I remember distinctly the day I told my first lie. I was in first grade and Miss Hooper had let my friend and me go down the hall to get a drink at the water fountain. We held hands and our ponytails swung back and forth as we made our way down the hall. We were quietly chatting and my friend suddenly turned to me and said, “You always talk about your Daddy; don’t you have a mother?”
I will never forget that moment. I absolutely froze inside and panicked. I blurted out, “Of course, I do!” and quickly changed the subject. You see, I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be that girl without a mother. I was living a double life already….painfully motherless in most of my life and in denial with made-up stories in the other.
I knew deep in my soul that someday I would have to tell the world, my little world, the truth. My mother was gone and she wasn’t coming back.
No, I didn’t tell my friend the truth that day and it would be years before I could actually say the words out loud. But something changed within me that day and I was never the same.
After my mother died, my Dad needed help raising my brother and I. It was the 1950’s and we did not use the term “Nanny”. My Dad hired Mrs. Fish as our housekeeper.
Mrs. Fish, or ‘Fishie’ as we called her, lived with us during the week and was off on weekends. She cooked, cleaned, washed, got us off to school and was there when we got home. She was there when I lost a tooth, learned to ride a bike and sold Girl Scout cookies. She cared for us and we grew to depend on and care for her.
This picture was taken soon after Fishie came to live with us. I am struck by the timidness and uncertainty I felt…my shyness still palatable. But, I see something else, something special. This woman, who came to work for an overwrought widower with two small children, put her hand over my heart. This simple gesture said so much. It was a promise that made me feel safe and cared for. It was an outward sign of a caring soul.
Fishie lived with us for six years. Although we lost touch through the years and she has long since passed away, I would very much wish for her to feel my gratitude. I want her to know how much I appreciated her protection…her hand over my heart. In her simple and kind ways she guided me and guarded me and for that, I will always be grateful.