Amy Ault Kirk
© Copyright 1999 by Amy Ault Kirk
This fictional story is a characterization of a child's disillusionment with her idol and lessons learned in the (sometimes) painful process of growing up.
Marta was my babysitter when I was ten years old. She watched me after school while my mother worked as a secretary and my father labored as a manufacturing plant superintendent. It was the 1980's and my mother was determined to have a career outside the home. I was the only ten year old I knew that had a babysitter. So that I would not become a "latch key kid", Marta met me at my elementary school and together we would walk to my parents' house. There she sat with me for three hours each day until my mother came home from work.
Marta was sixteen and I thought she was beautiful. She had long, wavy black hair and pale blue eyes. I did everything I could to resemble her. I would braid my hair before going to bed so that by the next morning I could achieve waves similar to Marta's natural ones. I pleaded with her to show me how to apply cosmetics and she conceded, letting me use her Bonne Bell lip gloss. She taught me to moonwalk to the music of Michael Jackson and to whistle with two fingers in my mouth. We gave each other manicures and tied big, bright bows in one another's hair, copying the popular look of the female singers that graced MTV. I began to think of her as an older sister, giddily confiding of my many puppy love crushes and letting her wipe my tears when I had a bad day on the playground.
I would often dreamily ask her to tell me about high school. She would paint pictures of the exciting school plays in which she starred and the fun Friday night football games where she performed as a cheerleader. I begged her to teach me to cheer and we practiced daily outside until the autumn sun went down. With her help I learned to master a cartwheel and a split.
On rainy days we would transform the living room into our own performance hall. Marta would sing to my mother's Broadway albums and I would dance enthusiastically to the steps that she taught me. More than once I was admonished during school for staring into space, daydreaming about what the afternoon would hold with Marta.
Winter came and with it, the holiday get-togethers with family. My mother took her vacation to coincide with my Christmas break from school and I missed Marta terribly. That Christmas we had dinner with my Uncle Jack and his family. I didn't know his children, my cousins, very well. My cousin Sheila was in high school at the time and I, of course, wanted to ask her all about the glamorous life of a teenager. I also wanted to brag about my friendship with Marta. To my amazement, Sheila told me that she'd never heard of Marta. I explained that they attended the same high school and that everyone must know Marta since she was a cheerleader and in all the school plays.
Sheila looked at me like I was crazy. She told me that she knew who all of the cheerleaders were and Marta was not among them. Sheila also said that Marta had never been in any school plays and she would know. Sheila belonged to the drama club and did the make-up for each presentation.
My cheeks blazed with embarrassment as Sheila laughed at me. I stayed in the bathroom nearly an hour so I wouldn't cry in front of her. How could Marta have lied to me? I was furious at her and vowed I'd never speak to her again.
New Year's Day came and went and soon I started back to classes. The first day that Marta met me after school I avoided all eye contact with her. I didn't initiate conversation and offered only curt replies to her questions. I was going to punish her with my silence. This routine lasted for a day or two until Marta finally asked me what was wrong.
"You're a liar!" I shouted at her. "You're not a cheerleader! You're not in school plays! You're nothing but a liar!" I shook from anger as I shouted, nearly crying in the process.
Marta looked at me with bewildered amazement, her mouth hanging slack. I expected her to fling herself at me on her knees with begs of forgiveness. She would have to grovel to be in my good graces again. Instead she erupted with all the fury of a raging volcano. She could be a cheerleader. She could be an actress in school plays. "But I can't! My family needs the money," she screamed, "so I have to spend all my after school time with you!" She glared at me defiantly, her eyes wild with anger and tears streaming down her red race.
I was completely dumbfounded. I had expected to do the hurting, but never considered that I might be ambushed in the process. I thought she enjoyed spending her afternoons with me. I never thought that her babysitting job was not her choice. I locked myself in the bathroom and didn't come out until my mother got home.
Things were never the same between Marta and me. She still watched me after school, but there was a noticeable distance between us. We no longer played together as we once did. I would retreat to my books and she would silently do her homework or stare out the window. We had injured each other and our hearts long suffered the pain of our wounding words. I suppose that Marta discovered what it was like to be hurt by someone much younger. I learned that I was not the center of her universe, as she had been mine.
Around Easter, my mother's company downsized and her job was eliminated, as was Marta's, when my mother decided to stay at home.
It wasn't long before I developed other interests and Marta became a fading memory. I evolved into a self-absorbed adolescent, giggling obnoxiously with my friends, chasing boys at the mall, and driving my parents nearly insane.
When I entered high school I found it to be far from the fantasy world that I had envisioned as a child. Instead, I look back on it as a fusion of raw emotions. A dichotomy - a place of some of my best memories and also of some of my deepest disappointments.
In my final semester, I was depressed that I had not been accepted at my college of choice. Even my second preference had declined my application and I suffered from the rejection. Eventually I enrolled at the local community college.
At that age, dreams are like seeds planted in the heart. For the fortunate, the dreams take root and begin to grow. For others, their seeds become scattered to the winds, the unrelenting gales of circumstance in control. My seeds were in a disarray.
Just before my graduation I was shocked to see Marta's picture in the newspaper. I hadn't seen her in seven years. She was advertised as the lead role in a regional theater production. I convinced my boyfriend to take me and I watched Marta give a mesmerizing portrayal of Laura in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. She received a standing ovation and I cried watching her accept a bouquet of roses. It was several minutes before the applause began to fade and as it did, I put two fingers into my mouth and let out the sharp, blaring whistle that she had taught me years before. The applause grew again.
That night Marta unknowingly taught me one more lesson - to gather my windblown seeds.
Amy is married to an Army officer and they live in Killeen, Texas. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of North Florida with a business degree and is now pursuing writing as a hobby.
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Another story by Amy:
Visions Of Insomnia