Tag Archiv: childhood
compliments of Kenia from morguefile.com
We are not alone. None of us are. We’re stumbling in the dark trying to figure out how to be it or do it. Hold on to it or let go of it. Sometimes we don’t even know what it is – except we’re sure that everyone else does.
Voices whisper that there is no one like us. No one would understand. We are lonely and afraid to be ourselves. We live expecting someone to come through the door and tell us we’re not doing it right.
If it’s not we, at least it’s me. My childhood was soaked through with confusion. Life was a puzzle with the box missing and it was never clear which picture we were trying to assemble. I prayed, went to the library often, and wished I knew who to talk to.
As far as I could tell, talking wasn’t what people did. It took years for me to understand that this was because most people assume that they are alone. That they believe their feelings of inadequacy (and all the proofs thereof) are unique to them alone. Life was, I discovered, a great deal of pretending. Performance and appearance are some of our world’s most sacred values.
I’ve made some new friends who don’t have it all together. They don’t try to hide their struggles. No one has any energy or interest in pretense. My friends are giving me something that I want and without meaning to, I find myself studying them, trying to understand it.
This caught my eye in a paragraph from writer, Heather King talking about what we have to give each other. We have, she says, “our wounds, our holy longing, our groping in the dark.”
What we have to give each other is the truth that we are not alone. Despair and shame assail, but against the sharing of “our wounds and holy longing,” they are rendered mute by the voice of love.
It’s like we live in ditches, sitting up to our armpits in mud with the garbage of every car that’s gone by squishing up against us. We can see neck and shoulders of the person across the road. We’re equipped with a washcloth, a voice, and a curling iron. Standard etiquette is to keep your face clean, your hair curled, and make frequent reference to the sunshine or the birds.
One day the unthinkable happens. The woman across the way stands up from her stretch of supposedly manicured lawn. The ear rings you’ve admired from afar are the last nice thing about her. Not only is she muddy, she only has one leg. A diaper and a squashed coke can are stuck in the mud on her.
Relief floods you. Tears wash down your face. You are not alone.
In your ditch, there might be diapers and coke cans. In mine, there is a winter’s worth of dog poop, some very frustrated dreams, uninvited levels of emotion over little things, a lot of uncertainty, some recurring unhealed mess that is completely fine until the days it isn’t (which really ticks me off unless it makes me cry), shame, self doubt, and an abiding loneliness. My bounce backer function is also behaving rather erratically these days.
We are not alone. This is the truth that we have to offer each other. These are the words of our gift until the final word which is love.
At an anonymous and unclarified point in time (assume ancient history out of generosity) I was combing Girl two’s hair. It was the morning of a busy day. The kind of day with thirty things clambering for completion on the list and only room for twenty if absolutely nothing went wrong. Girl one was already waiting in the car – after a none too gentle chiding for the explosions of contraband I emptied from her backpack.
Girl two’s skin is fair. Her hair is fair. Even in the morning shadows I saw the black speck dart through her hair. My fingers moved with purpose while my brain began a calming meditation about the silly ways that dirt can seem alive sometimes.
Don’t move, I commanded.
Ow, yelped Girl two in surprise as I tore at some strands of hair in hot pursuit.
It can’t be helped. Don’t move, I said again.
Overnight guests were arriving in less than ten hours.
It was not a piece of dirt. It was not lice.
It was a flea. I think.
I think this because our house growing up had more than one flea invasion. I remember the worst time sitting and watching the carpet hop like popcorn. Our only carpet here is on the stairs. I inspected. No popcorn. Ditto for furniture.
What do fleas do? asked Girl two.
They make you itchy, I said.
I was itchy as soon as I got in bed last night, said Girl two.
It’s true, I realized. She’s been complaining of itches every night lately. How could this be happening today?
I grabbed a comb and a cat and inspected. No fleas. I took the kids to school.
Boy two looked at girl two, somber. “I promise I won’t tell anyone at school that you have fleas,’ he said.
“She does not have fleas! There was one flea. And it’s dead so she doesn’t have it anymore.”
I’m not sure that he believed me.
I got home and left a message for my husband to buy updated animal flea protection just in case. I checked the internet for signs and symptoms then resumed my search. Bedding clear. Mattresses clear. I found the wool blanket I added to Girl two’s bed last week with a small measure of relief. It would be a better reason to be itching than the unspeakable.
