Seventeen - it has been my favorite number for quite some time now. The first time I went to a casino, I learned to play roulette. Well, I played roulette, because, let's face it, what's there to learn really? You just pick a number, put your chips down, and wait for the little ball to stop. You either win or lose; pretty simple. No talent or skill - just luck. I bet on seventeen nearly every time, and the professional gambler seated next to me noticed it. He was betting the same number every time along with other numbers of his choice. He also had a little notebook, and every time the ball would stop, he would write down the results. He asked me why I chose the number seventeen. The only reason I had was that it was the funnest year of my teens, and since then, it had been my favorite number. He clued me in that he was a professional (which in and of itself is fascinating to me - a professional gambler playing roulette seems pretty hysterical) and had kept up with the last umpteen times he had played and that seventeen seems to be the most common winning number. He gave me the percentages, but that was too many years and way too many cocktails ago. He just told me to keep on betting seventeen and I should walk out a winner. He was right. I walked away that night with over $400. It could have been a coincidence because the next time I went to a casino, I tried the same strategy. Not so lucky that time.
But seventeen is still my favorite number. If I were to go on Deal or No Deal, I would pick case number seventeen. And it is still my favorite year in my life - well, of my early life, my teens. I had so much fun that year. I had my first real boyfriend. Granted, it only lasted a couple of months, but it was real nonetheless. He liked me, and I liked him. We exchanged class rings, a fact I tried to hide from my parents as I knew they would not pleased I had given the ring they just payed for to an idiot teenage boy. But it ended as quickly as it began. Of course he broke my heart, along with an endless string of others that would leave small scars on my heart as well. I was a tragic case - the girl who was cute but didn't know it. The girl who was fatally attracted to all the wrong boys. The girl who guys liked to date for only a short while because, how do I put this delicately, I wasn't much fun to a teenage boy after a few dates. I didn't participate in any of those extra curricular activities that most of the boys I was attracted to liked to participate in, so I most often found myself tossed to the side for another girl.
Fast forward almost twenty years to a random Sunday afternoon birthday party for my nephew at the Pump It Up in Montgomery. When I pulled into the parking lot, I literally said to myself, "Oh, crap." The lot was full of minivans and SUVs with stickers in the window from my old high school. I just knew I would walk in and find myself surrounded be memories. Thank goodness I never really dated anyone from my small school, but I just wasn't in the mood for memories. I had been at the ball park in Millbrook since 8:30 that morning watching baseball. I didn't look my best, and I certainly wasn't prepared to impress. I walked in, and saw no one in the foyer area. Madalyn watched her instructional video (of which I am certain she retained all the rules and regulations of Pump It Up for all of eternity), and we stole away to the safety of our play room.
When play time ended, we went to the party room for cake and gifts. I found myself in the corner talking to my nephew's first baseball coach. My sister in law walked over and talked with us a while, and their conversation turned to something and I tuned out until I heard a familiar name. So I stopped the man and repeated the name and said, "I know him." Of course the "how is he" and "what is he up to now" ensued, and the guy points out and says, "There's his boy right there." Sitting next to my daughter at the table eating birthday cake. Too strange. Too weird. Now this guy wasn't my first love, and I really wouldn't consider what we did to be serious. It was a little summer romance, of course when I was seventeen, that didn't make it very far. I don't remember the details, but I am certain he broke my heart, as they all did. As I allowed all of them to do. And that's what gets to me - one simple name brings me back to a place in my heart that was so tragically sad. My poor broken spirit inside that had no confidence in myself. My childish need to be loved and adored and chased and wanted by someone - by anyone.
It is the same seventeen year old spirit that landed me in my failed first marriage. Oddly enough, one of my first red flags about my first husband not being the one for me involved this guy who I talked about above. The story is complicated and confusing, but let's just say that I should have known at a very early point in my dating relationship with Tom that he was not worth my time. But I didn't. And I vividly remember telling this guy Chris that I didn't want to lose Tom. I didn't want to lose him. How pathetic. How terribly sad. I was more concerned about losing someone - a someone who did not deserve me or my love - than I was about my own happiness. I just don't get it. I just don't understand.
So I am now in this weird frame of mind. In this weird state of memories that I just wish weren't there. You know, you go about your life, and you live the most of it in the moment and kind of forget how you got to be where you are today. Until something so small and insignificant brings it all flooding back. It is an uncomfortable feeling trying to reconcile who I was then and who I am today. How I allowed myself to be hurt and wounded by so many. But mainly by the one. But the one was just the biggest symptom of my problem.
A couple of weeks ago, Carrie posted about cardboard confessions. I had never seen them before, and it was really moving to me. I have always been fascinated by the stories behind the faces, mainly because I know how deep my story runs. I learned through my young marriage and divorce that every person has a story, and I would dare say that few tell the whole thing. There is always the obvious story that everyone knows via observation and gossip. I have always imagined the conversations that occurred about me: "Hey, did you know that Tamara got married to that guy and then she got divorced within the first year. I would have never pictured her doing that." Then there is the more personal story - -or, should I say, the real reasons behind the life events. What brought you to the cross roads is usually quite different than what people believe to be the truth. And Carrie's post got me to thinking about what my cardboard confession would be. First, I recognize that it just wouldn't fit on a piece of cardboard. Perhaps a billboard or two. Then I realize I am not comfortable sharing my story yet. I am not quite comfortable letting people in that much - letting them see the fragile soul beneath the sarcastically sassy shell. I think the world would be in shock to see what lies beneath it all. A lot of unfinished business, I assure you. A lot. Not with lost loves or silly boys, but with myself and with my God. He has done an immense amount of work on me, I know. But there is so much left to do. So much more road to travel.
Seventeen will always be my favorite number. In so many ways, I think my inner child has frozen at that age. Yes, I believe in the inner child. Never did until after the divorce, but when I experienced it first hand in a $90 an hour therapy session, I became a firm believer. We are all just kids inside. Those memories, the good and the bad, are still there inside of you, molding and shaping who you are and your reactions to life's daily events. And my poor little girl inside is feeling weird today and wanting to shove those memories back down deep inside and forget about them once more. A few days and I will be alright. Not that I am not okay, but I would actually like to feel thirty-one again. And I am looking forward to the day my inner child grows up a bit, too.