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Let's Pretend

“No, no,” my sister said gleefully, “you play the baby.” I hated this part. When she said you play the baby, it meant the entire game was going to be up to her. If I am the baby, I can’t talk.

“No,” I protested under a trembling lip. “Let’s be sisters!” It may have been stretch, but I figured we could pull it off. “Then we both get to be the boss!”

“Hey, you are supposed to be the baby,” hands on hips, looking her full height down at me, “and babies can’t talk!”

Ugh. Duped again.

It always ended like this. A game of pretend, I was hooked. Maybe this time, my immature brain would venture, this time it will be better.

The worst of it was when she said, “It’s okay, I’ll take the blame for it!” My four-year-old self had sat down, sore and pouting, too many times after falling for that line. It never worked, and she never did.

Pretend. Let’s pretend. It was our favorite game. Despite the never-fail outcome, I was always drawn in. Because it was fun. Something in my mind went wild with those words. Let’s pretend. Today swirled away into the high blue sky, beyond my toes as the swing carried me skyward.

The swing set is where the plans usually began.

Let’s pretend.

I had played the game my entire life. It began with a jumper. I was fifteen, headstrong, and ready to reunite with my tribe. I watched them from a distance, the girls, blond, happy, sweet, with the CTR rings in school. I knew who they were. They had no idea who I was. Real life coursed through my veins. They were untainted. Still, I wanted to be a part. I believed, and I wanted to belong.

And they wore jumpers. The symbol of adolescent purity. Almost maternal in their simplicity, yet subtly revealing virginal curves. I bought one. Two. I belonged. I was accepted, and I soared. Special assignments were mine. Youth conference committee, I was the shoe-in. A leader was forged beneath cotton wash and wear in blue and black plaid.

Marriage came quickly. White dress, returned missionary, granite castle, spires reaching to the sky. Six week long engagement. Parties, giggles, even a little envy from the other girls intoxicated me along the ride. My teenage life was filled.

Until Monday morning. Back home. Home. Husband, dinner, job, bills. Primary calling. Home.

Let’s pretend.

Wife.

I played along. The first time my breakfast flew out of my mouth without warning, I thought it was a result of my act the night before as a cook who knew how to get turkey breast cooked all the way through. It took two days for me to realize I was the only one puking my guts out.

This was not pretend. Neither were the probing visits to the doctor, smiles from family. Months of never holding down a meal, watching my body morph into something unrecognizable. None of it floated away into the clouds, no matter how far the swing flew up in my mind.

Before I could catch my breath from the first one, there were two of them. Potty training, grocery shopping, visiting teaching routes. Barely out of my teens, I learned the walk, the smile, the answers to be given during once a month meetings in the Relief Society room. A mother’s place…Sustain the Priesthood…No other success can compensate…

I could play. Let’s pretend

One part was never make-believe. I knew. Knew it was true. That was why the game was so important. I could feel the truth in my hands as I leafed through the fragile pages of the scriptures. And the people, I loved them. All of them. They made the game worth playing. Especially my little ones. Their small arms around my neck. That was never a game. I loved them.

But the rest of it? I played the game so long I began to believe it was real. Some parts could not be faked. The parts that started to squeeze the breath out of me, clinching tightly despite the smiles and the callings and the trust. Slowly, the pretend part became the real part.

The rest of me was dying, long, slow, and alone. She was washing up on distant shores, in pieces. The rest of me, the everyday me, melded into an ambiguous smile, a mother, a wife. The ambition, the individual…hollow shells. The walking dead.

The game was supposed to go on. Forever. And it did. Until the day that it didn’t.

It was not true. It was pretend. Pretend. The script I followed to fit in? It wasn’t the only thing fake. Like a play within a play, I was in the middle of my own version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was the ass. Lived my life faking it like a four-year-old on the backyard swing set. And why?

Because I believed in the story. Ancient scriptures written in a metal book. A young boy with a heart of gold. Faith, promise, sacrifice. Walked the same dusty paths, retracing their footsteps, crying their tears. They, like me, believed. Believed. It. All.

For it, I had slowly killed off the girl inside, the square peg that never fit. Without it, without the reason, where was I left?

I was…

In seventh grade again, lying in the fresh cut grass of summer. Drinking in the honeysuckle. Staring up, into the deep blue, blinking out the sunshine. Rolling over, getting up and padding barefoot down the red dirt road. Free in the fresh air. Beginning again, starting over with the girl inside. No more pretend. Let’s start over

5 comments:

Tom Perry said...

Not sure why my first comment posted. Maybe it will this time.

Uh... Love this post!
That is all.

diogenes said...

Brilliant writing! I think Feminist Mormon Housewives would appreciate this. I did. I will have my wife and daughter must read this. A "play within a play" and "it was supposed to go on forever" "until it didn't."
thank you

Stephanie D. Edwards said...

Wow. Thanks so much for the kind remarks.

Alder said...

Really great. I walked this road. No more pretending for me.

I am Laura said...

still pretending. Working on that!

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