I have a portrait of myself at the age of three hanging on the wall in my bedroom. Inside the gold frame is a happy little girl, wearing a daffodil colored dress with puffed sleeves that her mother made for her, with her favorite pair of Sunday black patent leather Mary Jane shoes peeking out from beneath her skirt.
She is a reminder of who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. There was a short time in my life when I had to take her down from the wall. At the time I was not proud of who I was and the huge mess I had gotten into along my life path, and I couldn’t bear looking at her smiling, innocent face. But on the day of my deliverance from that long dark tunnel onto a new bright road, she returned to her place in my bedroom, forgave me, and now sweetly smiles at me from her spot on my wall.
When I gaze at myself as this child, I see a small girl who was happy, loved, and full of life and joy. She had no idea who she would become as an adult, the many places she would live, who her children would be, what pets she would call her own, what skills she would develop, or what profession she would pursue. Her dream, which was that of her father, was that she would grow up, marry, become a mommy, and live in a warm comfortable house similar to the only one she knew. She spent hours and hours playing with her doll babies, changing their clothes and taking them for stroller rides up and down the sidewalk in her beautiful wicker doll carriage, practicing for the day when she would have a baby of her own. Every night she would say her “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer with her mother, who would then tuck her snugly into bed with a goodnight kiss. She didn’t think about money or making ends meet, meeting a budget or planning a weekly grocery shopping list. She didn’t know about cancer or thyroid conditions, hip pain or hysterectomies, losing a baby before he had a chance to even take a breath, or any of the things that life was going to bring her way. All she knew was that she was loved.
As I gaze at the smiling child’s image in the picture frame, I wonder what my life would be like if I had made different choices along my way. Where would I be living, what would my home be like, would I have grandchildren, how would I spend my days, what would bring me joy and contentment? As she looks back at me from her framed place on my wall, does she recognize me as the grown up version of herself? Does she like what she sees?
Yes, the small child in the portrait is me. I remember her well, and I can honestly tell her that her life will be a good one. She may stumble along her way, but she will grow up strong and will overcome many obstacles in her path. She will place her trust and love in the wrong people from time to time, as she follows her heart and not her good sense. As her sister would often remind her, she is too good at picking up strays. She will love deeply, and as a result, hurt deeply. She will question her simple childhood belief that Jesus loves her, and will develop a deep spiritual faith that will sustain her with every step she takes. She will become a sixty-six year old, white-haired woman who makes jelly, writes stories, and collects days. I can promise her that I will always strive to be the person she was created to be, and will do my best never to disappoint her again.
She will grow up to be me.