Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Promises made, broken, made again

In January of 1997 a little girl named Madalyn June was born. I was friends with her mom because she cut my hair and during the summer of 1997 I got to know Madalyn as well. I babysat Madalyn for five years, both during the summers and during school. Her family became my second family and we spent holidays together. I loved buying presents for Madalyn and her brother Michael and, since I didn’t have any nieces or nephews or any siblings or my own kids, I spoiled them. Madalyn loved to snuggle, and if we weren’t outside walking around or playing, we were inside coloring or reading a book together. I treated her like she was my own.

Then I moved about 45 minutes away. I promised Madalyn that I would come back to see her often, that she wouldn’t even know I was gone. I broke that promise; I didn’t see her for two nearly two years. My friend would tell me about Madalyn, how she was liking kindergarten and first grade, how smart and beautiful she was becoming, and how she talked about me. She remembered things that she and I did when she was three years old. She asked her mom “what ever happened to Kelly?”

Last Thursday I was getting my hair cut by my friend at her shop and the town was hosting its Crazy Days festivities. Madalyn came running in talking about candy that she wanted to buy. She didn’t look at me. I was struck by how tall she was and how beautiful and fresh and simple she looked. Her mom said, “Madalyn, look who’s here.” I said, “Hi Madalyn.” She looked at me and I could see she didn’t recognize me but that she felt like she should. Her mom said, “Do you know who that is?” She said, “I recognize the voice.” Her mom said, “It’s Kelly.” Her eyes widened and she ran over to me and hugged me, saying “KELLY!!” She kissed me and then stepped away. We looked at each other eye to eye and I saw her taking me in, the logical side of her brain trying to explain to the emotional side that I was real, I was there. She said, “I didn’t think I would ever see you again.” We talked for a few minutes, her snuggled into my arm in a relaxed embrace, and then her friends came in and wanted to go back out shopping. She reluctantly pulled away from me. She said “I don’t want to go. I’m afraid you won’t come back.” I said “I’ll see you more, I promise.” She looked at me and I read her look as if she was whispering in my ear. “Now you’ve promised. You have to follow through.”

That look made me realize how much of an impact I had had on Madalyn and how important I was to her. How important people are to each other, and how you can really never know how much you mean to some people. Imagine if she had negative associations with me, how powerful those would be. Also, the importance of promises, not only to children, but to anyone. The word promise is thrown around almost as much as the word love, with about as much meaning behind it. Madalyn’s look was like a weight, indescribable, and I know that to not keep my word to her this time would mean that all of the positive memories she has of me would be shadowed by the overwhelming fact that I can’t be trusted. Worse, that I don’t like her as much as she likes me.

As usual, a good life lesson from someone with 25% the life experience I have.


Nance Knauer said...

and you said it wouldn't be as good. still very powerful. i'm so glad you shared this.

Kelly said...

Thanks, man.