|Zyaun, left, shares some Christmas joy.|
Zyaun Dent is a 7th grade middle school student in Springfield, Illinois. She enjoys reading and dancing and playing soccer. Her favorite picture book as a young girl was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the best YA book she’s recently read is The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. This is her first published piece for Little Pickle Press.
Recently, while talking to my guidance dean at school, I was surprised to hear her ask me a question. What does it mean to be big? I wasn’t sure how to answer right away, and after thinking about it I decided on this:
When you are big, you don’t let what others say get you down. Being big is not a physical appearance. Big is an emotion that allows you to believe that anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it and believe that you can succeed in life, you will always achieve your dreams or in other words be big. Being big is all about handling situations the right way.
I have a story about being big and how, for the first time, I felt like it. I was the baby of the family until age seven when my younger sister came along. Her father raised me, but he isn’t my natural birth father. That was about the time when I stopped telling my mother everything. I felt like there was an ocean between us.
At twelve years old I remembered how much I used to tell all of my problems to my mother. I still tried to keep my emotions bottled up inside of me. I could only do that for so long until I would cry myself to sleep. What nobody knew about me was that my father had died, from what cause I never knew. Whenever I asked my mother questions about my father, my mother would simply reply with, “I’ll tell you when you get older.” My mother never understood, then, why I was so disrespectful and unhappy all the time.
This went on for some time until we reached a crucial part of the year for us: the day before my father’s birthday. My mother decided to treat the family to a special dinner at a restaurant that night. As usual, I was being disrespectful to my mother and she was trying to figure out why I was being so bitter towards her.
The next day, my mother woke everyone up and told us to get ready. She didn’t tell us where we were going, but while she drove, my sister figured out where we were going. Our father’s grave.
I have often dreaded the walk from the car to the grave and, like so many times before, I just stared at the gravestone that I’d became so accustomed to. I read my father’s name: Shaun Dent.
It turns out that my grandmother had told our mom to tell her children the truth about where our father was. After all the bitterness and disrespect I had towards my mother she finally decided to tell us about him.
The three of us stood there staring at the headstone of his grave until my mother broke the silence and began to talk. She said, “I have kept you guys hidden way too long, and I can’t do it any more.” As soon as she said that my sisters and I began to cry. We knew what she was going to tell us how our father died. My mother started off by saying, “Your father committed suicide, and no one knows why.”
Just by the look in her eyes you could tell this had to be the hardest thing for her to do. This isn’t something we talked about before. Our mother always told us that we were too young to know.
But in this moment, she was being big. She had pulled her children in as they cried and she looked at me especially when she said, “You treat me so bad all the time and I can’t understand why. When you say it’s not fair that you don’t have a father, it’s not my fault.” And for the first time I actually felt a little bit guilty for my actions while pulling my mother in closer.
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I promise to treat you better.” And from that day I tried to work on the way I have treated others. No matter how horrible I’ve felt I will always remember my mother’s words: “Don’t ever think about self-harming even if you think you can’t deal with the things that are going on around you. There is always someone out there that cares. It doesn’t matter if it is a teacher, a parent, or a grandparent. Someone cares. The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.”
I know now that I wasn’t being very big when I disrespected my mother or failed to tell her how important my feelings were. I know that I wasn’t being very big at all with my bitterness. Disrespecting my mother and failing to tell her how important my feelings were was not very big of me.
I am Zyaun Dent and I am big.