It was a beautiful day. Sunny, warm, everything a day at the park in California should be for an eight-year-old girl on vacation with her Mother. No big brothers to bother her and tease her, and even though she loved her Father, sometimes his watchful eyes were a bit intimidating. Time alone with Mom. Francine had on her favorite blue pants and pink top, her hair was still growing out from the pixie hair cut her Mother had given her 6 months before. Francine felt such freedom that day. Things back at home were strange, tense. Francine heard her parents fighting, yelling at each other often. Even though they closed their bedroom door, she could still hear every word. It made her feel uneasy and at times she felt more like a problem for them than a daughter. But now, Francine and her Mother were in California for a visit with Grandma and Grandpa and they got to fly in a plane to get there. As she walked through the park Francine spotted a small stream with large red rocks on either side. Francine couldn't help herself she was running and jumping back and forth across the stream and up the sides of the rocks and back down. Something caught Francine's eye in the water. She bent down to inspect it further, the sound of the water in the stream rushing past was so loud it drowned out the sound of people talking in the back ground. Francine reached in with one finger to touch a shiny rock she saw. As soon as she touched the water it shocked her, it was so cold, she withdrew her finger and looked back to tell her Mother how cold the water was. But as she was about to speak she stopped; she almost forgot who came to the park with them. Turning her gaze back to the rock, she held her breath and reached in and grabbed the rock, it was much deeper than she thought, but she was determined to have that beautiful shinning rock. Francine felt sheer joy as she pulled the rock out the water, jumping up and dancing around with delight. She didn't even mind that half her sleeve was now soaking wet.
On the way back to her grandparent's house she sat in the back seat of the car, holding her treasure looking out the window as they drove. The moment they pulled into the driveway she jumped out of the car and ran into the house to show Granny her prize. "Granny, Granny, look at what I found in the stream!" She blurted out. "Well, let me have a look at that. Do you know what that is Francine?" Her Granny said. Francine shook her head no. "That is a very special rock, with a funny name, its called Fool's Gold". "Why do they call it that Granny?" "Well," her Grand Mother paused and sat down at the kitchen table motioning for Francine to join her. Francine happily sat down, but she could barely sit still in her seat. "Tell Me Granny!" Francine begged. "A long time ago when the settlers came out to California, they were searching for a better life for their families and they heard that California was filled with gold and that the gold would make them rich." "They thought that riches would bring them all the happiness in the world, but it didn't." "I don't understand Granny, why weren't they happy?" "Didn't they find the gold?" "Well, yes honey, some of the settlers did find gold and became very, very wealthy." "However, many more of the settlers that had left everything behind to come to California and find gold got sick along the way and many of them died before they reached California." "Really?" Francine said with her eyes wide. "Yes, and many of the settlers encountered Indians who felt the Settlers were taking their land and Indians killed many of them." Francine started to interrupt, but Granny put her hand up to stopped her. "But, that was not the worst part." "Many of the Settlers would find a shiny rock, just like yours and they thought they had found real gold, but once the rock was broken open, they found it was only shiny on the outside and not real gold on the inside." "So is this a bad rock?" Francine said, sticking out her bottom lip. "Oh no sweetie, it's still a special rock, because you can look at it's outside beauty and appreciate that." "Like you, you are my beautiful grand daughter on the outside, but you have something else, you have beauty on the inside too." Francine looked at her Granny with a big smile lighting up her face. "Oh Granny, you have to say that because I am your only grand daughter." "Francine, even if you weren't my grand daughter I would say that, because you have Jesus in your heart and His love shines out from you every time you smile." "Thanks Granny, I love you." Francine said as she skipped off to play outside. Soon their trip would be over, but Francine would take her shinny rock home to Texas and the words that her Grandmother said to her deep within her heart.
Once Francine was home she hid her shiny rock in her pink jewelry box. Each time she took out her "treasure," she would close her eyes and imagine herself back at the stream. That small shiny rock had become her most valued possession.
It wasn't long after coming home that the tension began again. Francine may have only been eight years old, but she knew what was happening between her parents; the slamming doors, and the late night arguments. One time she went to ask her Mother if she could go outside to play; her mother was reading a book sitting on her bed, as Francine's mother lowered the book to answer Francine she saw a single tear rolling down her mother's face. Francine felt bad, she knew her mother was upset but she didn't know what to do about it. Francine ran to her room and grabbed her jewelry box and took out her shiny rock. She thought about brining it to her Mother, but instead she put it in her pocket and ran out the front door of the house. She ran and ran until she couldn't run anymore. She stopped and sat down on the curb, breathing hard, she took her shiny rock and held it up in the sunlight. "Stupid Rock, this is your fault." Francine shouted. She threw the rock as far as she could into the street. Looking back down toward the bottom of the hill she could hear her Mother calling for her. "I am not going back there again, I hate it there." "I hate everything." Francine said with her arms crossed. But after a minute or two she got up and began to walk slowly back towards her house. "I coming," she yelled back, after she heard her Mother called for her once more. She stopped and looked back; she couldn't leave the shiny rock in the middle of the street. Francine dashed back; looking down she picked up her shiny rock and then held it her against her heart. "I'm sorry shiny rock, please forgive me, I won't ever do that again." Francine said as she put her treasure back into her pants pocket and ran back home.
Later that night when everyone was in bed, Francine heard the whispers start once again; they got louder and louder. She pulled her pillow over her head and tried to imagine herself back at the stream in California. She rocked herself back and forth finally drifting off to sleep.
