She was about my age.
Like me, she was shopping with her daughter.
We were both waiting outside the fitting room at Macy's while our kids tried on the outfits they'd chosen.
Her daughter emerged first ... a pretty young woman, a bit overweight but with a lovely face and long,
lustrous blond hair. Behind her came another girl, obviously her sister.
Same long blond hair and pretty features but a much more slender frame.
The first girl shook her head negatively, telling her mother she didn't find anything she liked.
Then came the shocker; I could hardly believe my ears.
"It's not my fault you can't find anything that fits you!" her mother said, in a tone of voice that would
have withered a dandelion.
"If you'd lose some of that blubber, you could look like your sister in anything you wanted to wear,"
The expression on the daughter's face said it all.
It was a mixture of hatred, anger and self-disgust.
The one-way tirade went on as the trio walked down the store aisle.
I was left sitting there, dumbfounded. I had just witnessed the process that makes emotional basket cases.
The scene brought back my own teenage years.
Her name was Judy.
She was a tiny, shy girl with a quick mind and gentle sense of humor.
We were best friends, spending as much time together as we could, although she attended the local
public high school while I was bused every day to the parochial high in a neighboring town.
We spent overnights, although I usually wanted Judy to come to my house. I hated spending time under
her roof with her mother and father.
Her father was a lovely man, quiet and kind.
Her mother literally destroyed her daughter's chances for a happy childhood.
It's not that she physically abused Judy; I never saw her strike my friend.
But I witnessed the constant verbal harassment with which she harangued her daughter.
Nothing Judy did was ever right. She didn't dress as well as her friends. She didn't get good enough
grades. She was stupid. She was too quiet. She wasn't a social bombshell. She was going to grow
up to be a failure.
How could she do this to her mother?
On and on it went, as Judy's father sat silently, watching her disintegrate before his very eyes.
I could feel her pain. Just like I felt the pain of the overweight girl in Macy's.
Just as I felt the pain of the child whose mother slapped her face because she reached out to touch a
teddy bear on display as they passed it in the store one day.
I think of the countless nameless children who grow up with hateful, spiteful, unthinking parents.
I see them in the faces of the murderers and violent criminals who face juries, expressionless, not caring
what happens to them or what they did to their victims.
It is incredibly sad.
Our children are in our care for so short a time. They are entrusted to us so that we can nurture
and love them.
They grow to adulthood with their self-images reflecting what they've seen in our eyes and heard
in our voices.
Every parent should have as is or her creed the beautiful "Children Learn What They Live" that is
nothing more than an amplification of The Golden Rule.
Maybe there should be forgiveness for the parent who has heartlessly smashed her child's ego and
created a damaged adult.
It simply won't come from me.
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