She was so beautiful. 17 years old with clear skin, white blonde hair,bluer than blue eyes and an infectious giggle. She had many friends at school but none too close. They couldn't get too close.
She was the first of the family to graduate high school. The first of the three girls to do right and fly straight. No silliness from her. She knew who she was and where she was going.
As I watched her stand before the mirror in her bedroom and apply a last coat of mascara I was flushed with pride. I can still see her in my mind's eye. She was small and blonde and beautiful.
She wasn't pregnant before Grade 12. She didn't drop out to raise a kid. She didn't mess up, drop out, run away. She didn't always manage to draw rage and or indifference alternated with disdain down on her head. She was the one who beat the odds.
She worked hard to get along, go along, hang on.
And she had a wish.
She wished for a trinket to commemorate her graduation. She wanted a ring. A high school ring. Hesitantly she waited for her moment and broached her request. Of course there was no money for a small gold ring. In that household, there was never any money for extras. No money for swimming lessons. Skating lessons. Girl Guides. Camp. Band. Gymnastics. Ringette. Movies? Vacations? No money for any of that!
Money for booze could always be found. Money for cigarettes, of course. Money to travel back to the hometown and visit with their friends. That was another matter entirely. A trip to Australia for the father? Sure! A trip to Mexico for the mother? No problemo! But, no money for a beautiful 17 year old who only wished for a small gold ring.
She was disappointed but tried again. Perhaps a small silver ring? Oh, well, that was different! Of course. Of course. They would make sure she got it. She wasn't to worry. And definitely not to feel she had to ask again. It was hers, they would make sure of it!
Except they didn't. Like so many other broken promises all throughout her childhood, the last one, made as she began her transistion to adulthood was also broken.
I can't make up for leaving her. I honestly didn't even know she needed me, she seemed to have it all together. I didn't see the need in her. I would have stayed and endured if I had know. For this, she has forgiven me.
The first week of July 2010 will mark her 25th high school reunion. How I wish I could get her that ring.