I watch her dancing on the green, green grass, strutting before the bandstand as though she knows where the music is going next, as though she has heard this song before. I see the delight of the strangers around her in their lawn chairs and visors riveted by this so small girl that twists and turns and spins. I see her raise her hands up in worship to the music, to the day, to God. And I wonder.
I wonder who she will be as she grows. I wonder if her personality will remain as vibrant and exciting as it is right now. I wonder if her days will be filled with joy and praise and excellence. I wonder if life and circumstances will hone her light or dim it. I wonder if she will be able to constructively use criticism or if it will break her, if she will be able to pull herself back up when life knocks her down or if she will play the victim, I wonder if her hope will remain steadfast or if she will let it die when things don't go her way.
I wonder who I would be, if the "uncle" had never molested me. If the daddy had never beat me physically and verbally. If the mommy would have paid attention, loved me enough to take me out of there. If, when she finally did leave, she hadn't have left me to support the man that she married, the man that she loved so much that she would ignore the callous and daily abuse against her oldest child, for the last 11 years of his life.
I wonder who I would be without the heaviness of the guilt that has haunted me as long as I can remember. The guilt that tells me that it was all my fault - our poverty, our unclean house, his drug addiction, her depression.
I wonder who I would be if I were allowed to be a child. A child instead of a mini-adult raising their children, cooking their meals, cleaning their home. If I hadn't have had so many responsibilities and so little authority.
I wonder who I would be if I had allowed myself to be prideful of the things that I did well. If I had told myself that I was good instead of evil, that I was a great student, daughter and sister. If I had allowed any of the words that my teachers said about me to be more than lies. If I would have allowed them to actually reach my heart and become truth.
I wonder who I would be if I wasn't so guarded and mistrusting. If I had allowed myself the importance of a voice to explain to someone, anyone what was going on in our home. If I had allowed myself more than just surface level friendships in school. If I had actually allowed myself to feel like I deserved more. If, from my distorted view, I hadn't believed that this was what all children were going through.
I wonder who I would be if I had never equated sex with love, or mistaken co-dependence for unconditional love instead of a disease that tears you down even more than you already are.
I wonder if I am changing the cycle, if my child will grow knowing that she is loved, knowing that there are no bounds to what she can accomplish if she sets her mind to it, knowing that she has freedom to become the person that she is meant to be.
So that she will never have to wonder "if".