The Saga of Big and Little MaryAnn

by Shea Bell
love bug

Have you ever been on the receiving end of ladybug love? It’s the delight you feel when you discover one climbing up your leg or resting on a leaf.  You can check in here anytime you need to relive that pleasure.  My Mom’s ladybug is for everyone to enjoy. She painted it forty years ago and it became her iconic signature.  The message is simple yet powerful, just like her ~ It’s All About Love. This story tells the tale of my parents best loving efforts as the result of a traumatic event that happened to me when I was a baby.

I am fortunate I was born into a loving family. My father was a dedicated family man, intelligent, educated,  driven, and not afraid to speak the truth.  Sometimes it was only his truth though.  My Mom quietly loved us all, listened to our woes, and chimed in when asked. Otherwise she masterfully took care of business.

Over the years Dad kicked up some spectacular drama with his fearlessness, something one might not expect from a man profoundly deaf since the age of  4, when measles claimed his auditory nerves. He was the counterpoint to my Mom’s solid, calm spirit. As a teenager the only way I could respond to Dad was by stomping off and slamming the door in utter frustration. We did not give each other a break for a long time,  but signs of a cease-fire emerged in his later years.

Dad’s poetic spirit did inspire me, and I knew he loved me even though it was not always obvious. In his late eighties Dad wistfully shared his envy of my spiritual explorations, then declared me a mystic. He said he wished he had more time. With this I felt a deeper connection for the first time.

Since Dad left this planet some 4 years ago,  he has come to me in dreams to clear up some of the misunderstanding between us.  He explained he couldn’t support my spiritual pursuits when he was alive because he was too indoctrinated into his strict religious upbringing. But he had to admit, now that he was on the other side, I was right!  That was huge for me. I would love to sit with him again and share this new understanding over a glass of wine on the patio of a Friday night.

My parents bequeathed me a creative and sensitive spirit and an enormous heart. These three traits fed my adventurous nature and led me to some regrettable outcomes, but also spectacular breakthroughs.  As a result I experienced a lot of “contrast” as Abraham Hicks would say, for me to “know what I don’t like so I can know what I do like.”

Opportunities for personal growth (cough, cough) have come fast and furious, as I pushed myself unconsciously forward. I don’t recommend locking into Survival Mode, that damaging loop of denial. I do recommend taking the hard look when something happens and stopping to work it out.  This keeps one out of Repeat Mode, which is even more painful.

I recently found a piece of  writing Dad gave to me 23 years ago on my 43rd birthday. I remember him solemnly handing me an envelope containing details of what happened to me when I was just 18 months old, before I could talk, before active memory. On the outside was penned “The Saga of Big and Little MaryAnn”.  So curious and as mysterious as Dad’s deepest thoughts.

Dad didn’t want to discuss the contents. His deafness was sometimes a barrier to good communication, especially if emotions were involved. But I was not ready to uncover the deeper meaning on my own at that time.  Married life was challenging and there was no space to absorb any more pain. I tucked the envelope away and didn’t discover it again until I moved 10 years later. Without being able to talk about it I just didn’t try to figure out what it meant.  Even more,  the allegorical style in which Dad wrote meant more deciphering.

Reading this story again with the wisdom of a few more years,  I understand what my parents were trying to help me with, and I can feel the tenderness in Dad’s words. It must have been painful for him to write, but in his life Dad never shied from doing what he thought was right. His passion and capacity to love snagged him my Mom, a prize jewel he keenly recognised. His dedication to her over their marriage was stunning and inspiring. I will give you the Elizabeth Barrett Browning story another time.

Here is the message, so carefully written.

The Saga of Little and Big MaryAnn

     Long ago, in a place where there was magic in the air, and flowers and sea urchins if you knew where to look, there was a little girl called MaryAnne. She was a baby, healthy and happy, and life was good. She and her brother and mother and dad lived in a tiny house, and loved one another dearly.

     When she was only eighteen months old, a frightening thing happened to MaryAnne. One day when she was laughing and having fun she popped a peanut into her mouth. Instead of going down into her stomach, it lodged at the top of her lung. Her mother could hear that she was breathing funny – wheezing and took her to a kind young man called Dr. Vey. He confirmed that, yes, the peanut was stuck in MaryAnn’s lung. He went on to say that it would be dangerous if the peanut went further into the lung. Peanuts are powerful and corrosive, and could cause serious damage to the lung.

     MaryAnne had to be kept very still until the peanut dissolved, Dr. Vey explained, and he helped her mother and father take her to the hospital. There were tearful good-byes. Mother and dad explained that they would return to the hospital to take MaryAnne home in a week or ten days, and that the Doctor would not let them visit before then.

