In the Strawberry Time

In the Strawberry Time June 10, 2023


It’s not so bad right now.

I haven’t been able to say that for the longest time.

I still don’t know how to talk about how bad things were in the late winter and the spring. The situation with the Lost Girl got so toxic, toward the end– I was so codependent, so desperate to keep her out of trouble, so afraid of her abusive boyfriend coming back. There were so many desperate emergencies where she needed money right away and I had to help to avert a catastrophe, and I was so shocked when her stories began not adding up. It got so terrible I couldn’t cope at all. The situation was already far beyond a boiling point when I found out what her family had done to the car. I hadn’t felt like hurting myself since Adrienne was a baby, and then I did, and now I don’t anymore. Those thoughts retreated. I am in a pretty good place now. Thank you, to everyone reading this who is about to remind me that therapy and medicine exist. I’m taken care of. I just want to talk honestly about what a state I was in, because I believe that when people talk honestly, it helps others who are suffering in silence.

Adrienne has her diagnosis. The counselor, the teacher and I are going to meet in August to discuss her IEP. She is looking forward to middle school. Her only friend, who went away to school in another state in December, is back for the summer, and we’re going to meet to go swimming in a few days. This will be her first time hanging out with a friend since just after Christmas. She’s in the best place she’s been in a long time.

Serendipity is running beautifully. The torque strap is holding for now and Jimmy will replace the motor mounts and sparkplugs as soon as possible, and then she’ll be perfect. I’m going for drives to clear my head again. Last week, Adrienne and I went swimming at the lake and it felt like a miracle. I think all three of us might go to Pittsburgh this week, if we can. We’re going to visit the adopted aunts later this summer. Holly the Witch is thinking of having a solstice party.

We’ll never be more than a hairbreadth away from disaster, but we paid the rent last month and bought litter and hay for Lady Mcfluff the guinea pig. I think I can stop worrying that we’ll have to give her away, if things continue to go well. Adrienne would love to get her a roommate, since guinea pigs are always happier in herds, and I would like to. After we make rent this week, after we pay a few more bills, if life can just keep getting better, we’ll see.

The gardens are all coming along nicely. I’ve got two beds at the community garden, with a Three Sisters patch and lots of tomatoes and greens for Lady McFluff. And I’ve also got my home garden now, with squash and more popcorn, potatoes and strawberries and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and cauliflower and broccoli. For some reason, the sunflower seeds in the community garden didn’t come up this year. But the sunflowers in my backyard have. I forget which seeds I tried where. I think I have some Autumn Beauties and some Mammoth Russians. I’ll find out when they bloom.

The man who brought water noticed me toting jugs of water to and from the house, and gave me the best gift imaginable: the use of his hose. He’s hanging it on the fence between our properties. I get to turn it on and drench the backyard patch whenever I want.

The June crop of strawberries is almost spent. These are everbearing plants, so we’ll have another crop in early fall. This is the first year I’ve really been able to enjoy the strawberries. In 2020 when we planted them, they were small and hardly had any yield. In 2021, the stalking neighbor wouldn’t even let me into my yard to pick strawberries. In 2022, Jimmy who mows the lawn accidentally ran them over. Now, they’re fully grown and nobody has bothered them. I can’t describe how absolutely delicious a home-grown, sun-ripened strawberry is. They are a completely different plant than the kind you get from the store. They’re somehow both sweeter and sourer. There’s more strawberry in a sun-ripened strawberry. Strawberries are one of the only fruits you can eat on a ketogenic diet, in moderation, so even I can have them. Adrienne and I keep darting outside for a handful and eating them while they’re still warm.

I spend so much time outside in the garden now. The panic I used to have out there has all but gone away, now that I know the stalking neighbor is never coming back.

Sometimes Adrienne joins me in the garden, just sitting on the steps to watch videos on her phone outdoors instead of in her room. Sometimes Lady Mcfluff comes out and munches the clover under a laundry basket. Sometimes Michael helps me water. Often I’m alone. While I’m alone, I pray.

It’s hard to pray, but I’ve been working on it.

My prayers are not very good.

I look at Jesus and I say “If this is really the Church you founded, you owe me an apology.” I look at God the Father and I say “I don’t think I can ever forgive you for creating me.” I look at the Holy Ghost and I say “I so terrified of you I don’t know what to say.” I look at the Communion of Saints and I say “please stay away from me. Please don’t hurt me. I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me.” I look at the Mother of God and I say “I am too traumatized to ever ask for your help again, but I am trying to forgive you for the mess you left me in. I don’t know if I can forgive. I’m sorry.”

I look at Jesus and I say, “I don’t know what to do. I loved you so much, and I wanted to do everything I could to earn you. I thought I could earn you by following every single rule of the Catholic Church to the letter, even when it made no sense. I thought I could earn you by going to Mass and confession even though they trigger severe panic attacks. I fought so hard to do all of that because I didn’t want to lose you, and now I can’t anymore. And then I thought I could at least earn you by being generous with my poorer neighbors, and that’s how the mess with the Lost Girl happened, and now I am so burned out I don’t know how to be generous anymore. There is nothing more I can do to be good. So if you love me, you’re going to have to be good to me for nothing.”

I’d like to go to church in the morning.

I haven’t even decided what denomination yet. So far I’ve had panic attacks in Catholic, Orthodox, and Episcopal churches. I’ve promised myself I’ll have mercy if the panic starts again and I have to leave; I won’t force myself to stay the way I used to. I’ll go home to bed and pray badly there. But I’m ready to try again.

Any God worth my time will meet me here.

I think I still do believe in God.

I think it’s going to be all right.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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