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The Summer of 1977, after thirty years it's still the summer I'll never forget

The Summer of 1977, after thirty years it's still the summer I'll never forget
What kid doesn't love summer?

As a kid, who doesn't love summer? You get to be out of school and have what feels like an entire eternity to do nothing but sleep in, then get up and play all day, and back in my day, make sure you made it in before the street lights turned on. I absolutely l-o-v-e-d summer.

My grandmother stayed with us when I was little and she was the best person in the world. She's been gone now for almost thirty years and yet I still remember her phone number and just want to drive to Chatham to see her right now.  My God, how do we survive grief? That is yet another one of the mysteries of life, but I digress...

Nevertheless, as I was saying, I loved summer as a kid.

My friends and I would jump rope ALL DAY LONG and there was nothing better than getting penny candy from the corner store and playing double Dutch. My life was good and perfect.

One year though, I went away to summer camp which had to be run by Amish people because we were out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania and the biggest source of excitement we had out there was being forced to swim in the lake with snakes. I hated it! The women didn't shave their pits and they had big bushes under their arms and while they weren't Amish, it was actually run by Christian Scientists, we had nothing extravagant. It was all these kids from all over the place with me and my little black cousins being chaperoned by all these white Christian Scientists.

Can I tell you something though?

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Four of us from my family went but only three of us survived.  My other cousin who was a girl like me, well, she insisted someone from the family come and get her and she went home early. I think we were 8 or 9 years old, and the camp was four weeks long. It really did feel like eternity, except, I learned so much and will never forget the captivating beauty of the stars out there at night. I remember learning that God had a promise for us just like the promise He made to Abraham and that my life would be blessed. I was a hopeful, excited, spirit-filled child. I knew God loved me.

One of the best activities we did was making candles.  I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever done in my life.  I learned to make all kinds of shapes and sizes in glass jars and I packed them up to bring them home to my family to show what I'd learned and what a big girl I'd been.

My candles were like these. I've never made candles since.

My candles were like these. I've never made candles since.

As soon as I got home from camp though, I knew something was "rotten in Denmark." I didn't know anything about energy and what it meant when there was tension in the air, I just knew it was there. I didn't know what the problem was but there was no big party for my return like the kids on the Disney channel got. I was just back home and happy that perhaps I'd still have a chance to swim in my backyard in what I thought was the biggest pool in the world, which was one of those old school pools that took hours to fill up, but for me, was my paradise, with one exception: I can't even remember if I swam anymore once I got home. What I do remember is this...

It was a Saturday morning. I was happy. I had eaten a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms (had to be those because they were my favorites) and I'd carefully placed all of the candles on the table.  I've always been an early riser so I got up before everyone else and put my handcrafted trinkets out for everyone. I don't know or remember what set who off, all I know is that my father was mad. He and my mother were arguing. She was crying and I was in the next room hoping they'd stop. I went into the kitchen where they were hoping my presence would dissipate their anger, only to see my father holding my candle like it was a foreign object he'd never seen before. I don't know if it was because it was ugly or odd or different or what, but my father took it and just smashed it into the floor. I just stood there in disbelief. I said,

"Daddy I made those for you,"

but he was too mad or shocked or I don't know what because he took his forearm and just went right across the table and violently smashed them all to smithereens.

To this day I don't know why he did that and no one has ever apologized to me.

My father has been dead and gone now for twenty-three years but now my mother lives with me. I can't even begin to try to explain how bizarre and surreal it is to have her here in my home now with so many unresolved issues and so many words left unsaid to things in my life I've yet to understand.

Eventually she left my father and we moved to Hyde Park, where her boyfriend thirteen years her junior would molest me for my entire teenage years. We have never discussed this.  I used to think I needed validation or vindication for closure but now today I know I don't.

As crazy and as painful as it was or may seem, my father's action of sweeping his arm across the table and smashing all my little prized pottery pieces and candles is what I've had to do in the spirit for so many past hurts and disappointments. I'm not exonerating him but it does me know good to keep a record of wrongs to hold over anyone's head. He's gone. My grandmother's gone. And my mother is here. All I can do is love her and forgive myself.

God is the ultimate healer. I am a witness.

God is the ultimate healer. I am a witness.

It has been a painful and long journey to get to where I am today and while I still have so many shattered pieces of my soul that seem fragmented and disconnected, I know God is holding me together. I think the real miracle out of all of this is that today I can say I still love summer. I love being a mom of six daughters and I love taking them to the pool and watching them make things with their hands and telling them what remarkable works of art they've made. The fact that I can still jump rope just delights me and shows me there is hope and a life after abuse, heartache, and shame.

I am not a perfect woman but I do love the Lord and thank Him for keeping my mind when depression and suicide and devastation came upon me. The fact that I am still alive after all I've been through is truly a miracle.

Today I am able to take my kids to the park and pool and swim with them and just float on my back and lie there peacefully looking up at the clouds remembering what all I've been through and how good God has been to me.  And then, when nighttime falls and the crickets start signing, I go out and look up at those stars remembering the promise God has made me and all His children and just breathe and take it all in.

I may not be where I want to be but I'm certainly not where I used to be, and to that I can only say

Amen.

About me: I'm a wife and mom of six daughters known as the "Fitness Evangelist" because of my ability to take fitness classes to the next level by incorporating scripture, faith, and action.  I am proud of the work I do and working daily to improve my life. I can also help people with their health and fitness goals any where in the world through my business with Total Life Changes. For more information about me, you can visit my website at http://elanainspires.com or go directly to my TLC website for product information http://totallifechanges.com/elanainspires.

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    Elana Anthony

    I am a wife and mother blessed to have six daughters who fill my home with love and laughter. My passion is writing and teaching, but most especially inspiring people to live healthy lives in my faith-filled fitness classes. My dream is to have my own faith and fitness TV show where people from all the world collectively join together on our "temple" building project of enjoying optimal health. I am a certified group fitness instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and earned graduate degrees in Writing from DePaul University, in addition to a degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the California University of Pennsylvania. I have seen and experienced the hand of God work and move in my life, and consider it an honor and blessing to be saved to serve.

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