     Now MaryAnne knew that her parents loved her, and she could not understand why they left her in the hospital and went out the door. She was only eighteen months old and was afraid that her mother and dad had left her all alone, and she did not know if she would ever see them again. She was terrified, and cried inside, for ten days.

     During this time her mother and father visited the hospital every night, and gave the nurse pictures drawn by the mother to take into MaryAnne. They could only watch their MaryAnne from a distance as she stood at the end of her crib, sad and heartbroken. They felt sad and heart-broken themselves.

     Finally the ten days passed. MaryAnn’s parents returned and took her home, and she was happy once more. But deep inside where she lived, she feared that she would be left alone again. The years passed, and she gradually relaxed, and the memory of being left in the hospital was pushed to one side.

     But the memory was still there, even though MaryAnne grew up and became a mother herself. Sometimes she was sad, and did not know why, or once in a while she found it hard to get along with some people, and no-one really knew why, least of all her.

     Then one day MaryAnne found out that all big people still have little people inside them. And further that if the little person wasn’t treated right long ago, or even thought that they had not been, then the little person remains unhappy or fearful, and will find some way to let the big person know it. The little person is afraid that something bad, she does not know what, may happen again, and she will not know why it will happen, or what to do.

     The big MaryAnne many years later was told by her mother and dad about going to the hospital with the peanut. She came to understand, as did her mother and dad, that little MaryAnne had received a deep hurt when only a baby. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. The doctors and hospitals didn’t know any better then and neither did mommy and daddy, because they thought doctors knew everything. Certainly little MaryAnne did not know what was going on.

     As time went by, big MaryAnne frequently hugged little MaryAnne tightly, and told her over and over : I love you dearly. You did have a horrible time. It is all right to remember this, and tell me all about it, and cry for as many minutes, or days, or even years as it may take, till you feel better. You will always have me to look after you, and you will never be alone again, no matter what happens.

     Now, the big MaryAnne sometimes had things go wrong as the years went by, but things went right too. She knew that she could always, in her heart, and usually around her home and family, find again for herself that far away and long ago time, where flowers bloomed until Christmas, and mysterious sea urchins travelled unseen through the ocean not far from her door.

  A Fable for our beloved Sharon – March 27, 1997

In 1955 the Doctors felt it would be less traumatic for me if my parents did not visit.  They thought it would be harder for me to see them come and go. So that’s what happened. Mom and Dad did everything they could to ease my sorrow, but I was too little to understand, and I didn’t spot them at the window desperately wishing I would turn my head.

I’m so grateful Mom and Dad realised I must know what happened to me as a babe so my big girl brain could finally understandand that I actually was safe.

This was the beginning of a mind-boggling life review and the start of unravelling who I really am. What did I want out of life?  No small enterprise this, but the only way to find peace and happiness. It’s worth the work.

Wishing you ladybug love. Hug yourself today, especially your Little MaryAnn.

Please scroll all the way to the bottom to leave a reply.  I would love to hear from you.


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Annabel September 21, 2018 - 6:28 pm

What remarkable insight and generosity and such a wonderful gift from your Dad.

Shea Bell September 22, 2018 - 1:32 pm

Annabel, Thank you. Yes, a wonderful gift from a generous and remarkable man.

Darlene September 22, 2018 - 4:24 am

Oh my. The same thing happened to my brother who had polio in 1954. Mom and Dad took him to Calgary,(3 hours away) where they had to leave him for 3 months. They were also told not to visit. He was about 18 months as well. He has suffered the repercussions all his life. I guess the medical staff at the time just didn’t realize the effect this would have on a child.
What a lovely thing for your father to do. Did he ever complete writing his memoirs? Do you think you might put them in a book form someday. I found them to be very interesting and he had a good way with words on paper. Bless him.

Shea Bell September 22, 2018 - 1:31 pm

Darlene, If he ever wants to talk we can compare life stories! Your brother’s story so much more tragic. Babyhood trauma especially is profound, yet undermines in the background. Our parents did their best at the time when the experts were followed without question. doctors, teachers, the works. I hope this post will help others to ask questions, especially if their parents are still here, and to know they are not crazy or weak. There is so much good information to be found in Google. As for dear old dad, we are still looking for his manuscript. God bless him for sure and thank you for celebrating his gift and remembering him.

Brian Bell September 23, 2018 - 10:55 am

Great piece Shea! My memory archives contain no recollection of that event – even though I was the allegorical brother.

The lesson here is an important one. Sadly, the GOP Administration’s horrific policy of child separation of undocumented aliens was allowed to go ahead anyway; one can only imagine the lasting psychological damage it has (and continues to) cause. Thanks for helping to make this more personal.

Shea Bell September 27, 2018 - 4:59 pm

Well you were too young as well. And the GOP should be ashamed, quite right. A generation of traumatized kids will not help anyone in society at some point down the road. I think sharing is so important. Thank you for chiming in.


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