I have needed it, have wanted it, have craved it so badly that I could taste it in my mouth like the sticky, rust-colored, metallic heaviness of trying to swallow blood after biting down angrily on your own tongue. Forgiveness. At times I have felt it. Other times it has eluded me, slipping through my chubby fingers like a breeze, unattainable no matter what I try, or how hard I plead and beg.
I remember as a child doing the kind of annoying things that strong-willed, middle children are best known for. I directed these experiments in acting out mostly towards my older sister. Partly, I suppose, because we are both women, were both girls. And isn’t that the way it goes, the ones we should be building the strong tower with, are the ones we find ourselves competitively throwing in to the muddied trenches? But, also, I am sure, I tormented her because my brother is scarier. And angrier. And, honestly, has never needed me. I have mostly only ever been in his way.
But my sister, now there is another story. She needs me. She tends to be shy and kind, loyal to a fault. She is just the kind of golden retriever/human hybrid that needs my loud, brash, extroverted self to go into parts of the world that she does not dare tread and report back to her. Even when we were kids. At least, I like to think so.
The trick with my sister has always been this: if you can make her laugh, she will forgive you. She can only stay angry and grudge-laden as long as she can force herself to purse her lips into a non-smile. But, once she smiles, especially if she laughs with it, you are golden. I will, of course, only tell her future husband this if I truly find him to be worthy of her. No use in giving the enemy your hard won intel, right?
Being the brat that I was, yet still wanting a relationship with my sister, probably accounts for much of where my humor comes from. I am willing to do a lot for a laugh. Which is good, because the older we got, the more it took to make her laugh. By high school I learned to just shoot straight past the jokes and go for the humiliating stuff. The ugly dance moves. Like, really ugly. The kind of moves that shake your most wobbly bits and leave the good stuff unaccounted for, those dance moves. If that failed, there was always the secret, yet true stories that embarrassed me to even think about. That was how it was done.
I guess that’s not entirely different from the way most forgiveness works. You kind of have to completely humble yourself to either truly ask for it, or to give it. It seems to me that true, lasting forgiveness, is sorely lacking in this world. Or maybe, just in me. My husband makes a mistake, and I act like it’s up to me to either sentence him or grant him clemency, but all the while holding onto the memory of whatever he did. Always staying one step ahead, like that will make the scars of our marriage hurt less. It doesn’t, I can tell you from experience, it just makes everything take longer to heal. It wouldn’t take an x-ray to show that most of my anger is caused by compound fractures.
The thing is, that’s not really forgiveness, is it? It’s kind of letting the fish off the hook, but keeping it in the boat where you can watch it struggle to breathe.
When my children make mistakes, as children often do, I try to guide them through it quickly. Talk about it, give a consequence if needed, then restore them back to life as it was before the mishap as quickly as possible. Once it’s done, it’s done. Children don’t go day to day carrying the weight of past disappointments, and they certainly don’t need us to remind them that they have failed. They are an architectural masterpiece waiting to be built up, not torn down. Children are hopeful creatures who do not remember yesterday’s rain when standing in the light of today’s sun.
Besides, kids have this sort of innate hourly insomnia that only adds to their charm. They don’t hold your stumblings as a parent against you, they just love you. Who are we to teach them differently? Kids are awesome. They might make you swear under your breath one minute, but five minutes later, they remind you what you love most about being a mommy. Sticky cupboards, laundry piles, unhinging questions, and all.
Kids are easy.
That’s a lie.
What I meant is, kids are easy to love. Children are easy to forgive. Much more so than parents, friends, co-workers, husbands, and even sisters. I think more and more, that it wouldn’t hurt us, US, as in a collective society, to be more like children in this. If we, if I, could stop carrying my backpack of hurts around the playground, I bet I would be a lot better on the monkey bars. By letting go, I could regain my grip. So, I think it’s time to humble myself, smile, and begin.