“I have a birthday, same as you,” I wanted to tell the voices. “It just changes. Don’t you wish you could change your birthday?”
This is one of the earliest instances in which Tara realizes her lived experience differs from that of the general population. Here, she is confused as to why having a fixed birthday matters. Tara finds joy in choosing what day in September her own birthday falls upon each year—she never chooses Sunday, as having her birthday on a church does is no fun. The reader sees that Tara is steeped in her family’s world and has managed to find coping mechanisms.
“I thought we were just supposed to look at the pictures.” This sounded stupid when said aloud.
While at college, Tara continues to discover just how far out to sea she is. This quote reflects the confusion she feels when she realizes the students are meant to read the accompanying text in her Western Civilization book, rather than just look at the pictures, and the feeling of shame that follows.
“This is a magical place,” I said. “Everything shines here.”
“You must stop yourself from thinking like that,” Dr. Kerry said, his voice raised. “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself—even gold appears dull in some lighting—but that is the illusion. And it always was.”
When Dr. Kerry tells Tara that she has a right to be at school, and has a right to pursue her education, she finds it difficult to understand the scale of her own self-worth. Her comment about the school being “magical” speaks to her wonder, but also her shame and feelings of inadequacy. Dr. Kerry reiterates that she has worth, which is crucial; she needs to realize her placement here is not an accident.
“If you act like a child,” I said, “I’ll treat you like one.”
Tara says this line to Audrey’s children after they begin fighting over the tea set that Tara bought them. Upon saying it, Tara immediately regrets it, realizing that Shawn had been on her mind and that she was parroting a phase he often said to her as a way of rationalizing his abuse. Audrey recognizes the sentiment, confirming to Tara that Shawn used to say it to her. Tara is even more horrified to have found such a clear echo of her family’s influence, and begins to contemplate that Audrey may have already experienced everything that Tara has dealt with, continuing the cyclical nature of the family trauma.