I come from the kind of folks who would raise a girl in the 1960’s and 70’s to feel boundless. (Remember, at that time many women were taught they had four choices in the working world: nurse, secretary, teacher, or flight attendant.)
Fortunately, my mother, a survivor of a calamitous childhood, encouraged every creative impulse I had. And my father, an old-fashion family doctor, never thought of anything in terms of what he couldn’t do. Anything was possible. For my part, I suspect I came into this world with an imagination on over-drive.
I grew up in a small, farming town in central Illinois where endless, flat, expanses of corn and soybean stretched to every horizon. That one-dimensional world invited us to look at play like a giant game of Shoots and Ladders for largely unsupervised children.
I’m so thankful that my childhood memories are filled with things like building dangerously high tree houses all on our own, and riding bicycles like the wind on unfinished stretches of highway.
I was allowed to raise orphaned raccoons in my bedroom, wear elaborate jewelry I had made from colorful bottle caps, and ride dangerously wild horses to far off hamlets. I was paid to paint humorous murals in hospitals and rewarded for extravagant science fair projects about the then recently discovered galaxies.
The only reality check was that most of us had to be home by the time the porch or street lights came on.
Things were far from perfect in our home, but both of my parents modeled a fierce defense of the “goodness” in others. Every horizontal surface in our home was covered with National Geographic magazines and they leaned on them for evidence that the wider world was nothing to fear.
We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. – Barbara De Angelis
And then something dreadful happened.
A single, life-changing tragedy ended all this rhapsody of youth. When others were worrying about driver’s ed and collecting ID Bracelets, I was forced to manage the meaning of life, alone, and far too early.
I’m not going to go into the tragedy that changed my life except to say that at the age of fifteen, my parents woke me one morning to tell me that my best friend’s family had perished in a horrific way.
Innocence lost. I had glimpsed the darkest side of humanity, too early.
It happened that my best little friend had survived, but my worldview did not.
I never took another day for granted. I searched for goodness and demanded it when it was unnecessarily missing. My goals began to include a level of wonder, connection with others and gratitude that became my greatest gifts.