A friend of mine gave me an unexpected present this afternoon. She handed me a pink gift bag, that was heavy, and stuffed with glittery white tissue paper. Four items were in the bag: a little pink envelope containing a sweet note and gift card, a bottle of body wash/bath foam, a big bar of soap, and a bottle of lotion. All three are the same scent: Eucalyptus Spearmint. They smell amazing. She said, “That’s what I use . . . you always tell me I smell so good.” (Sidenote: she does) I couldn’t wait to get home tonight and wash the anxiety of the day away with this stress relieving scent!
Her gift made me feel cared for.
I have a very bad track record of not taking care of myself. Not so much self destructive behavior, though I know I’ve had a handful of years of that in my past, but of just not giving myself the care I give others. Somewhere in my twenties, after reading a book titled “The Courage to Heal”, did I realize this is a pretty common thing when it comes to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The reasons we are this way are as varied as each individual story.
After digging through the layers of control my uncle used on me . . . I came back to one simple sentence he’d said to me over and over: you will never be loved because you will never be worth anything more than sex. When a child of four hears this, repeated over the years, it’s understandable that it’s ingrained in our self worth. So, I treated myself like I was not worth anything. For decades.
I was so bad I refused to look at myself in the mirror. When I did, I would always keep one closed so I would see as little as possible. Still, to this day, I catch myself doing it. I hate that I do it. But, it’s just part of me.
I’d give myself the bare minimum care. Quick showers. Hardly ever went to the salon. Cheap makeup. Goodwill clothes. (I still buy Goodwill clothes but that’s because I don’t like mass consumerism). I even allowed myself to scrape the bottom of the barrel in love and accept the bad treatment because, as my uncle said, I wasn’t worth loving.
Becca knew all of this stuff. When she was old enough . . . we talked about it. About my childhood and my uncle. The topic had come up because he’d just been released from prison and she started to ask me questions. She wanted to see his face. So I showed her. Her heart was broken for me. After that, she understood why I was the way I was. She realized I didn’t care for myself like I did everyone else. Becca, my beautiful daughter, took it upon herself to care for me in ways I couldn’t. She’d give me little gifts . . . always with words of love and support.
The last Christmas we had together she’d given me a basket of bath items from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The scent was Brown Sugar Vanilla. All of it smelled delicious. She was so proud of herself for choosing the perfect gift and happy that she could help me see I was worth it. She made sure to tell me to “use it, mom, you deserve it”. I did. Even after she was killed I continued to use it. It was a tie to her. To her being alive. To her love for me. To our shared life and the bond between a mother and daughter. I would cry in the shower for my dead child while I washed with one of the last gifts she’d given me. Then, it was almost gone.
To me, the body wash and lotion were priceless. I had to save the last bit of it because another thing to her could not be gone forever. There would be no more intimate gifts, like this, from my daughter. None other would know the reason for the pain in my soul, watch me battle the demons that lived in my head, and support me in the fight and long journey back. She was gone. Her love for me was gone. She’d no longer be rooting in my corner.
I tucked the plastic bottles back in the rear of one of deep shelves in the bathroom closet. When I would open the door and see their shape against the wall I felt comforted. “Becca touched those” I would tell myself then cry.
There is no one in my life, right now, that would give me a gift like that. I thought. I have not boyfriend who would do so, or a family that remembers my birthday, and my boys (being boys and probably feeling creeped out by buying their mother bath items) don’t do it either. In full disclosure however: one of my sons girlfriends told him to get me bath bombs years ago – which I love – but don’t think it’s worth spending the money on. No pampering products for me anymore.
Then my friend brought me the little pink bag today. A present that says: you are worth taking care of. You are cared about. A gift of self care in a little bag that looks like it could have been chosen by Becca, herself. Pink, her favorite color at the time of her death, with glittery white paper. The memory of Becca’s purchase, twelve years ago, came rushing back.
After I got home tonight, and had let all the dogs out and fed seven hungry animals, I took the bag up to the bathroom and took a very hot shower. It felt like a hug from someone who cares about me. Of course, I cried. A combination of emotions ranging from missing my girl to knowing I can be loved.
I still have those nearly empty bottles that Becca gave me in 2006. My hope is to be washed with what’s left when I am prepared for cremation (or probably a green burial). To have the lotion smoothed onto my clothing before I’m cared for . . . for the last time. In my head, you see, we show up in Heaven in what we left this world in. I want to smell like Becca’s gift when I get there and I hold my daughter again. I want her to know I haven’t forgotten her. That I love all she did for me. That she is cherished and I never let her go.
Until then, I will let the people who love me . . . care for me when I can not care for myself. And, I’ll keep using this Eucalyptus Spearmint stuff until then.
Thank you Miya.