Meanwhile I’m itching. My head. My back. Even my fingers are itching. Wool blankets, winter dryness, these things we can manage. A flea invasion shortly before the guest arrival on the other hand . . .
I calm myself between mantras that it wasn’t actually a flea or that the flea market was a one man show.
My childhood was the age of records and tape cassettes. We didn’t listen to the radio, so popular music was only vaguely known to me. I loved whatever we had, the Carpenters, Roger Miller, and the Gaither trio. I almost wore out our Keith Green cassette. Green was killed in a plane crash at age 28. This gave his music an added mysticism to my young mind. The tragedy fascinated me and tugged at my own sorrows both. There was something untamed in his gravelly voice that I loved. I sang all the songs on the tape, but my favorite was Rushing Wind.
Rushing wind, blow through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
I must never have actually read the words. For the last 30 years, I’ve been singing, “Rushing wind, Lord,” (instead of “Rushing wind, blow . . . “) Close enough. Rushing Wind sang in me when I was happy, depressed, angry, hopeless, excited, worried, wondering, sad, and inconsolable. It was the kind of thing to sing when the tears were all spent or worse when I couldn’t find them. I fumbled for something in the heavy dark of empty. I mouthed the words, my voice would crack, and I would sing until I found my voice again. It was a prayer and an anthem both.
A plea for help.
Please, I’m not ok. Let me feel something. Anything. Tell me it won’t always be like this. Don’t leave me here alone.
And a declaration.
I accept. By circumstances I would not choose, I will allow myself to be altered, the dust of me blown out, and another breath breathing into my own.
I have a picture of an afternoon, my teenage body leaning against a tree, knees tucked up against my chest, the wind tearing madly around me. I had gone to the woods hoping that I would be able to cry, or to feel ok again. My sad was accustomed to strict exterior management. When I wanted to give it voice, it often remained silent, and I was left with numb. Then and now, I would take tears to the vastness of nothing any day. But tears were not to be. Neither did joy find me. In the bombastic wind my song came and so I sang. Rushing wind, Lord through this temple . . .
Hope found me in the wind, that day and on countless others. I still ache for wind when I don’t know which way to turn. I picture myself on a hill, the barren trees wild with wind. And the wind still calls forth my song. Spring agrees. The cry for new life never does grow old.
Rushing wind, Lord through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
Florence Nightingale, mother of modern nursing
My mother was a nurse. My husband is a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, a teacher, a missionary, a social worker, and run an orphanage. I never wanted to be a nurse, but have come to believe it to be part of who I am. My first nursing role was taking care of my mother when she was sick. She wasn’t a terribly good patient, but I liked doing it. It was a good way to say, I love you. Something that helped me with goodbye.
My mother’s lifelong love of nursing didn’t translate into a degree until I was in my twenties, but to me she was always a nurse. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of her nursing me when I was sick. I often had terrible sore throats. During one particular illness, where I was dizzy with an especially painful throat, a bell was found so I could ring for help. That silver bell became my special privilege for every sickness thereafter.
We weren’t an overly physical or affectionate family. We practiced humor more than touch, but sick meant my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, running her fingers through my hair. She would wipe my head with a cool cloth, feel my neck to see if my glands were swollen, listen to my endless thoughts and questions. When I was sick, my mother belonged only to me. Our family troubles were a fuzzy dream. My mother was present then in a way that allowed me to let go of all that. Her fretting about me set everything right. If we went to the doctor, I believed it was to get what my mother had already figured out that I needed.
It has been difficult this fall to get the kids healthy and keep them there. This weekend we cancelled everything, but at the end, everyone was closer to beating the extremely tenacious hacking cough that has plagued us.
Monday morning, girl two arrived downstairs with cheeks blazing and a sore stomach. Boy two was looking cadaver like, still not hungry, and exhausted after 12 hours of sleep. My partner in crime felt lousy as well.
Boy two is better now. Girl two spent most of Monday night throwing up so was fit to go nowhere Tuesday. It was slow going but at least her stomach had settled. The waiting game of, “who is next or is it done?” has begun.
I wish I could tell my mom that I take kids heads off over stupid things (wet boots kicked off in the wrong place, toothpaste spit dried on the sink, doors shut loudly), but I get up fifteen times in the night to clean up puke, rub backs, and wipe heads gently without any effort at all. That I always want them well, but I cherish the exhausted moments spent beside a fevered head, whispering soft words, and running my fingers through their hair.
