Things in Erin’s Head
Do you remember the 6th grade? Being an 11 year old girl isn’t easy, but you know who made it awesome?
Mrs. Petersen was THE coolest. She was active, smart, creative, and didn’t take any shit from 30 pre-pubescent humans. She was also one of the most nurturing people I’ve ever met.
It was in 6th grade that we had the “egg baby” project. Students had to carry a hard boiled egg around for a week, pretending it was a real baby, and try not to kill it, forget it, eat it… whatever lessons we are supposed to learn that equate to not having babies too early in life. We made shoe box houses for the eggs, named them, had blankets for them, drew faces on them. Who was going to be a better egg-mama than me? Umm, NO ONE!
One tragic evening, I must have been tired after ballet and homework, the details are a mystery… I dropped little Amy Leigh. I dropped Amy Leigh on her little egg head. And she cracked.
To say I was distraught was an understatement. I was devastated. Horrified. Mortified. Embarrassed. I KILLED my baby. I was so ashamed to go to school the next day. So ashamed to tell Mrs. Petersen how I failed (I FAILED) at being a mother. But I knew I had to fess up. With tears streaming down my face, I showed her the broken Amy Leigh.
“Erin,” Mrs. Petersen crouched down to gently hold my arms and look me in the eye, “Babies fall. They scratch their knees and bump their heads. That’s real life. You didn’t kill her. She’s fine. YOU are fine.”
I could not tell you what grade I received on that project. The grade didn’t matter to me anymore. Amy Leigh wore a band-aid on her head for the rest of her days and I couldn’t have been more proud of my real-life egg baby experience.
Mrs. Petersen showed up for use every single day. She taught me courage, showed me compassion, and let me know it was okay to be imperfect. She holds a special place in my heart.
Fast forward 36 years. I am now the same age Mrs. Petersen was when I was in her class. As part of my Artist’s Way guided course (I’m a forever student!), one of the first tasks we were able to choose from was to write a letter to a mentor. I thought of Beverly. I wrote a letter. Then I decided I really needed to send it. After some internet sleuthing, I found her, mailed the letter, and a few weeks later I received a letter back.
Before I opened it I started to cry.
She wrote me the most lovely note – about her life – how she bought my book – and her book club was reading it the following month. I wrote her back and volunteered to speak with the book club at their next meeting.
She called me (oh the tears I shed!). She told me how PROUD she is of me (more tears…). She said, “If you were really serious about the book club offer…”
And last night I got to enjoy the virtual company of a group of 80+ year old women who all read my book. I got to hear some of their stories – they have all been caregivers in one capacity or another – all in different ways than I was. I got to answer questions about my story, about book publishing, about why I wrote the book, about why I made some of the choices I did…
It was NEXT LEVEL INCREDIBLE.
At the end of the meeting we both shed tears (I was overcome with emotion the minute I saw her face – she looks the same – slender, fit, and has a very chic ponytail and bangs – #OctogenarianGoals).
We have both promised to keep our connection alive. A promise I’m very much looking forward to keeping.
Because it’s all about love…