When shame and shoes come storming…..

Back when the world was a coloring book
and my box of crayons still small,
the questions to my answers began to rattle in the wind
of a storm that blew in without warning
on an ordinary morning as I sat pulling on my school shoes
so I could hurry up the hill to catch the bus.

I was however old you are when the girl of you has turned to go
but the teenager isn’t ready for the task
and you wade through sixth grade and the in between to see what even fits anymore.
It was Springtime and I was wearing shorts at last but were my legs  tan enough
and did they look fat and maybe no one see me please that hard.
I wrestled my unloveliness as  I heard my Father’s quick clip headed down the hall
toward his room at the end
when a shot of pain lurched through as something struck my inner thigh
and also thwacked my cheek and lip.
One of my after-school shoes landed hard on the floor,
the other lay like a dream  in my lap.

My shoes.
They’d been trespassing in the living room on the green rug where I had sprawled out after supper
to listen to music on the floor.
On the green rug where my father ran in place every morning,
counting,  counting his high steps fast
as the floor trembled beneath his intensity.
It was where he began his day and my shoes had been there unwelcome.
The after-school shoes that should have been in my closet before I took my bath.
That morning they landed on me hard as he threw them through my door
into the room where they belonged.

Maybe he hadn’t seen me there.
Maybe he’d meant to simply return them to me hard.
I couldn’t wonder.  Couldn’t think the questions.
Just scrambled out the door before my tongue could taste the blood.

I climbed the hill,  climbed onto the bus,  climbed the stairs to the third floor
in the busy throng of chatter as life swarmed around me boisterous
but I couldn’t climb over the tears quickly rising,
tears that threatened to expose the unlovable of me
no matter how hard I pushed my loud and happy to the front.
Don’t cry,  dammit;  my jaw burned from willing down the sob swelling fast in my chest.
I feared the storm rising wild in my emotions;
please just don’t look at me right now.

But Mrs. King did look at me, piercing,
and her eyes jabbed a question that I tried not to meet
and quickly tears betrayed and crawled over the fists I’d planted to look casual against my cheeks
I was called down the hall to the long table where more troubled eyes poked
and my brain got stuck and I couldn’t make the words talk sense like I should
but instead cried more in the heat of their gaze.
Did my father abuse me ever?  No,  and I never said he did.
But talk of shoes didn’t match my pain
and my meanings got mussed in the haze.

I returned to my classroom relieved to go free,  and to the day and then the bus
and down the hill that afternoon to change my shoes and eat a snack and watch TV and feel at home.
At the table still we were a family until a phone call ripped the seam.
I was in my room reading when the voices changed.
My mother’s cheeks were pink and demanding when she stormed in and said the things
in a tight, angry tone that trembled I had lied and what did this mean?

The world slipped sideways;
what lie had I said?

It was an un-say-able kind of lie and I had told it
and now do I even know what people could think?
I didn’t know exactly except that my father didn’t come.
He didn’t come to ask what or why or how is this thing?
The house had no more air for talking,
holding it’s breath until the morning came.

He would do what we did in our culture when shame came storming.
He erased me.

I had to sit again with the grown-ups at school who wanted to know
and I couldn’t make the words –  maybe didn’t have the crayons
or know how to blend the colors true.
I painted muddy because mud was all I felt,
wanting only to back up,  to back out of this terrible mistake and never cry ever again.
But I backed into a wall that would close in between me
and all that had felt safe and known.

We would never speak of this again.
I had broken something.
Broken it so badly that I lost my place at the table.

“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them
to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone
and unworthy of love and belonging.”
– Brene’ Brown

“You are here,  and more than you know,
you  belong.  There is more in you
than you ever see,  more than the less you convince yourself of
when the dark pieces of days seem to outlast the light ones.
You are a soul alight,  the flames of stars and shadows dusted
with moonlight and pitch.
This world cannot spin without you inside it.
You are here,  and you must remain.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Oh please don’t climb off now;  I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
There is love enough,  and grace and
I will park us somewhere lovelier when next you come

* this post 3rd in a series *



  1. Elephants Child on September 21, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    The pain and the shame, the exclusion and the confusion…
    They ache down the years. Ache in the very deepest recesses of our hearts, souls and minds.
    Words (the spoken and the unspoken) are such powerful things. And sometimes they leave welts and at other times they scar.
    Heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring. From a similarly damaged place.

