Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Way I See Things : My Early Life

My mom tells me, laughingly that I was the stubborn one of all of us kids--in delivery and rearing. The proud markings could be traced along my impish chin and defiant lips that stuck out when thinking deeply or angered. She also says I was born old. Not with wrinkles or white hair of course (I'm no Benjamin Button) but rather, possessing a maturity and communication style beyond the average child of three. Adults were impressed. And I like impressing them with my vocabulary. 
Then, I was strong willed, a little bossy and particular about hand washing. Today, I am strong willed, a little bossy and particular about hand washing. Not much changes. 
Amid all this, a nickname was coined. I was crowned and dubbed “Boo Boo”, because my lower lip always stuck out. Boo boo lips they called them.
Remembering back comes in snippets, somewhat golden and hazy memory clips of summer scenes. Climbing the boxelder that grew in the low areas on the “other five”; thrilling games of tag over round bails in the hay barn with the neighborhood kids; playing hide-and-go-seek with the shaggy collie we loved like a sister.
It’s interesting how so many things about a person changes with age and then in another way they don’t at all. I’ve matured of course, but I’m still that stubborn, naughty girl of six. I’m still me.   
Born not far from the capital city my family moved three times before my third birthday. First, my aunt and uncle’s basement. I was a year old and I still remember two or three flashbacks from our time there. Then the apartment…oh the apartment! That was during my terrible twos and I was spanked every day in that place. Flashbacks: standing at the window waiting for my dad to come home from work and throwing a record-breaking temper tantrum (over Lord only knows what) using stuffed animals as missiles (these where quickly confiscated).
Then we moved into the schoolhouse with grandma and grandpa. It was a square, three story white house which they had renovated from a turn of the 19th Century school house into a home for their rapidly growing family back in the nineteen-fifties. I hated it there. Mom and Dad had bought Bettenger’s corn field and where building a Cape Cod house on the hill. This kept them extremely busy and I spent my days with grandma.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandparents, they were kind, feeble and always had Schwans ice cream stocked in the extra freezer it was like an icecream wonderland in that freezer. I just liked to open it up sometimes to look at it. But at the same time, I remember being paralyzed by the fear that one day my mom would walk out that door and never come back.
I may have told her as much between sniffles, because one day she hugged me, rocking me as I cried and said, “Don’t worry Bethany, Mommy will always come back.”
And I believed her.
On a day shortly after this, as my twenty month old sister Kate wailed after Mom had left grandma’s house, I put my arm around her and said oh-so-wisely, “Don’t worry, Kate, Mommy will always come back.”
            Needless to say, we were happy to move into our first real house after eight months at our grandparents. It took me a while to adjust to system of normalcy then.
 I asked Mom if we were going to stay in that house.
She said we were.
I looked at her very seriously, “Are we going to stay here forever?” I insisted. Feeling safe has always been a deep need of mine—still is in many ways.

More to come...


