I have been contemplating the feeling of me being ten years old because that's about the time when the good feelings ran out in my family.
So I'm thinking about what ten year old Courtney was feeling.
I see that it was a transition from abundance to fear and scarcity in a big way, my parents were experiencing it, I was part of it.
My big brother couldn't look at me because of his own guilt I suppose, so I lost my only ally.
But bigger than that, because I didn't understand that and I didn't process that at all, so bigger than that, was the new scarcity.
I had a vague sense that my father thought of himself as an imposter in the stock market game.
And I had a vague sense that he was failing out of some larger inability to really get behind the money game he was playing.
He was sarcastic about it and joking, he loved cigars and he burned a hundred dollar bill as a cigar as a joke at a party at our house one night.
He had been a Philosophy major in college, so he acted like his own greed or his own desire to succeed on a huge level was a farce.
He was uncomfortable with the money rolling in I think, he wasn't sure he could sustain it.
Probably just by his own crisis of values.
My mother had been an only child surrounded by adults who doted on her.
She loved beautiful things but she also believed in modesty and solvency.
Modesty and solvency were not at all a part of my Dad's game right then.
I heard much later from the Yale professor he married in his fifties that humility and solvency, all be it in the form of swearing off all possessions, had become his final stance in the world.
When I spoke to this woman who was married to him for ten years before he died of heart trouble..yes trouble with his heart...she told me that he never told her he had any children.
She didn't know about my brother or me.
I didn't know about me either.
Yesterday I thought long and hard about ten year old Courtney.
I realized that the person to focus on for my future is not she but the girl who came first, the confident little girl who believed.
The hurt ten year old Courtney is me still, now.
I get that drill.
A couple summers ago I felt I had to liquidate the storage unit I was keeping with many beautiful things from the raising of my children.
I held a sale on Rob's front lawn.
The neighbors and people from around the neighborhood came and looked at my glamorous expensive things and offered me very low offers for everything.
I had it in my head that I needed every penny from these items.
I put every last thing out on the lawn.
I was telling myself I had to have the money to survive.
I sold my favorite doll, the only doll I had, she had her own wardrobe of sweet little girl clothes and she had a little felt rabbit that tied to her wrist as a pet.
She was in beautiful condition because that's how I was.
The doll was a child of the age of four or five.
I sold her to a young girl in the neighborhood.
Her grandmother walked back home and helped her get money from her parents and her own savings and she came back and counted out pennies and quarters and dollar bills until she had enough.
I think I sold it to her for ten or fifteen dollars.
Suddenly yesterday I lost my mind over that little doll.
My ten year old self was numb, she had already adapted, she knew all about scarcity and disappointment.
But I suddenly remembered the five year old or six year old Courtney.
I remembered how much she loved that doll, how much she loved all her toys.
I remembered how she hung up all the little clothes on all the little hangers, how she kept all the little socks neatly in the little drawer.
Six year old Courtney dressed that little doll lovingly in all her different outfits for different occasions, matching hat that was made of pale blue felt and tied under the doll's sweet little chin and kept her warm when she went out walking in her pale blue checked dress and her little lace up boots and her pale blue felt cape with buttons down the front.
You don't know and you don't care, I get it.
But I suddenly lost my fucking mind yesterday over that little doll.
No one was home yesterday and I started running around the house looking in the basement, looking in the cupboards, saying out loud, "I couldn't have sold her, I couldn't have let her go, she must be here somewhere!"
"Where's my doll from when I as little?"
How could I have let her go???????????
How could I have tortured my five year old little Courtney self again...one more time...calmly taking the money from the girl and watching her walk away with the doll in the case down the street?
How did I watch that nice little girl from down the street walk off with the one and only thing left of all that I lost when I was little?
Why wasn't I screaming?
Why didn't I realize that the small metal case was like a foot tall and could sit under my bed, or in my closet, anywhere, and ten more dollars wasn't going to save me?
I have punished myself enough.
I have lost enough, but more importantly I have forced myself to do this penance now for long enough.
Six year old Courtney wants to shine and sing and play with her pretty toys and dress up in all her matching outfits.
She didn't do all this.
She was untainted.
Her desire to sing, her desire to care for things, her gratitude and love for her parents, her grandparents, her Great Aunt Ebby who bought her that doll, her aunts and uncles, her cousins, her brother, her family dog, her big bedroom and her toys, the Kindergarten teacher, the books she loved, the kids at school.
At eight she got her first guitar for Christmas and she loved that too.
Around that same time she got an easel for a present, a wooden painter's easel, with books on how to draw horses and more.
She had stacks of brand new paper for the easel, and paints, and everything.
She had everything she needed.
You know what she did?
She went to school and invited a bunch of kids to come to her house for "Art Lessons".
She told them it would cost twenty-five cents.
She went home and told her mother to have cookies ready.
Five kids came.
Her mother made them all leave their shoes at the door, which she thought was embarrassing.
She brought the kids up to her big bedroom that had a big bed and a big wooden floor area.
The kids sat in a semi-circle in front of her new easel, she handed out paper and drawing pencils.
She set up the book about how to draw a horse and she walked them through each of the steps until everyone had made a nice horse.
Then she went downstairs and brought up the plate of cookies.
Then everyone gave her their quarter.
She walked them all back to the front door, and as they put on their shoes and then left one at a time with their horse drawings in their hands, she stood smiling happily, feeling great.
That's my girl.
She deserves everything that I'm going to give her now.
I cut her down for making stupid records that were commercial failures.
I cut her down for dressing up in stupid matching outfits.
That little girl is gonna shine and I'm the only one who can help her now.
I'm gonna make it all up to her.
Everything she's ever done.
Every dream she had, it's all still here, I didn't sell her dream.
I didn't give away her songs she wrote.
I have them, I know how they all go.
For nearly fifty years that little girl has been trying to make good on her initial vision of herself, and even though the rug's been pulled out from under her and even though ......
......even though I have sabotaged my own efforts in a thousand poisoned ways......
I am still alive, and Christmas hasn't come yet, and there's still time for me and my man Ebenezer to make it right for our hurt childhood selves.....
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me."
Charles Dickens knew.
The child we were must be made to feel whole again.
I apologize for selling the little doll in the little case that little Courtney took such good care of for fifty years.
But the girl who bought her bought her with great joy and pride.
My little doll is hers now.
I accept it.
I'll buy a new doll for a grandchild hopefully some day and I'll have the chance to show how to take good care of such a precious childhood gift.
Tonight is my Christmas show in a decorated and heated old barn in Owatanna, Minnesota.
I'll do my very best to give them some great joy and great cheer through my songs.
And I'll wear one of my head to toe matching outfits like I always do because little Courtney is feeling honored after all.
All things are mine 'cause I am loved, how can I keep from singing?