Me looking at me shaking my head
The child of today’s inspiration shall remain nameless, number and genderless. I have been in a tizzy these past few days trying to figure out how exactly to get through to said child. Rather dramatic have been the horrified wringings of my heart and hands. My child has been mean and spiteful to another child on a number of different occasions. I have accepted that my children are not angelic enough at school to warrant the unceasing praise of their teachers. We deal with creative crimes as they are discovered. What I can’t and won’t tolerate is being cruel to others. Such have been the agonies of my, “how do I parent this child,” mentality.
One of the things I hold on to is the belief that when you look for answers, you find them. It’s not an original idea. It feels personal because the truth of it has been so dependable for me.
I was guessing the answer fell somewhere in the way of the right firm consequence, words tender and wise enough to stir remorse, or an idea for restitution. I did my best at all of these. My troubled heart remained. Surely there was something more to do… The fever pitch of my worries gnawed at me.
I remembered my sadness when a girl in my grade three class was teased for her clothes. Now my own child was hurting other. While I waited for the answer, the following memories came to say hello.
Age 8: I tell my brother I have a surprise for him. I refuse to give it to him unless he closes his eyes and opens his mouth. He questions me. I am offended that he doesn’t want my gift. He closes his eyes and opens his mouth. I put a worm in his mouth.
Age 11: We watch a movie at church called, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It’s about a man who goes to NYC to help kids caught up in drugs and gangs. At the end, the kids find Jesus. My friends and I love the movie so much that we decide to start a gang.
Gang activity one: Chase children visiting in the neighborhood out of the field we don’t own. Throw rocks and them and tell them not to come back.
Gang activity two: Capture young neighbour boy named Toby. Tie him to a tree and dance around him informing him of the power of our gang.
More memories did not seem needed. In the ensuing silence in my head, it was hard to avoid the following realizations: My child was not a write off in the compassion department. I was hardly a paragon of sweetness and light as a child. My offspring had been unpleasantly human not irreparably demonic.
Is it disturbing to know that remembering my life as a gang member left me ultimately hopeful and happy?
Long narrow face with long hair
The kids haven’t had a haircut since before school started. It’s been two months since my last hair cut. It’s not a movement. I’ve been feeling cheap, and they’ve been wanting shaggy. Hair is not something I have a lot of opinions about. In fact, very few of my hopes and dreams have involved hair. Only one really. I wanted to grow my hair quite badly once in order to be a real Indian brave. My mother pointed out that I was only qualified to be a squaw. The fact that I am a girl has at times proved troublesome to me, but I ignored her narrow vision of my possibilities. In my dreams, I was already running barefoot in my long hair and loin cloth, bow and arrows in hand.
I have a grade four picture to prove that by the times I was nine, my hair had grown at least a little bit below my shoulders. When I was ten, my mother met a woman who had once been a model. I have since realized that this kind of person can be dangerous. My mother saw stars and a woman with qualifications.
Fifty-Something former model declared that my hair was all wrong for my face. There was a formula. My face was long and narrow. I needed short hair. My grade five school picture notes the change. Sometimes I would look and the mirror and try to see my face the way she saw it. This thing now bearing a description seemed deserving of inspection.
The next summer my face spoke to Fifty Something again. Straight hair did not suit. She could hear my long and narrow face saying, “permanent.” All school pictures from there on are identical give or take an inch. I did not change my hair again until I was in my thirties, at which point I finally stopped getting permanents.
My girls admire extremely long hair. The only strong opinion I have about hair is that it shouldn’t be in your food when you are eating. I have therefore kept them in bangs against their wishes, until now. My boys have grown tired of the tidy cuts I like. So yes, my children’s hair desires landed in lock step with my budget cut backs this fall. We are all looking a little shaggy.
“I’m taking everybody in this week for a cut,” I finally say.
“Mom, please, no . . .please, please, please . . .”
“It’s cheaper this way,” whispers my wallet.
Their hair has been bugging me for weeks now. Friday, I finally snapped, but not the snapped where we finally get our hair cut.
We’re not going to the hair dresser. Any of us. The guy with a job can see his barber. The rest of us are growing our hair.
I expect mine in particular will look fairly awful, but I would rather have tried it than not. Before I cut it short again, maybe I’ll stuff a few marshmellows in my cheeks and see if it makes any difference.