The sticky residue of past.
Those leftovers of being left.
An innocent child stripped naked of worth.
Bare feet on a cold floor,
Arms shivering in fear.
“Here’s what you’ll wear now,” they said.
Opening the closet of shame, we peeked in.
“Anything to cover up”… we whispered to each other.
Dwarfed by clothing that didn’t fit,
Little hands were grasping for identity,
As we stared at the labels on our shirts.
“These are your new names now,” they laughed as they listed them off:
Don’t bother trying…
You won’t ever be anything…
You’re not a little girl anymore…
It’s all your fault as usual…
You’re a liar…
Five children obediently wearing their clothes of shame,
Labels of limitation around their necks.
I’m still standing naked and alone.
“What’s my name?” I asked.
“Your mother’s not capable of looking after you,” was the reply.
I wanted to disappear.
To dissolve into some other place and into some other life where the clothes might have a kinder fit…
Where the clothes were clean.
Where the clothes smelled of a lavender-scented dream.
Where the clothes weren’t soiled.
Where the clothes could be mine, and not the hand-me-downs of another orphaned child.
“Did you hear me? I said that your mother’s not capable!” They smiled their sinister smiles.
I closed my eyes.
I wanted to scream.
I wanted to spit and spew all over their labels of shame.
I squinted my eyes and tried, with all of my might, to calm the swirling storm of lies in my head.
I cupped my hands over my ears.
Still, the mocking continued.
Shitting on my self-worth.
Pecking holes through my spirit.
“No one will want you, stupid little bastard child,” the squawking continued.
You’re difficult to place…
You’ll never have a better life…
Who would want a girl like you?
Tears dripped from my cheeks.
“Stiff upper lip,” they ordered.
I bit my tongue until it bled.
Swallowing my blood like a bird to nectar…
Then, for some reason that I cannot explain, I lifted my chin and imagined myself with wings of a hero.
I saw myself cloaked, not in shame, but in a hero’s cape:
Of being loved.
Capable of surviving the labels until the day I might learn how to heal them.
Capable of releasing myself from their sticky residue.
Capable of loving myself,
And of eating not on the leftovers of abandonment, but of feasting on life’s abundant promise.
I felt this promise as an orphaned child.
It’s what kept me going.
It’s what sustained me.
The promise nurtured me.
My CAPE-OF-ABLE became my strength.
My coat of many colors.
My sisters and my brothers.
To break free.
To believe that I am—as all orphaned, fostered, and adopted people are—worthy of dignity and of embrace.
We are not the labels.
We are the capables…
WE ARE THE CAPABLES!
©MichelleMadridBranch, May 12, 2021