Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Institutionalized Perfection

(This a fictional short story based entirely on true circumstances...)

I came in to the "transitional home" (a fancy word for an orphanage) when I was fairly young - like a year and a half. It wasn't home... and was never intended to be. But things can take time and I ended up being there for a while. Too long really.

But I was cared for. Some might even say I was loved. I had food regularly. I got bathed. I even had "sunshine time" when the weather allowed it. And while I didn't smile much... I was as happy as I guessed I could be. I missed the fields of coffee, smelling the nature and the beans and feeling the sun - but at least here I was fed. And that was good. Real good.

And then there were the visitors. These people came. Sometimes in matching shirts and usually with white skin. They were always smiling and laughing and picking me and my friends up. And every now and then - one of my friends would get all dressed up... the nannies would be bubbly and excited and then a few of those people would come - and my friend would leave with them. I never saw any of those friends again. Ever.

But those friends seemed happy to go and it started to make sense to me. If I could just be the best me I could be - maybe one of those happy, smiling visitors would take me home too. If I could just be... PERFECT.

And that's how it all started for me. My obsession with perfection. At first it was just really clean clothes. Look a certain way - cleaner than my friends - and these visitors would love on me. Then it became eating - staying super neat with my food, clean and proper - best manners ever! I think the older lady in the blue sweatshirt is smiling right at me!

How could I be even better? I stopped wetting myself at night. Like... completely stopped overnight. And if the nannies thought that was incredible - what would these visitors think!? I became an incredible helper - never needing any assistance in almost anything. I didn't think about myself much - but that's okay - because look how perfect I looked!

Then... one day it happened. The nannies got me the nicest, cleanest outfit out. It had a big, goofy collar - but I could make it look good. I could make it look PERFECT! And then some guy came in. He was by himself - not with a group. He played with all of us - me and my friends - but the nannies let it slip... they said "Papa" in a language I understood. My heart jumped and my stomach fluttered... did this mean what I thought it did?

The man stayed a bit longer but then said his goodbyes. To me... to my friends. And he wasn't taking me with him. Had I not been good enough? Perfect enough? I tried not to look sad... but I was. That night in my bed I told myself I would work harder at being perfect.

Months later - when the kind woman came and took me on the big airplane with her - I saw the man again... but this time it was different. He was smiling and motioning for me to come to him... I ran to him and he picked me up and hugged me. He said something in my ear that I didn't understand but I did know this... it felt right. I even let a little smile come out.

There was another little girl who looked like me and she loved me so much. Now SHE made me smile a lot! She was funny and crazy and she got in trouble a lot... but not me. Because I continued to try and be the most perfect person I could.

I made my bed. I lined up my shoes (they gave me LOTS of shoes!). I ate everything they asked me to. I took baths and played nice. I quickly learned their language and did my best to never have any issues! I did good in school. Made lots of friends and the teachers liked me!


A few years later - they brought home a little boy. I had a little brother! I was the best big sister possible. I played with him and helped take care of him.




Then... one night... it happened. I was in my room alone because my big sister was sick. I couldn't fall asleep because I'm not used to falling asleep alone and I was worried about my sister anyways. So I did it. I pulled out the device we played games on and I sent my sister a get well message.

Both my mom and dad came to check on me. They said I should be asleep because it was pretty far past my bedtime and that I shouldn't be on that device that late anyway. When they left the room... I cried. Had I just messed everything up? Was this it? What was morning going to look like? My heart sank deep and I was afraid.

The next morning my dad smiled at me and said the same thing he always does... "Hey girl... how'd you sleep?"

I could barely look at him as I said "Okay..." I think he knew I had failed at being perfect and he was just buying time until he could get rid of me. That's what I thought.

My mom was being so nice too as she kissed me and headed out the door to to take my brother to a doctor's appointment. My big sister was resting from being sick so it was just me and daddy - he was going to take me to school... or was he? I didn't know what to do - so I slipped a note on to his desk. He said I could watch TV earlier - but I couldn't. So i just sat on the couch pretending to read a book... that's more perfect than TV anyways... right?

I saw my dad walk into his office and open the note... his shoulders shuddered a little bit as he read it.

"Dear daddy... please forgive me from last night. I was dreading this morning because I thought you would be mad at me or something from last night.

There is just one thing I don't understand... why are you being so loving to me? You're being so kind to me even though I did something I wasn't supposed to do last night. You still seem to love me so much.

I hope you know I love you. Please forgive me.

Your very sorry daughter."
There was a tear on his cheek and now mine too... oh man... crying isn't perfect. But I couldn't stop. He was coming towards me - and he didn't say anything - he just hugged me.

We walked to school that day... just me and my daddy.

I'm smiling again because he told me some good stuff about love, what unconditional means, what deeds mean and how he doesn't love me because of that - he just loves ME.

And I feel lighter today. Lighter than I have in almost 7 years.

Because I don't have to try to be perfect anymore.

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