My mother once told me I had an old soul. In the tender throes of youth, this news was taken as nothing more than fact. My soul was old. It was not until later on in life that I took this message out of storage and examined it. My first thoughts on the subject revolved around reincarnation and the weariness acquired from the journey. Now I know better. As time went by, my soul aged like an expensive wine and I found that my soul was not old, but wise instead. This wisdom led to strength and then pride. Every characteristic of my personality can be traced down to a certain event etched into my soul.
I wake up abruptly and sit straight up in bed. The heavy boots haphazardly maneuvering the hallway are the only proof I need. He is home. I search the bed for my stuffed duck, Quack, but cannot find him. Frustrated, I cross my arms and stare at the mirror across from me, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Suddenly I hear the familiar squeaking of the door across the hall as it opens. Dread floods over me but I am unsure as to why. I sit completely still and wait. The house is quiet yet I can feel it pulsing with a breath of its own. The air is electric and I feel like an imposter. I should be asleep. My body is tense, my breathing is shallow. When the first crash comes, I am relieved. I gingerly step down from my bed and feel the hard wood beneath my young toes. I slide my sock clad feet across the floor to the rhythm of the crashes. I arrive at my door and put my big blue eye to the crack, getting ready to watch my midnight show. As I begin to get settled, something catches my eye. I reach my tiny hand through the door crack to pick it up and then unhurriedly bring it back into the darkness of my room. I remember these flowers. Wasn’t it just a few hours ago that I was tracing them with my finger instead of eating my carrots? Yes, I will never eat off of this plate again but it was fun while it lasted. All at once the crashing stops and I realize there has been screaming and yelling this whole time as well, but this is simply an afterthought; a mindless observation comparable to observing a cloud in the sky. It is always there, but how often do you notice it? I sit there amidst the curses and pleas, tracing the flowers until I am startled by silence. My ears ringing, I close my eyes and concentrate on bringing my ear drums back into my skull when I hear a new noise. Powerful in its softness, it cries out to my heart and clutches my soul. I return my eye to the crack in the door to see my mother sitting on the kitchen floor with her face in her hands and her slim shoulders shaking. I look down at my hands clutching the broken plate and notice the little cuts it has bestowed upon me. When I look up again she is staring at my door but I know she cannot see me. The spell is broken by heavy boots and they are coming my way. I run towards my bed and jump under the covers right before my door slams into the wall. I hear pieces of plaster fall to the ground and know I will be helping my mother patch up the hole in the morning. Again. Drunken muttering comes from six feet above the boots as my door slams shut and I quietly listen to the familiar squeaking of the door across the hall open and then close. My midnight show is over.
I have come to accept that my soul is old but I don’t think it was always so. Events in my life have chiseled away and seeped into my soul. I have seen the evils of life at a young age and have thus had a short childhood. In 1998, three long years after this event, my mother divorced my father and I became my mother’s confidant and advisor; a position no eight year old should have to bear. I had no time for sleepovers or parties. I had a four year old brother to raise while my mother went to college and worked eight hour days. I had to make dinner for my family of three while doing my second grade homework. Circumstances have aged my soul, perhaps even jaded it, but it is something I take great pride in. My soul is mature and strong. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.