident – I want to look away but I can’t. But I then see Jeannette’s face, her eyes. She told the truth not only about the abuse that happened to her as a young child, but about racism, and fear and living with cancer and about beauty, and healing, and about God. Sweet Jesus, she was so brave. My God has her eyes, and her skin is dark like Jeannette’s, but she is so much bigger than both of us. So much bigger than all the pain. She gathers me into her arms and lets me lean back against her. “It’s ok, baby. It’s ok.”
Denise Bennett is a writer, storyteller, singer, harper, wife, mother, chaplain, daughter, friend, sister....