    • jennifer on September 22, 2018 at 7:16 am

      Yes and yes and yes and yes. Yes exactly and thank you for hearing.
      I cherish that understanding and hold great tenderness for your own story.
      Words bring healing, too, and it’s this hope I keep as I string them together
      and write them down finally to give them air and let them say.
      It is honor and joy that you give them a read.
      Thank you, Sue. Thank you with love,

  2. Renee Duffee Clark on September 23, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Where eloquence, honesty and courage converge, there you are.

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      Such strong words and so appreciated, Renee; thanks for encouraging the writer in me:)

  3. Lady Fi on September 23, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Such powerful writing – such painful honesty! I have no words.

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Thank you, Fi. I appreciate your encouragement:)
      Thanks for coming by,

  4. Grace on September 24, 2018 at 8:04 am

    You keep amazing me with your ability to paint all the pictures with your written words… it’s like I was there with you, seeing, walking, feeling. It’s challenging me to get some of my own words onto paper…

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      So glad you’re stirred to string together some words
      to paint your own stories, Grace; that moves me so big.
      I appreciate the kind input:)

  5. jeanie on September 24, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Oh Jennifer — the things that happen, they stay with us, don’t they? And hurt long after we’ve moved on to new lives, loves, thoughts. Holding you close…

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      Yes, and healing happens too. So much grace for it all.
      I feel like I’m coming free in some new ways; I love how sharing
      can be such a tool in the process.
      Thanks for coming by and letting me say:)

  6. Susan on September 25, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    My heart hurts and breaks for some of the things we had to go through to make it to the other side of those years … sending love to you and that young you, too, hugging her tight.

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Sad the stories we made up to explain things, isn’t it. To try and understand
      and be safe. If stories could hurt us so badly, can’t story-telling heal us also?
      This is my explore. I so appreciate you coming along.
      Much thanks,

  7. Julia on September 26, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Dear Jennifer, I know all too well the shame and blame that is carried in the young heart for too long and the damage that it causes to the fragile victim.
    You painted a vivid picture in my mind and it reminded me of the time I talked back to my mother and before I knew it, her hand slapped me in the face and I got a black eye. I was ashamed of myself and carried that burden of going to school with a black eye but I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I never talked back to my mother who was probably stressed out to her limit. I can’t even remember the nasty word I uttered but the lesson was learned…

    PS, I’m still too busy to blog just yet. Thanks for checking in on me. I so appreciate it.
    Big hugs, Julia

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      I think our stories belong to us all for exactly that reason. Somehow we all live them, or at least parts of them,
      and together we heal in the new stories we get to write. I hold tight that hope, anyway. Thanks for sharing – I hold
      that dear, too.

  8. Robin on September 26, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I so agree with Grace. That’s why I show up here because of exactly the words she said. The older I get the more I think how I was so fortunate to have such a story book childhood. My parents were the absolute best in everything. Teaching, protecting, providing…and I didn’t even know it until I was in my late twenties when I heard from a co-worker share a similar story to yours. At that age I just thought everyone had my childhood. Oh how I was mistaken. Thanks always for opening your heart and letting us in.

    • jennifer on September 26, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      I felt like I had so much storybook, too; my parents were good ones. So much love. So terribly young.
      I imagine my own kids will write of their pain and I’ll grieve and think, “my God, I was doing
      everything I knew – the best I had.” Reminds me of that quote from one of the Eagle’s songs:
      “I know you were trying
      to give me the best of your love.”
      Life pushes our buttons unprepared and we react and the moment is gone and we sometimes don’t even know what got
      lost in the blur. What story someone took on while we were struggling in our own stuff.
      I so appreciate your encouragement, Robin; thanks for coming around to read. And thanks for your share.

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