(There are many performances of this piece online. This one lights that third movement on fire, the way it was meant to be.)
“The girls we once were are coming back to us now.” – Brandy Walker
I was a Renaissance girl.
That girl did everything. Even when it was hard. Even when people tried to tell her that she couldn’t.
At holiday, the girl I once was shaped homemade candies and learned how to get them to turn out right. When she was shooed out of the kitchen because her help became a frustration, she went outside, formed a kitchen of her own, and made mud pies.
She learned cross stitch. She made intricate gifts and Christmas ornaments that are still cherished and hung on Mom’s tree every year.
The girl I once was shelled peas and was taught to make jam. She grew up understanding the connection of sustenance to the land She unraveled mysteries of the universe over the pings of Cream Crowder peas in a metal bowl.
She walked out of the backyard and sat down at the piano with bits of dried mud pie still under her fingernails. She heard the beauty of the trills and the thunder of the bass. She began formal training at the age of eight, and she practiced an hour a day, even when she didn’t want to. In early junior high, when she played a simplified snippet of Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody at recital, the winner of the top performer award told their teacher, “She should have won this.” The comment was reward enough.
The girl I once was worked hard at gymnastics, and although no one who knows me now will believe it, the balance beam was her best event. She took ballet, tap, and jazz dance lessons. For the first time in her life, she had to work twice as hard as everyone else just to be average. She loved it.
She was heavily involved in her church. Every time the door was open, she was there. Everything she could do – youth group, choir, VBS teacher, children’s music camp assistant, handbell choir, sorting clothes and food for the mission – she did. Her yes was always yes, and her no was rare.
In high school, the girl I once was was told that she couldn’t do everything – that she had to eliminate some things. So she did. She crossed off athletics and Future Farmers of America. Everything else – she did, and she did it well. National Honors Society, the speech and drama team, Texas Association of Future Educators, marching band, flag corp, jazz pianist for stage band, concert band, Future Homemakers of America, UIL, the gifted and talented program, and probably a few others that I have forgotten. And she graduated second in her class. Because she could.
Her senior year, she played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – the whole thing. She played it so often that she memorized it. She played it so often that even now, twenty years later, my fingers still move whenever I hear it. At her senior recital, she won that top performer award. She also won the award of awed silence between the final note and the first applause.
One day, the girl I once was forgot what she could do. Someone else told her that she had to choose, and this time, she believed it. She believed the lie that she couldn’t do all the things that she’d always done, and because she couldn’t possibly choose, she stopped doing it all. She grew up and became good at waiting. She grew up and became good at watching the whole world go on without her. She grew up and learned the lie that things just don’t work out for her and that expecting them to do so would only make her a fool.
But this girl? She’s not done growing. She has learned to set healthy boundaries and has embraced the luxurious freedom of no.
And that girl I once was? She is coming back.
In every verse I read in shaky voice, she is coming back.
In every meal I make and share with others, she is coming back.
In every coconut nougat dipped in chocolate that I taught myself to temper, she is coming back.
In every pie I bake in this kitchen of my own, she is coming back.
In every blanket I knit, she is coming back.
In every story I write, she is coming back.
In every song I sing and every move I dance, she is coming back.
In every “Our Father,” and “Lord, in Your mercy,” I pray, she is coming back.
And if I have to eat Ramen noodles for six months and sell everything but my books, I will get a good keyboard this year, because she is coming back, and she’s going to need one.
She. Is. Coming. Back.
Some of the people who are helping her get back are my Story Sisters. Today, on International Women’s Day, we are telling the stories of the girls we once were. Join us.
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