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I forged my mom's signature when I was in third grade.
I had known how to write in cursive for about four days, when I signed her name to my homework. I hadn't performed very well on this particular assignment, so the teacher requested I have a parent sign it to prove they had seen it. But I didn't want my parents to see it. So, in a very uncharacteristic move for young Mallory, I signed my mom's name on my homework. I had seen her signature enough times to know the large loops she used, particularly in the "L" that began our last name. Somehow, I felt confident enough in my work to submit the forged signature to my teacher.
It wasn't until the end of the school year that my mom discovered I had done this. I adored my third grade teacher, but this means that there is no way she actually checked to see if I had received a parent signature on my homework; it was clear from miles away that a 9-year-old cursive newbie had signed that paper. On the last day of school, I had taken home a folder containing all of my remaining schoolwork; I threw it on the kitchen table and ran outside to the backyard, where I began my summer vacation. Several minutes later, my mom called me inside; she probably wants to give me a popsicle or something, I thought, figuring she was feeling just as celebratory about the start of summer break as I was. There was no popsicle. There was only the confused face of my mother, holding a piece of paper with her forged signature on it.
I do not remember how this all ended, except that, obviously, I survived. I do remember vehemently denying that I had signed my mom's name, which is so ridiculous that it's hilarious to me now. My mom knows her signature, and I'm pretty sure she'd be able to tell if it was forged…by a NINE-YEAR-OLD. Kids say the darndest things [to avoid getting grounded].
While I can assure you that my days of committing forgery are over, I can relate to the logic of my nine-year-old self—I still don’t want to share my flaws and mishaps with others. I don’t want them producing proof that they have seen my imperfections. Who does?
When I married Darren, I knew, intellectually, that we were entering a deeper and more vulnerable chapter in our relationship. Of course we had seen some of each other’s flaws, but we hadn’t lived together yet. We had barely scratched the surface of good times and bad, in sickness and in health. We had “signed off” on the imperfections we were aware of, and were trusting that whatever ugliness marriage revealed in each of us would be tolerable.
Nine-year-old Mallory, however, is still a part of me. I didn’t want my husband seeing the fullness of my unrefined and flawed traits. What if, when confronted with the not-so-glowing parts of who I am, he sees me as being too burdensome and imperfect? What if all of who I am is too much for him to accept?
Well, it turns out, it is much harder to keep my character flaws from my husband than it was to keep my failed homework assignment from my mom. Darren and I are in this; we’re doing life together—in good days and in bad, when hungry or tired, through stressful weeks and rainy days. He gets all of who I am—the parts I am proud of and the parts I want to hide from him.
Several weeks ago, I was having one of those days that only proved to my husband how sulky I can be. I was not being a great version of myself. I had picked a fight with my husband and didn’t feel very good about it. Darren, surely disappointed in the sad reality of who he married, looked me right in the eyes as I prepared for the worst.
“You know,” he said, (Oh, goodness, here it comes, I thought.) “I’m really happy with you, and sometimes I’m not happy with you, but I’m really happy.”
“Come again?” I thought. Is he being serious? How is he doing this? How is he seeing me—the imperfect, less than desirable, completely difficult parts of me—and he is still here? He has all of this proof of my flaws, and although he is [of course] not always happy with me in a moment, he is, simply put, happy to be with me.
I still don’t want to be seen in my imperfections; it’s much easier to be noticed and joined in my finer moments. What people like my husband have proven to me, however, is that I am worthy of being loved, even when I mess up, or I’m cranky, or I pick a needless fight. I don’t have to hide my flaws from my husband—he knows they’re there, and, even still, he’s happy to be with me.
One of my favorite writers and thinkers, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his book, Mere Christianity, “The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference…” It is overwhelmingly life-changing news that God sees our bad grades and character flaws—and He loves us no less.
Though Darren’s love is deep, it isn’t perfect. His love for me, however, is modeled after the One who loves us perfectly and unconditionally. I don’t need to forge a thing; love says, sometimes I’m not really happy with you but I’m really happy—and my love will not move.
I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.