Tag Archiv: growing up
Winterfrost by Missy Friedl-Shipley
I am a blip on the screen in the only place I could ever say I came from, not a hometown girl. We lived there six years. A little space in the grand scheme of things, but the time it takes to go from age 12 to 18 is a whole lot longer than that.
At graduation, I was all about leaving. (I didn’t know how the place where you say goodbye to childhood sticks to you.) The town was an ailing general store and a post office, a railroad track down the middle, and ten or so houses, maybe fifteen. A mile up the road was a church. The school bus was an education in chewing tobacco, sibling beatings, pregnancy, and girl fights.
I don’t belong here, I used to tell myself. Yet if I wanted some place to claim me now, it’s the only place that even might.
In grade ten, we had a writing class led by an eccentric teacher in her sixties, a writer herself. Outside of music, it was the only creative water I was offered to drink during those years. The rest I had to find myself.
In the fall I reconnected with an old friend. I lived in the preacher’s house at the top of the hill twenty-five years ago. She lived closer to the general store. We rode the same bus and took some of the same classes. We sang together in choir, but otherwise, we had different circles of friends. We were friendly acquaintances with a similar appreciation for humor.
We both hurt, but we never talked about it. I cried myself to sleep at the top of the hill, too self absorbed to note the torrents and rivers of tears washing from her soul down at the bottom. We are talking now as we didn’t then. I am a writer. She is a painter, a photographer, and who knows what else. I’m not convinced she’s finished becoming all that she is.
The name of her site is a good enough introduction to her humor. If want to see art that is beautiful, thought provoking, sometimes funny, and sometimes sad, check out Wigglebutt Studios on Facebook. I recommend it whether or not you’re an art person, and especially if you are.
How we two came from the barren soil of that place, I have no idea, but we did. Maybe seeds from tiny town aren’t so unlikely. Maybe they’re lucky. I’m from the same place as Missy Friedl-Shipley, for heaven’s sake.
Girl two often wakes up before I’ve finished the last mechanics of posting in the morning. She wants to eat and she wants to snuggle.
What did you write your blog about? Girl two wanted to know as soon as we’d settled the time for breakfast.
I told people about us getting our hair cut, I said.
She smiled briefly then frowned, serious. Why didn’t you tell them we read, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle?”
She and I have been reading Beverly Cleary together. The story acts like a vacuum, sucking the other children away from what they are doing until we are many, reading about Ralph’s adventures in Mountain View Inn. “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” arrived for Christmas. We often buy used books, but this one was brand new. Ordered in the mail. A chapter book, wonderfully illustrated, and owned by Girl two.
I got a note from a friend the other day. Not just any friend. A friend I had shared with my mother. At my mother’s request, the friend agreed to be a grandmother in her place, should my mother die. We consider it a kind of arranged adoption. Over the years, she has faithfully loved my children, invited us on vacations, offered free French tutoring and bought shoes. She also got it in her head to look out for me.
Normally, I’m not a fan of cheerleaders (I think it’s the pom, poms), but this isn’t like that. It’s just her. Always there. Always believing in what I can do. Always cheering. Most of the time it goes unsaid. But every once in a while, after a hard day, or a difficult time, I get a note. Hang in there. She knows I’ve got it in me to come out on the other side ok. She’s proud of me.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle reminds me of this. I don’t think Girl Two cares what I write about as much as she wants to know that I’m cheering.
Girl Two isn’t a baby anymore. She is a girl who likes chapter books and reads words to find where we are. She likes, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and she has a lot of opinions about Ralph. “No, don’t do that, Ralph! . . . Good, Ralph . . . ” she cries out as I read. We are engaged readers, if nothing else.
Just like Ralph, Girl two cannot wait to grow up. And just like Ralph, she is doing it even when she can’t see it. A tip of the hat to Beverly Cleary. A hundred cheers for Ralph and Girl two.
I may or may not have to go with a cheering theme for a day or two now. But on my word, though the fig tree blossom not, and the yield of the olive fail, there will be no pom, poms.
The leaves are almost gone. Some trees stand naked. Others dressed in fading clothes that wrinkle and crackle. Girl two and I took a walk hand in hand through the magic forest the other day. We found frost still on the ground in the shady patches and to her delight, ice in tiny little grooves in the mud like mouse prints. She scraped and held tight until her hands turned red trying to bring it home to show the others.
Mornings start now with getting the wood stove going. The chickens are laying fewer eggs and the dog can’t decide whether to grow her winter coat or shed it. Mornings are cool but not cold enough to silence the arguments about wearing jackets or splash pants.
Hopefully the wind will calm down enough for boy one and I to get in one more game of tennis. The others are starting to learn with varying degrees of interest, but it is he and I that crave it. I miss this thing we love doing together, once winter comes.
Last year, I almost always won. This year we split, except when I was still so sick from the spring – then it wasn’t worth it to go after anything more than two steps away and he beat me easily. But as long as I was healthy, and the wind blew the right way, we split this year.
What next year will hold seems inevitable. . . so here’s to hoping for one more game this year.
These days my son is almost this and not quite that. His skin doesn’t seem to fit right. Certainly he has no idea what to do with his hands, his mouth, or the repetitive strumming of what we hope are brain waves. For the first few weeks of school this year, we wondered if he would ever be quiet again. Please, I would say through clenched teeth. For just three minutes. Don’t talk.
It is exhausting, that constant chatter of nothing. The kitchen is filled with information bullets undaunted by my pleas for a ceasefire.
I’m joining two bands. I’m thinking about choir. I can’t decide which sports. Maybe volleyball and soccer. Maybe basketball. Definitely not cross country. I like it, I mean, you know, it was fun, but if I can only do two sports – two sports – then cross country’s like not even on the list. And did I tell you that I saw . . . By the way, I’m only packing things for my lunch that you can eat standing up now because we don’t sit down anymore. We go out.
And so it goes. A boy on fire with possibility. Neither fish nor fowl but in clear sight of both. As summer slipped away, so did his inclusion in the many imaginings and games of his siblings. I watched him watching them. Unsure of whether to mad or sad to be leaving the group.
It is much too soon to invite him to be one of us in those precious pieces of adult time devoid of short people. He’s tall enough. I see him watching us too. But he isn’t ready for grown up land and we two who run the place need those minutes. Besides, he talks too much.
Almost two months into school, the chatter has slowed enough to save us the constant nagging concern about muscle strain in his jaws. Yet appropriate levels of noise and motion are demands he finds so unreasonable as to be almost incomprehensible. He complies with a mixture of curiosity, dogged attempts, and then resigns himself to non-compliance in a leap or bang or whoop of energy.
Everyone is in bed now and in the quiet I can hear him and see him for what he is. An off the charts excited boy, scared boy, not sure boy, trying to figure it all out boy, want to do the right thing boy, hoping to fit in boy, wanting to be liked boy, not sure if he is good enough boy, distracted boy, changing boy. Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom. Yes son? Mom, look at me mom. Ok, son, I’m looking. Sigh. Awkward turning. Mom? Yes, son. Could you stop looking at me now?
Oh my beautiful wingless fish and sputtering bird. Soon my boy, you’ll be flying just fine. In the meantime, I guess you’ll just keep splashing in circles cawing madly, tossing rocks at the crows with your shrivelling fins.
I will listen in the silence tonight better than I did during the day and await with joy your waking, where we may once more begin again.