Memories- Things that sometimes remind me how lucky I am to have the life I have, problems and all.
I said a while back my goal for this year was to read 52 books. I am a little behind where I should be to meet my goal, but I am not really too concerned.
Today I finished Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I cried at the end. Holding back the ugly cry as best as I could because my little one was here and she always gets upset when I cry. And I can’t honestly tell which tears were tears of sadness at the book, tears of happiness for how lucky I got, or tears of relief for the fact that I… that I got my cake and can eat it too.
Eleanor and Park is a book I assume set back in the 1980’s given the references they use and the words like “Walkman”, “mix tapes”, and so many other references . Without spoiling the book for anyone who might want to check it out, Eleanor is a girl round the age of 16. She lives in a house with her 4 siblings, her mom and her abusive step-father Richie. She had been living away from them for about a year because Richie kicked her out, but she eventually was able to come home. She started back to school and immediately, on her first day, on the bus ride to school no less, people started picking on her- teasing her about her wild red hair, the way she dressed, because she wasn’t toothpick thin.
No one would let her sit with them on the bus, until finally a boy name Park told her to sit with him. It took a while for them to become friends, and even longer for them to be more than that. Eleanor had so many walls up inside of her from being mistreated and unloved her entire life.
The book chronicles their journey in first love. But this book also reminded me of my story.
I lived with my mom, my dad, my little sister, and my half brother (from time to time). My dad was a mean, cruel, controlling man. He physically, mentally and emotionally abused all of us. Even my poor brother when he would visit.
I also didn’t have many friends at school. I was picked on through elementary school, junior high and high school. I don’t look back on the times spent in school with fond memories. Most of the time I think of the worst days of my life. The days I would cry myself to sleep, the days I would try to make myself invisible- because if I was invisible they wouldn’t pick on me mercilessly. I think of the fact I became anorexic and lost a huge amount of weight because maybe if I wasn’t “the fat girl” they would like me (they didn’t). Maybe if I lost weight my dad would stop making fun of my size – he didn’t. It drove me into depression. Into even worse anxiety, and into self harm. I had a couple friends in high school, but I didn’t talk to them about my life at home. There was one friend, I spent most weekends at her house for years. For years I wished her parents would adopt me. I wanted her life. Her house was my safe haven.
Until I saw him. Somehow I knew the evening I saw him in my high school cafeteria, that it would all be ok, somehow. We became friends, then more. I was desperate for him. I craved his love. I couldn’t breathe without thinking of him. He made my life worth it. He loved me, unconditionally. I had never had that before. He saved me from my father, from my tormentors, from myself. People still made fun of me, be sure of that, but it didn’t matter so much. I had someone who loved me, all of me, battle scars, bruises and all.
We were almost immediately inseparable. The friends we each had felt displaced, but we just couldn’t stand to be apart. It didn’t help we went to different schools, but we saw each other as much as humanly possible. We talked about everything. He knew everything about my past, things I had never told anyone. I shared my hopes and dreams with him- dreams that somehow included him the minute we met.
People thought we were too much. Too obsessed. Spent too much time together. We were just “infatuated”. But we knew; we knew even then that we would be together till death do us part.
And now, almost 23 years later, I still have all those scars, all those bruises, and some new ones, but he still loves me. I loves me 100+ pounds heavier, when I’m sometimes broken, when I’m sometimes angry (at life really), when I am envious of others and their apparent lack of bruises and brokenness. He loves me with the purest, most unconditional life I have ever experienced in my life.
I still need him. I am still desperate for him. I still crave his constant companionship. And while our life hasn’t turned out exactly as we planned I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He is my best friend, he is my first real love, the first person who really SAW, the real me, not the person I show the world I am.
Sometimes I think back to the nights we were teenagers making plans for our future, despite everyone telling us we would never last. Telling us we were just kids. Yes, we were just kids, only a couple years older than our oldest is now, but the minute we saw each other we realized we completed each other.
What does all this have to do with the book? There were so many similarities between Eleanor and Park and my husband and I. Reading through it, brought up so many memories and feelings. I don’t think I have related to a character in a book like I related to Eleanor- ever.
This book definitely gets four stars from me. How could it not?