By Laura Camby McCaskill
CHAPIN— God is always there.
That’s the highest message of God’s Child, an autobiography by a woman whose childhood was so difficult one might be surprised that’s the takeaway.
Margaret Shallow, 75, published “God’s Child” in November, depicting her unloved and un-nurtured surroundings from birth until late adulthood.
“The story is not about me per se; it’s about how God took somebody who had nobody and made me a person,” Shallow said. “If He can do that for a tiny baby with nobody talking to them or touching them—basically I was invisible—and turned me into a real person, how much more can God do? He’s there.”
The book begins with Shallow’s first memories from the crib bars and ends when she first meets her husband. But many who know Shallow have been shocked by the story, which she largely kept to herself most of her life.
“Nobody knew the whole thing except me. I didn’t want my children to know. They never knew how afraid I was. I was afraid of people, (I was) agoraphobic. I was afraid to make eye contact.”
The decision to write her story didn’t come easy, but when her daughter encouraged her to do so, Shallow began writing.
“I didn’t know anything about my parents or grandparents, and I didn’t want my children to say, ‘I didn’t know my mother.’ So I told my story so they’d know,” Shallow said.
In March 2017 Shallow began hand-printing what was soon to become a 400-page autobiography. It took 14 months to write and has prompted a mix of tears, gratitude and approval..
“There are times I couldn’t stop writing. I never took a writing class, but God would wake me up in the middle of the night,” Shallow said. “I’d write in the car and other places. It took me three days to write the part about my father in the hospital. I could only spend an hour writing before my whole insides were shaking. I was really upset, and my blood pressure was going up.”
Born in Brooklyn in 1944, Shallow lived with her mother, father and brother. She experienced physical and emotional abuse throughout her life.
She was a band director in New York until 1970 when she moved to Illinois, where she continued to teach music to children until 2003. But make no mistake, Shallow said. It’s a positive book, all pointing to the power of God at work in her life throughout great struggle and adversity.
“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me at all,” Shallow said. “Everything in that book—I went from a baby who was totally ignored to who I am today—was because God was in my life. I had no one else. I raised three children, went through two divorces, one where I had to leave the house and escape.
“I feel really strong that people should realized how powerful God is.”
Shallow has shared her autobiography with one of the orchestras in which she plays, as well as her church family.
“I gave (the book) to them on Sunday. The next Sunday they came over to me with tears in their eyes and said, ‘How did you do this? I just want to give you a hug,’” said Shallow.
But it’s all OK, because she’s made it through.
“I’m here because God wanted me to be. He wants me to show people how powerful He really is.”
Now a member of Chapin United Methodist Church, Shallow spends her time playing instruments five nights a week in different orchestras. She plays the bassoon, the clarinet and the drums.
“I think He wants me to be the messenger. It’s not about me; it can’t be about me because I couldn’t do any of that stuff on my own,” Shallow said. “I can play all these instruments and I’ve never had one music lesson because He wants me to play! I have asthma. I’m blowing into an instrument 80 hours a week—my pulmonologist is thrilled with that. I have it so good. Can you imagine what’s it’s like sitting there with 70-85 professional musicians playing this music and you’re in the middle of it?”
Shallow loves to crochet, shoot pool and work on jigsaw puzzles. Shallow also books speaking engagements about “God’s Child” and is currently working on her next book, which covers moments in the classroom with her students.
“I had 10 years of intense therapy to get me to function. My therapist told me when you feel safe, you’ll come out and play,” Shallow said. “I play all day every day with people now. I spread the joy and the love of God every day.”
“God’s Child” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
By Laura Camby McCaskill