Once when I was a little girl I had a pet alligator. Okay, so he wasn’t alive and he wasn’t very big. He was actually only about two feet long and had been stuffed, taxidermy style. I found him in a closet of a house we had just moved into – another short term rental in a long line of short term rentals. I had never had a stuffed animal though always wanted one and now, at about eight years old I finally had one that was all my own. This was one toy I didn’t have to fight my brothers and sisters over – no one else wanted it! He was kind of hard to cuddle. I mean, alligator skin is pretty hard and it clearly had not been tanned to make it soft and supple. He left a lot to be desired in the friend department but to a lonely little girl with very few toys he was wonderful!
I used to tuck him under my arm and crawl into the closet to play. There, in the semi-darkness with just the light that crept under the door, I pretended to be on safari with my alligator guide. Sometimes we traveled to faraway lands, escaping the dreariness and monotony of my everyday life into fields of heather or miles of sand dunes. I had quite an imagination and I put it to good use in an effort to distance myself from …. myself.
For many years I thought I was running away from my family. Then, I thought perhaps I was running away from my circumstances which included my family. And for a while, I was running away from the memories that included my family. But ultimately I have been running away from myself. Unable to be what I considered ‘normal’, I escaped whenever I could either in fantasy or simply by moving. As a young woman I married to escape, only to discover I had entered into another abnormal circumstance. More running, divorce, and another marriage led me to discover that not only was I GOOD at picking out abnormal men, I was expert at surviving in dysfunctional relationships.
But survival isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A person can survive almost anything but that doesn’t mean that when the situation changes they will be normal or healthy. The psyche of a human being is really quite fragile, and even though people talk about how resilient children are, the fact of the matter is that those same children carry wounds that are so deep that without constant, loving care they will never be healthy, normal people.
Somewhere along the way I lost my alligator. It was left out of a moving box ‘by mistake’ when we left one location to move to another, as we so often did. I didn’t cry about the loss – I simply crawled into a new closet to harbor the hurt and create a fantasy world where my alligator guide took on invisible qualities. But the little girl was still hurting and the alligator is just a symbol for all of the things that were taken from me in my childhood.
Today I am in the last stages of mourning the alligator and all it represents. I am releasing the past to be the past as I bask in the amazing constant, loving care of Abba. And I think that this coming Christmas I will buy a present for myself – a soft, cuddly stuffed animal, perhaps even an alligator!
May Abba heal all your wounds.
Exodus 15:26 “….I am the Lord that healeth thee.”