Sometimes I write because my heart is too full and the desire to set beauty on the page feels like a song rising up, unrehearsed.
Last night, I stood among faces I knew from long ago, the ones that filled my high school classrooms, sifted through halls, this colorful blur of velour and Jordache jeans, standing tall, yet awkward, spinning combination locks right-left-right, hip-checking grey/green lockers closed, arms laden with textbooks, covered in brown paper, scribbled with hearts.
I remember you. You touched my life, whether or not you knew you did.
We were tumbled together like this haphazard mix of pretty aquarium stones – not because we chose one other, but because we lived in the same small town, for the same 4 years – the town with the pretty white church on the long triangle of lawn, where each June, all would gather to eat strawberries, this annual Festival marking the close of one school year and the beginning of summer – something delicious to mark time passing – so sweetly, juicily, stickily.
Yet, our town seemed split across by railway tracks, this jagged old scar, littered and gravelly, overgrown. On one side, there were these white Quaker stones sitting low, almost invisible in the block-wide field where the town clock once stood and the giant Sycamore, shedding its papery brown/white bark.
These remembered lives. This litter of Life passing.
It is gratitude I feel for having grown beside you – during years I was not yet the woman I am now (and still becoming), but the seed of her, I’m guessing.
Thank you for nurturing me while also toughening and strengthening me, through times marked by struggle, mostly the hidden kind. I didn’t know then, what I know now. That none of us felt like we fit in. Even the cheerleaders, even those who lived in wedding-cake mansions on Chester Avenue, even football players who scared us with big bellowing voices, even the field hockey beauties, in their black and gold skirts, and pony tails swinging – no one felt at ease, as though she belonged.
How I wish I knew that back then. How I wish I did.
Yet, perhaps that is the way it must be. Perhaps we aren’t to know those things, when we are young and not yet fully-grown. Perhaps the discomfort is necessary and crucial for our lives’ unfolding.
Honestly, I don’t know.
Yet tonight, having returned safely to my home, here in Chicago, my heart full – to have been welcomed back, embraced again, by those I knew growing up – to have danced and laughed and eaten cake with them – all that remains is gratitude – this overwhelming gratitude that unlocks my voice.