When I let myself remember and feel the good, it brings up the not-so-good too. To be here, back in the suburban Philadelphia town I grew up in, from 7th grade to 12th grade, I am feeling is this sickly sense of dread, of why did I do this to myself, when I told myself I wouldn’t. (“I’ll never go to my high school reunion. I mean, never. I’ll never go back”)
I am scared to be with people I knew 30 years ago, when I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. When I held feelings down and deep inside, this gurgling-green, invisibly waged war I caused, this self-destroying, controlled battle – that is bulimia and perfectionism.
Coming home, I reluctantly greet that sad & broken girl again, and it unsettles me, but I am not that girl.
Tonight, I hold that fearful girl I once was, in loving arms. And I let myself remember her.
snow sparks the day’s brightness hair, icy wet, against cheek
we race holding children in circled arms our too-small sleds spin out toward each other
I wrote this poem in December 2013, but my heart remembered it today when walking the dogs with my husband Mike on the icy pavement, the morning after the first snow of the season. There was sun, but it wasn’t warm (and certainly not melting anything!), and the morning sky was this bright Virgin-Mary blue against the silvery white of snow on all the branches – and I could hear, but not see, the sound of children sledding in the school yard, which is near our home – their laughter and shouts like bells, heralding memory in sweet beautiful waves, of childhood and joy and hope – the sound, I have to believe, the same for all time of children at play in a first snow.
[But then, Dear Reader. if I were to be even more honest with you, which I guess I am being – the seed of this poem hearkens back a million more years to a similar day, in our first family home on Julian Street, when all the kids were small and the idea of racing outside in the snowy cold, dragging sleds and snow-suited children, was not an entrancing idea to most adults. But it was to me, this absolute need to be outside in it – to be en-wrapped in the magic and beauty of it. And he, my best friend, but a man married to another, a similarly practical, more sedentary spouse, said “yes, let’s go!” and off we went towing the kids behind us – sledding down hills ourselves, laughing for the pure joy that it brought us and our kids.
It is a memory of love that my heart forever holds – this moment of reveling in life with another, of being truly alive in the world. It was (and still is) a North Star moment for me. Its the image my heart holds, reminding what it feels like to be true to myself, what it means to love, to journey with another, and what it means to truly be alive in the world.
Sometimes in late September, when it is gray and growing colder, you feel the sun of gratitude rising in your heart, because your child is safe and home and still that goofy and charming too-tall teen he was leaving for school on Monday, or maybe it is something else for you today, dear Reader. . .
With gratitude (and a wink) to Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle for creating the picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear
In my memory, it is summer and there is still light in the sky and my child is small enough to curl into that soft safe space that is my bent arm and lap. And I am rocking in that old white-wicker chair, with the milky breath of my child warm on my skin, talking low:
Blue Horse, Blue Horse, what do you see?
I see a Purple Cat looking at me.
Purple Cat, Purple Cat, what do you see?
I see White Dog looking at me.
White Dog, White Dog, what do you see . . .
How wonderful it is that a story can exist inside us, while holding us, at the same time.