When I was about 7, I lived to spend time with my best friend, Leatha. (Yes, “Leatha”, not “Lisa” – everyone asked.) Summer days with her were the best days. We imagined we were sisters – both of us tanned by long days spent in the sun, both with long brown hair and brown eyes, and quick smiles and laughter.
One afternoon, our moms were talking inside the house while Leatha and I played outside. Her family lived out in the country, like me. We were used to safely roaming around by ourselves in fields and yards. I remember feeling so happy, enjoying the summer day, and imaginative play with my friend. In my happiness, I spun around and darted across the road.
I immediately heard screams. “NO!” “LORI!” Confused, I looked up and I saw the grill of a semi truck and looked up a bit more and saw the face of the man driving. I ran as fast as my legs could take me and collapsed on the other side of the road. I sat in the grass for a bit, trembling at how close I came to getting hit. I thought, “I could have died.” I felt ashamed, embarrassed that I hadn’t looked before crossing the street. I knew better!
Leatha crossed the street to be with me and it felt too disjointed to play again after that, so we went inside the house.
Still feeling shaken, I found my mom. She was sitting with a glass of ice tea in her hand, chatting. I leaned up against her and said, “I did something wrong.” She calmly said, “Yes, I thought you’d died or something.” I was confused. She was so nonchalant. If she was concerned, why hadn’t she come out to find me? Why didn’t she punish me? Why wasn’t she alarmed? (By the way, my mom doesn’t remember this event at all, so I can only go by my memory.)
Even though I didn’t talk about this event again or think much about it, it has been a core memory for me. While my friend yelled her warning to me and obviously cared, I internalized the message that the adults did not care and that was puzzling to 7-year old me. The driver kept going and he didn’t seem to slow down when he saw me. Our moms didn’t seem concerned at all. Perhaps I shouldn’t believe this near-accident was a big deal and maybe I might not matter.
It wasn’t until 20 or so years later that I realized that I’ve been carrying around this false message of “I don’t matter.” It wasn’t until a counselor suggested that I take a look at some childhood memories from the perspective of Adult Me that I could imagine this event differently and speak clarifying truth to myself. Maybe the truck driver slammed on his brakes. Maybe he thought about stopping to tell me to stay out of the road, but decided to keep going when he saw I was safe. Maybe my mom was used to hearing kids yelling outside, but was concerned and got up right away to make sure I was okay. Maybe when she saw I was okay and went back to her needed adult conversation. Of course she loves me and cared about me. Time and life had proven that over and over.
It’s interesting to look at these core childhood memories and examine what messages we’re carrying into adulthood. Are you holding onto some misinformation from childhood? What might the truth be as you look at it as an adult?