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kissed by a Stranger

 Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed and wondered. I plotted three dozen stories in swirl binder notebooks, all of them starting with the simple phrase: “What if…”
What if…What if a girl named Stevey grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and she—she lived during the Great Depression in one of those poor shanty communities. Secretly, she dreams of becoming an plane pilot…
I’ve asked question of so many of my fictional characters that it seems perfectly appropriate to ask it of myself.
What if I became an author…?
A real, honest-to-goodness published author!
“Beauty. Truth. And goodness,” my high school lit. teacher’s voice rings back to me.  
Yes, Mrs. L. those are the things I will write about.
Experiences—the ones that matter, the ones that change us need to be given voice, to be shaped by those choice golden words.
As long as I write with truth people will listen. As long as I write about beauty they will identify. As long as I write about goodness people will care. I will write things that should matter to everyone but rarely do because no one has learned to say them. I am learning to say them. 
Stories matter. They are a fragment of human history, a piece of an experience which changes a life forever…
As I was writing the above a woman walked into the coffee shop and struck up a conversation with me.
“I could never sit like that!” she said indicating to my cross-legged-atop a high stool posture.
I laughed, “It’s the only way I’m comfortable sitting. I work in an office and my boss makes fun of me, but doesn’t object!” I tossed back good-naturedly. (Do people even say “good-naturedly” anymore? Well, either way that’s the adverb I’m using.)
We started talking and I asked her where she lived and where she was from originally. She mentioned she was moving because her husband passed away 6 months ago. I expressed my sincere sympathy and asked how she was doing. Not the usual, polite, ‘how are you doing?’ But the seriously-I-care-about-you-as-a person-and-recognize-this-is-an-inexpressible-life-altering-loss, “HOW are you doing?”
She drew a deep sigh. “We were together for 47 years. I miss him. Especially on weekends…” she said. And that was all she needed to say. Her round, wrinkled face wore a mask of strength over deep sadness. In those words, I saw much. Much more than what was said. A life of love, companionship, togetherness…where death didn’t belong. Death is one of those things we humans will never get used to. It shocks us every time in a new, different way.
“Theresa, can I pray for you?” I asked, rather a natural question over one I had to think about.
She nodded. “Sure,” her voice trembled she stepped forward and hugged me, kissing my cheek.
I prayed for her; just a short, gentle prayer of comfort and to sense God’s love for her. Every time I quoted scripture she squeezed my hand tighter. I offered to come and visit, we exchanged numbers and she left. That was all. But it meant so much to me to meet her. I’ve never been kissed by a stranger before!
Funny how a glimpse into the life of a sudden acquaintance can change you. You have this sudden amazing revelation hit you when you realize that you are not the only person on the planet who is a real person! You smack your forehead and go, “Wow!” And you see the people all around you in traffic jams and the unsmiling, teenager ringing out up at a gas station and you’re going, “Wow that’s a real person with his own issues and story.”  
That’s what meeting Theresa reminded me of. Maybe because I had recently lost someone I loved and I was able to connect to her humanness. That humanness piece causes one understood and felt and no matter if you are worlds apart in everything else, you can identify at least on one thing. The element that lies at the back of everything it wears the faces of truth, beauty and goodness.
But I know it as...

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Word

There was a word. A hushed word. It fell.
Fell from the sky like a drop of perspiration from a bowl of blue JellO.
It hit the earth, splashed, scattering fragmented syllables
The syllables ricochet finally falling like pearls on marble tables
They rolled and bounced in search of the breath of rewarding destiny
 Discovered by child’s hand—though clumsy—
They were hands that believed in the word and refused to squander
Hands soft, unfettered by entitled thinking or the sourness of a disillusioned wanderer
Fingers polished the word until it was given voice
Something that hadn’t been said for ages thrice
The word cried out in the night
Trees raised their sleeping heads and walked forward like fearless giants
Mountains as tall as clouds reared their heads and stomped as horses
Stars pulled back their glittering bows and stood readily
 The child looked at them, his heart burning fervently, heatedly
Too long had the word gone unspoken, too long was it ignored
There would be no rest until the message of the word went forth
No sleep, nor stop, no more standing in a crowd of idlers…
While little girls are raped by their fathers
As orphans slump in alleyways nothing but worms in their bellies
As long as fifteen minutes of human flesh and a bed is sold for a few dollars
So long as unborn babies are killed by their mothers
If man lets these things persist…
The rocks we stand on will cry: “Justice!”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Ode to the Dorm Room

I'm done with school! I got a job in mobilization and am renting not far from my place of work. I can't get over how quiet silence actually is. Seriously. What a precious, coveted thing!

Oh! Dorm room! Dorm room!
Thou hast served us well!
Despite the wax spills, makeup stains and clothes strewn pell-mell
You loved us in the stressful times
You sheltered us from prying eyes
Your paper thin walls allowed us to hear
Every irritating sound that might reach our ears
You gave of yourself
Offering all your meager wealth
You are our friend of unusual form
Room 301 in the girl's dorm!