Dear Mrs. Miller,
Many people ask about my sister Rachelle. In a nutshell, she is doing okay after two divorces, although she still has no children. As you know, she is 5 years older than me, and I think that worked against her in a bad way when our family broke up. I was still little enough to fly under the storm. Everybody felt sorry for me and wanted to help, and I was innocent enough—if I may say so myself—to accept kindness at face value. I realize now, that was lucky for me.
It was different when Rachelle came along. People would react with, “Who needs this sneering teenager?” Or even if they didn’t, even if they wanted to be nice, she was always suspicious of outsiders. We had a very closed-off kind of upbringing, and even though Rachelle tried to reject it, that mentality made its mark on her, I think.
And even among our relatives (or especially among them), people tended to look at Rachelle and say, “Oh good—here’s our new cook and housekeeper.” So I must admit, she had a “tough row to hoe,” as the saying goes.
Way back when I was little, Rachelle was my favorite person in the world, or at least a very close second after Momma. She was a wonderful sister right up until she turned 13. Then she became a different person overnight. Wanted nothing more to do with family. Out with friends all the time. And she refused to account for where she went or who she spent time with. If she did say anything, it was bound to be a lie.
This is why it didn’t come as such a shock when I learned that my beloved sister had gotten an abortion. I mean, it did bowl me over, and I needed to put it completely out of my mind for a long time. But somehow, knowing that she could reject our whole family like she did, it wasn’t so surprising to hear that she had gone the extra step and “killed her own baby.”
Tweet: “We all know where babies come from, but that doesn’t mean we connect sex with the job-for-life of becoming a parent.”
Is that unfair? I know I can be harsh toward Rachelle because of how she let me down as a kid. But I remember that she was a kid herself when she got pregnant, and I realize now how easy that can happen by accident. Or by stupidity, or by fooling yourself, or getting carried away with your own feelings.
Nowadays we all know where babies come from, but that doesn’t mean we connect sex with the job-for-life of becoming a parent.
So I try not to judge my sister. I’ve made a law for myself never to talk to her about what she did. In my heart I know it was wrong. It’s one sin I swear I will never commit. And that leaves a coldness between the two of us, even though I don’t come out and blame her to her face.
Am I still too harsh on Rachelle? I don’t know how to melt that cold spot in my heart.
P.S. Yes, once again, please share this on your blog if you care to. As personal as this material might be, I’ve reached a place in my life where I’m eager to grow in understanding based on the experience of others.
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Miriam Winslow is a fictional character, but many readers have taken an interest is her possible future. Information on her background may be found in the novel Our Orbit by Anesa Miller. You are invited to explore Miriam’s past adventures and help create her future on this blog under “Letters from Miriam.”
Not long ago, I saw an article that calls the recent movie “Men, Women, and Children” an “anti-Juno” film. Supposedly, this means that it presents a less optimistic and heartwarming version of teenagers’ problems than what we saw in the movie “Juno.” This is not hard to do in light of the fact that “Juno” portrays teen pregnancy as virtually a win-win all around. By contrast, EVERY aspect of life appears less optimistic in M,W&C. And not at all heartwarming.
As a reader of “Our Orbit,” I can say that this book is the real anti-Juno. It portrays the good and bad of life on realistic terms, but does not sugar-coat the difficult issue of unwanted pregnancy. Finding substitute parents in the Penny-Saver just is NOT a serious option for all girls. Not all birth parents are funny and supportive like Juno’s. Many will find this a dire decision and may even choose to terminate. But this doesn’t mean that all of life is pessimistic and spoiled by technology, as in “Men, Women, and Children.”
“Our Orbit” deserves a close read and serious discussion. Thank you for Miriam’s latest letter.
Thanks for your supportive words, Helen. Of course, I agree that OUR ORBIT provides good fodder for discussion! There is also a discussion guide in back for book clubs or anyone who wants to engage with various social issues that come up in the narrative. I agree, too, that the film JUNO conveys an overly rosy version of a situation that can be quite difficult for many troubled young people. Literature has a responsibility to present other aspects of this experience.
Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your perspective!
Funny how we can hold someone’s decisions against them, reasonable or not, when we don’t know their whole situation.
I was black and blue when I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, and was hiding money to be able to go home. What would you do? Silly me, I thought the baby might change things if it was a boy. Instead I ended up a 23 year old broken single mom with two babies. Did I mention it was highly possible my second daughter was conceived when he drunkenly raped me? In the end, we survived. I survived just to spite him. Now it’s only stories like this that make me look back.
I’m grateful for your return visit, Mimi Anne. Sorry to hear that a story like this makes you look back on bad times, but I’m so very glad that you and the children were able to survive in spite of it all. You are one brave human being. Bless you and thank you for sharing.