A few days went by and Francine was playing in her room when her Mother came in. "Francine, I have something to show you, do you remember that "wonderful older couple" we met at the park on our trip to California, they sent some pictures they took of us that day." "Wasn't that so kind of them?" Francine sat on her bed next to her Mother, a bit confused. "Pictures, I don't remember that." Francine protested. Her Mother gave her a stern look, which confused and scared Francine at the same time. As Francine's Mother went through each picture, there was one of Francine bending down at the stream picking up her shiny rock. "I don't remember him taking that picture of me!" Francine almost shouted. Her Mother elbowed her in the side and said a bad word under her breath. Then in a cheery tone her Mother got up from the bed to leave Francine's room she looked back, "They were such a nice older couple to send these, don't you think?" Her Mother had a strange stern sound in her voice and look on her face that frightened Francine. Francine couldn't answer back, she just shook her head yes.
The next few days were filled with fear. She knew she was in trouble with her Mother, she had revealed the secret. If her Father left again, it would be all her fault. Francine slowly walked home from school each day hoping to delay the punishment that was sure to come. She didn't want to be alone with her Mother anymore. Francine knew what it was like to live between two homes. Her parents had been separated for two years, living on opposite sides of town, pursuing other relationships. She hated going over to her Dad's apartment. All those women over there trying to be nice to her and act like her mother. She hated them, she knew each promise they made to her was just a lie; they only wanted to get close to her father. Besides her Father had only one twin bed in the second bedroom and when she and brothers stayed over there was always a fight about who got to sleep on the bed. That was over now. Her parents were back together and they had bought a house, this was the first time Francine had her own bedroom. She had made new friends in the neighborhood; she didn't want to leave all that now. The weight of what she had done, not keeping her Mother's secret was too much for Francine so she crawled up onto her bed and began to cry. " I'm such a bad girl; I'm such a bad girl," she kept repeating to herself. She cried so hard she finally fell asleep. When she woke up she saw her Mother's face, she was kneeling beside her bed.
"Francine, I need to talk to you." Her Mother said. Francine froze in place, so scared she started to cry softly. "Francine, please tell me why you are so upset." "Is it because of the trip, the photos I showed you the other day; because that is what I need to talk to you about." Francine's Mother looked down and drew in a deep breath. "This is very important and I need you to listen to me very closely." "Can you do that, can you sit up and listen to me?" Francine's Mother said almost pleading. Francine shook her head yes and sat up folding her hands together tentatively looking at her mother. Francine noticed her Mother's face; she looked very sad and her eyes were moist, like she had been crying. "Francine, you know I love you and there is nothing more important to me in this world than that you understand how much you mean to me." Francine sniffled a little as her Mother brushed back a stray piece of hair from Francine's forehead and handed her a tissue reaching for one as well. Taking Francine's hands in hers made Francine feel better instantly. She wasn't afraid anymore. "My sweet daughter, I have sinned and I have made you part of that, I know you may not understand all of this." "Life is very complicated sometimes and your Father and I are still working on our relationship so we can be better parents to you and your brothers." "I have told your Father all about seeing "Phillip" while we were in California and about asking you to keep it a secret from him." "Your Father and I had a long talk and we want to be honest with each other and I need to apologize to you for asking you to keep my sin a secret." Her Mother drew in another breath almost as if she was in pain and continued talking even though her hands were shaking.
"After the pictures came in the mail, and I saw them, I realized much my family means to me and how foolish I was." "I apologized to your Dad and we did something we hadn't done in a very long time." "We got down on our knees and we prayed together." "We prayed for you and your brothers and our family to stay together." "Francine, I know this is a very grown up subject, but you are smart little girl and I know you understand." Francine's Mother finally paused a minute giving Francine a chance to take in all she had told her. Then her Mother turned to the side and handed a box to Francine.
Francine looked down at the white box and back at her Mother with a questioning look. "I brought you this little Bible." Francine's Mother said. "It was Granny's, she had it when she was a little girl and she gave it to me and now I want to give it to you." "I thought we could read it together and I am hoping you will forgive me for the way I acted in California and toward you the other day when I showed you the pictures."
Francine smiled and threw her arms around her Mother's neck, "Oh Mommy, I thought you hated me, I am so sorry." "No, No my sweet daughter, I am the one who is sorry, I was afraid you hated me." "Let's start over; let's start a new day together." Francine's Mother smiled for the first time since she came into Francine's room. Francine thought how beautiful her Mother was when she smiled.
Francine leaped up from the bed and went to her pink jewelry box and brought out the shiny rock. She sat back down, next to her Mother. She held out the rock and said "Granny says, this is "Fool's Gold" only shiny on the outside, pretend, not real gold on the inside." "I found it that day when we were at the park in California; I don't think I want it anymore." "Why don't you want it anymore Francine?" "Because, I want to be shiny on the inside like Jesus is, that's what Granny says." "You know what Francine, I think your right, I want to be shiny on inside too." "OK Mommy, just one second." Francine got up and dropped the shiny rock in the trash can with a smile, she sat back down and her Mother began reading; "Genesis-The Beginning, I think this is a wonderful place for us to start." Francine just kept smiling as she looked up at her Mother. "Page 1, Chapter 1, Verse 1, In the Beginning."
I have been writing all my life, I just didn't realize it until I was my late 40's. I hope my experiences can help other who have gone through similar trials. This story is a bit different for me, however I feel compelled to write what I see, even if it isn't always happy.