Today’s guest post comes from Deborah Bryan of The Monster in Your Closet. As soon as I discovered Deb, I was struck by her strength and thoughtfulness, which come through so clearly in her writing. It’s my pleasure to give you a glimpse here. –Tamara
“Your mom must be so proud,” seethed the woman’s voice from behind the screen door.
Three minutes earlier, I’d been savoring rare moments to myself. Between working full time, commuting an hour each way every day, raising a very young son, and grappling with the aftermath of my mom’s recent death to cancer, life was something I was enduring more than enjoying.
In the moments I was able to simultaneously walk my dog and read, I found some respite.
This particular evening, I hadn’t paid close attention to my dog. He’d peed on someone’s lawn rather than their lawn strip. I was too tired and desperate to even notice this until expletives and threats started issuing from the house.
I was so tired, I didn’t even realize they were directed at me until I heard the words “Library Girl.” An exclamation point flashed over my head and I looked up in surprise. Instead of continuing on, I walked back and took a step up the walkway.
The speakers, a man and a woman by their voices, were hidden behind a security door, and thus emboldened to speak as harshly as they desired. Strength in numbers and a sense of anonymity were certainly components of “security” that ran deeper than their door.
I shared a few thoughts with them, earning more swearing and threats. I said, “Imagine the trouble that would’ve been avoided if you’d just said, ‘Please don’t let your dog pee on our lawn’ instead.”
When the woman said, “Your mom must be so proud,” I threw my head back and laughed.
I was whisked back in time to composing with her a letter urging our school district to fire a teacher who was bullying my sister.
I remembered my mom kicking out my abusive dad, despite choruses from her family that she wouldn’t have to endure abuse if she would just be a good enough wife.
I relived her explaining the importance of testifying in court, no matter how scary it was. I recalled how my heart swelled with pride a few years later when she publicly called out the perpetrator in that case; he’d spotted her and tried to intimidate her, not realizing I was nearby, but her words sent him running. I understood power better in that moment than I ever had before.
Invigorated by these memories, I faced the present situation with shoulders squared.
“Who do you think taught me to stand up for myself?” I asked.
Shaking my head, I walked away with tears in my eyes and said a quiet thanks to my mom. I hoped she could hear me, wherever she was.
I’ve been more careful since to make sure my dog always stays off lawns. I get it. I do. No matter how tired I may be, this is and should always have been a given.
Now, whenever I walk my dog, I imagine my mom is with me. No one else can see her as we walk together, but I can feel her, most especially as I walk by That House and remember those scornful words.
Spoken in anger, they nevertheless reminded me of something it remains important for me to hold near:
When I speak up in the face of bullying, my mom not only lives on in me, but sings to me.
Heck, yeah, she’s proud!
Just as I am proud to be her daughter.
Deborah only spends a small portion of each day writing YA novels, but she’s constantly busy with words. Even when she’s not writing for herself (she daren’t say “for pleasure,” since that’s not quite right), she’s almost certainly reading, looking forward to reading, or negotiating—sometimes in her role as a software contract negotiator, but mostly with her toddler.