Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Invisible Sugar

You wouldn't know it, but when I was little, I was terribly shy. Seriously. Stop laughing! No, I mean it. I wished that nobody could see me. I wished, especially, that nobody would look at my eyes. I was famous for them. Not too many Mexicans with sky blue eyes. I didn't care about that anomaly. I just didn't want to engage. I wanted to just fade away... into the trees, or the walls, or wherever I could hide.

I wanted to be invisible.

I used to turn beet red whenever anyone even asked me my name. I know what color I was turning because it was making this glowing aura thingy all around my face. And I was feeling like I did when I had a fever and needed a cold wash cloth on my forehead. I always tried to hide behind my moms legs at parties. Either that, or I would find the coat room and hide in there. If there were any teens making out (happened more than once), then I would look for a walk in closet to hide in. I walked hunched over just in case anyone wanted to actually have eye contact with me. I didn't want to hear about my pretty eyes. I didn't want to hear about anything. I rarely spoke except to people that were familiar... safe... I was always just so scared.

I'm not quite sure what happened, but I think sometime around fourth grade, I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. It was when I began attending St. Dominic Savio. It wasn't Catholicism that brought me out of my shell. Heavens no! The thing with Catholic schools is that you are in a class based on your grade and you do pretty much everything with that class. The only time you really ever know any kids from another grade is because they happen to be your younger or older sibling. At least that's how it was at Savio. This environment felt safe. Stable. Consistent. Things that were seriously lacking at home. It wasn't really anybody's fault. I don't know that too many adults would have done any better than the ones that happened to be our parents. They had a lot of shit thrown at their already f*d up selves.

See, the year before we entered Catholic school, my little sister died.

Claudia, or Yaya as I used to call her, was born with severe Cerebral Palsy. From the time she was born, we were told that she would not live to be ten. I was always aware of that fact. That she would die. That I would never see her walk. That we would never ride bikes together. That she would never be Auntie to my future children. But I loved her anyway.

I loved God, too.

I think I should have been angry at Him. But I couldn't be. He was really all I had. Except for Yaya. There were times I prayed to him, not to make her better, but to ask Him why this had to happen. Why would her little lungs never grow? Why couldn't she tell us what she needed? Why did she have to writhe in pain? I don't think I ever got mad at God. I was just very sad that this had happened to her... to us. I remember watching the ball drop on New Year's that year. I remember being so sad that we had left her behind. And I prayed to God that she was with him. And walking.

And that she was without pain.

They say that your personality is formed by the time you are seven. My sister was born when I was two and died when I was eight. I wonder now how loving a dying person almost all my life must have affected me; this young sweet child. I wonder how much of my fears about living and loving are based on that experience. Besides going to school, I only remember those years as the years that I loved, cared for, laughed with, and mourned my little Yaya. I think I was playing shy, (cause I'm not) because if I ever looked up long enough from my humble stance, I might have just started crying... and I don't know that I would have been able to stop.

No wonder I'm in therapy.



D'Arcy said...

Somehow, it is quiet easy for me to picture this shy quiet Sugar. This sweet, quiet, longing Sugar.

Is there an answer to "Why?"

Somewhere maybe, I don't know if it lies buried deep within us, or if we discover it someplace outside ourselves.

I just love that your life revolved around loving your sister and being close to her. You two probably had a better relationship than many people because you didn't take it for granted, and that's amazing.

Rowena said...

So sad and lovely. I never really had to learn about loss until much later. How it must form you.

I was shy, too, but switched around. I was not shy as a child, not until I was a teen, I think, a little late to puberty but too pretty for my own good. (I'm not trying to brag, all the attention I got made me very uncomfortable . At least I wasn't blond and blue eyed, the attention would have been terminal, I think.) I used to hide behind my hair and in books.

I do know I was hiding something about me with my shyness. Hiding where I came from and the poverty and madness. Hiding from any interest in the opposite sex. Hiding from my feelings and sadness. I had to learn that there was nothing wrong with me and nothing to hide. I don't believe in secrets anymore.

I'm glad I went through it, but I'm even gladder that the shyness is (mostly) gone.

I like being grounded in my skin.

ophelia rising said...

I would think that loving someone who is going to die would help one become a kind, generous, nurturing, large-hearted person. You seem to have all of these qualities.

Maybe, in a sense, this is your sister's wonderful gift to you - the opportunity to take this life's challenge, and to be who you were to her - to really love her.

Sometimes I think we are all just shy, quiet children inside - sort of lost, and just wanting to love and to be loved.