Letter Home by Maggie Nerz Iribarne

Dear Elizabeth,

I’m hiding, writing this under a tree, using it for cover. My mother’s calling me:  “Theresa! Thereeeesaaaaa!” Her voice is so small, but the hairs stand on my neck with just the slightest strains of her unwelcome wailing. She’s always wondering where I am. I know you will tell me to embrace God’s will, get praying, working, this too shall pass. But I’m not at the convent, I have been sent backwards, to the place I left long ago, to care for my elderly parents and my bad back. My head, so grey, cold and exposed without the veil. Is this God’s will? Will this pass?  I do not feel God here. I know, I shouldn’t say such things. 

Dear Elizabeth,

Yesterday, one sad sign appeared taped outside my classroom door: Find Grace McFarland. She is an eighth grader, one of mine, last seen on our playground. Missing for five days!  The police have been notified, but even the parents think she ran away. The principal said, “She’s done it before. We’re not too worried.” In the yearbook she wears her hair pulled back, a shabby sweater, thick glasses.

One bad day, when all the students were talking over me and laughing at my lessons, when I wanted to bolt right out the door for good and I nearly did, one small girl, Rachael, appeared at my desk. She said, “That seat in the middle, that’s Grace’s’.”  Now, my eyes drift to that desk. I focus on worrying about poor Grace McFarland instead of myself. Can you remember her in your prayers, Elizabeth? 

Dear Elizabeth,

I have a secret. I’ve been tidying the school garden. Rummaging around the shed, I found a plastic shopping bag with a toothbrush and toothpaste, granola bars, clothes. I added some bottles of water and a peanut butter sandwich – all gone the next day!  I’ve brought a sleeping bag and blanket. She must be so cold. I haven’t told a soul, just you. I know what it’s like to want to run away, to need somewhere to go.  Please don’t tell.  For the first time in so long, I feel better, I feel God’s will.

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