When I read the challenge, I wasn’t sure that I would write anything. Nothing seemed to come to mind until I noticed a stack of CD’s on my desk that I’d been downloading to my computer. Jersey Boys was on top and when I started reading down the list of songs Big Girls Don’t Cry caught my attention and this is where it took me.
“Stop that! Don’t you dare embarrass me by sniffling and crying. You’re a big girl and big girls don’t cry”, she said.
“What are you doing now? Pay attention to the preacher. Do you want people to think that you don’t care that this is your mama’s funeral? Sit up straight and act like a young lady!”
I stopped breathing so I could hold back the tears and tried to make myself pretend that I was walking in the park and the birds were singing and the sun’s rays were shining through the tree branches and my mama was holding my hand and talking to me in her sweet voice.
“Carrie Anne, get down here this instant! I just came from the hairdresser and everyone in there was talking about you creating a scene at school yesterday when you didn’t get the part in the play. What is wrong with you? Do you know how embarrassing that is to me to hear that you are behaving like that? Look at you, your face is all red and swollen from crying. You are a young lady, not an infant. I won’t have you acting like this. Do you understand me? Big girls don’t cry! Now get busy doing your chores and forget this nonsense.”
Immediately, I started to block out what she was saying and retreated as I always did to my own little world where I didn’t have to listen to her badger me about not showing my emotions. Just because I was thirteen didn’t mean that I didn’t feel the need to cry over disappointments and sad events in my life. But then I guess I’d have to cry all the time if I cried every time I was sad. My entire life since Mama died when I was seven had been sad.
“Push and stop that crying and screeching! Women have babies all the time! Just do what you’re supposed to do so we can get this over with. This is all your fault for going out and getting yourself pregnant and bringing shame to our home. After all I’ve done for you, how could you do this to me? Stop that crying right now! You’re not a baby, you’re having a baby. Big girls don’t cry!”
As much as it hurt to have the baby, I knew that my real pain was going to come when the baby was born and taken from me without my even getting to hold her. I knew that my heart would break when that happened but I also knew that it would happen. How could I take care of a baby when I was only fifteen?
“Don’t think that you are going to leave this house, young lady! After what you did, I’ll be watching you every minute. You’ll go to school and church and that’s it. The policeman was kind to bring you home instead of taking you to the police station with the rest of the riff raff that you were with. You have no idea how I have sacrificed to give you a home. And all you do is bring me grief and sorrow and embarrassment! Your mama would be so ashamed if she were here to see this. Stop crying, big girls don’t cry! You’re lucky you aren’t in jail right now for parading around with signs and showing disrespect to our country! Look at you in that garb you’re wearing with all those flowers; it looks like a peasant’s dress! Get upstairs to your room. I can’t bear to look at you another minute!”
My friends would hopefully be happier in the jail cells than I was here with her. How could she not see that all we were doing was trying to bring attention to all the young boys dying in rice paddies so far away and for what? Our friends were coming back in body bags or so injured that they would never have normal lives again. We couldn’t just do nothing.
“Excuse me, Miss, are you a relative? Please, I’ll take you to see your aunt. She’s in here. We’ve tried to get her prepared as well as we could but she wasn’t found for awhile after her death and the decomposure process had started. I’m afraid she doesn’t look well enough to have an open viewing. Perhaps you need someone with you when you go in to see her. It’s not a pretty sight. I am so very sorry for your loss. Here, please take some tissues.”
Oh, don’t worry about me. Please, I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl and big girls don’t cry.