"You were only about 2 or 3 years old when you pulled yourself up on your great grandmother's piano bench. We thought you were going for the keys and we had a little musician on our hands. But you just turned your bottom around to face us and the stories began. You couldn't even talk yet but you were blabbering all the same, using your hands to express the important parts and loud noises for the intense ones. After that first time, you just never stopped. If someone would listen, you would sit on just about anything to tell your stories. I believe your mother even has it on video somewhere.." -Grandma Connie
Before I began this post I called up my feisty & sweet Grandma just to hear this story one more time. It's funny how much reassurance our dreams need no matter how true we believe them to be. Using words to reach others.. It really is all I've ever wanted. And can I just say, thank goodness I did not go for those piano keys. God may have given me the gift of gab but a singing voice is definitely not on my resume.
This post is entitled 'Cast a Web Worth Weaving' because it is exactly what I want this blog to represent. A place that encourages everyone, including myself, to cast the greatest web of life we possibly can.
After all, that is exactly what the great heroine, Charlotte the spider, did in the timeless novel Charlotte's Web by the great E. B. White. Her webs displayed supportive words like 'Some Pig', 'Terrific', 'Radiant' and 'Humble'. That book was, and still is, an obvious favorite of mine. A book based on a little girl on a farm with the main character's name as Charlotte? I was in storybook heaven.
The quality I loved most about Charlotte the spider was that she wasn't just using the natural gift she had been given for her own recognition or gain. She was doing something that is the most rewarding present you can give or receive: Illuminating the strength and beauty in someone you believe in. She did the work and remained in the shadows while Wilbur danced in the spotlight. She was selfless and humble. She was powerful.
When I was young, I wondered exactly what she had gained from choosing to stay hidden. As myself and life experience grew, I realized how crucial it was to maintain meaningful relationships and how incredibly gratifying it was to contribute to their happiness. While it was a great lesson, I didn't utilize all of it. For the majority of my youth I was leaving the most important relationship I could maintain out: the relationship with myself.
This past weekend I visited my 12 year old niece for her birthday. She is in sixth grade this year and I remember that being one of the toughest. It was the first year I ever stepped foot into the foreign land of womanhood and when I began trying to figure out what 'being a woman' even meant. It was also my first encounter with the dangerous worlds of acceptance and rejection. To put it mildly, I do not miss being twelve.
I was playing with my niece's lavishly thick and chemically untouched hair when I told her just how beautiful and long it was. Her reply was,"Esmeralda's hair is prettier." My first thought was who this Esmeralda brat, was she mean to my perfect angel of a niece and where do I find her. Not the greatest role model thoughts, I know, so I kept my cool. "Who is Esmeralda?" I simply replied.
"She is a girl in my class this year. She has the best hair and she is so pretty. On the first day of school I went up to her and told her how I liked her hair and how I knew we would never be friends because she was so pretty."
If you are an aunt, sister, mother or grandmother to a little girl, then you will completely understand why I had to take a very long "sip" of my Sunday bloody Mary after hearing this. How does she not see how beautiful she is?! I mean, drop dead, innocently and strikingly beautiful. How can I fix this? Is it my fault? I should be around more. In fact, I should be walking her to class everyday--No I should be in her class everyday. That's it, I'm quitting my job and I am going back to sixth grade with my niece. I own leopard tights, I will blend in perfectly...... These are just some of the very rational thoughts that entered my head. Eventually, I took a deep breath and just asked,"What did she say?"
She responded, "She said that she liked my hair too and that we could be friends."
Seriously? So her name is Esmeralda, she has great hair, she's pretty AND she's nice? Does her mother happen to be named Cinderella? Cause now I wanna be her friend. In reality, I was so happy to hear that Esmeralda wasn't an asshole. So I asked her what she said when this princess told her she had nice hair.
She said, "I told her that I liked hers better."
Pause for bloody Mary.
Good grief! I had my work cutout for me. Before I responded, it hit me. She was me. I was the exact same little girl that was sitting in front of me 15 years ago. I was preaching to the choir. Another disturbing thought came to mind: I still can't take a compliment! Most of the time it feels like someone is throwing a sharp dart at my forehead when they tell me I look nice. I quickly step out of the way and try to avoid it at all costs. GREAT example Aunt Char. I bent down to her eye level and gave her the best answer I could.
"You are beautiful, baby girl. So beautiful! And I need you to promise me something. Promise me that you will always remember that you are and double promise me that the next time someone tells you so that you will just say 'thank you' just a simple thank you. No matter how much you don't feel it."
We shook on it. We pounded. We pinky promised. We crossed our hearts and hoped to die stick a needle in our eye. We made it a pact.
What I didn't tell my niece was that the promise we made was not just for her. It was for me, too.
In that moment, I recommitted to trying my hardest to love myself. To take a compliment as easily as I could give one and to work on feeling beautiful, no matter what. Because now it isn't just for me.
Like Charlotte the spider, I was to be an example. This was the first strand I was to cast in the newest web of my life. And I plan on casting one worth weaving. I will create a web of words so empowering for her to dance beneath that even in the shadows I watch from I will still feel the spotlight.