I sought shame, but shame didn’t want me

Coming from another country, my husband uses idioms that I am sometimes unfamiliar with. And I love it. I love learning the new phrases, like “isn’t that where the dog is buried,” which he uses to illustrate the real point of the matter. Or the one that is the title of today’s post, the meaning of which I experienced first hand this morning.

So Hurricane Sandy came and went, and we’re fine. We didn’t even lose power. But yesterday morning, when I read the news, I saw some pictures of New Jersey and was pretty sad. I’m thinking of the people there and what they are going through and wish there was something I could do to help (I’m donating and I encourage you all to donate money to the Red Cross). And right away I had to call my aunt, whose daughter lives in New Jersey.

I’m not very close with this aunt or my cousin. I see her only a few times a year, if that, and the cousin even less. Basically, my aunt and my dad don’t get along. There is a lot of history there that I just don’t know. Whenever I see her, she is warm and friendly. But when my dad sees her, well, it’s like oil and water. But I knew I had to call to check up on her daughter, even though I haven’t seen them in about a year. And even though chances are my cousin was fine, and even if she wasn’t there would be little I could do. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I remember my sister being really hurt and angry that her friends didn’t ask her about me (I had been living in New Orleans). My sister was so worried about me and so stressed herself, and she needed the support of her friends. So I called. And my aunt was warm and happy to hear from me and told me that my cousin’s house lost power, but that they are at another family member’s house and fine. I could tell that my aunt appreciated the call.

Back at the party at the Gatsbys’, I remembered that the birthday boy had a cousin in from New Jersey. So when I saw the mother at the halloween parade today, I asked about her family in New Jersey.

“We don’t have any family in New Jersey,” she told me in a tone that conveyed what she thought of me.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought I remembered meeting a young cousin from New Jersey.”

“Oh, right.” She wouldn’t even look at me. “Yeah, they’re fine,” she added as an afterthought, afraid that I would ask more questions. She sped up, tugging her kid along ahead of mine in the parade.

I didn’t expect her to cry on my shoulder if things hadn’t been ok, but I at least expected the tone of “thank you for asking” rather than “get out of my business.” Up until that moment, I has wondered if perhaps the weirdness that I perceived at the party had been all in my head. It wasn’t. And now I know what it means to seek shame when shame doesn’t want me.

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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