August 28, 2009

-image-dad on my mind

This is a re-post of something I wrote in 2005. I’ve reworked it slightly because it was originally part of a meme someone tagged me with containing a series of questions about my life. I think this was in response to the question: What was your life like 5 years ago?

I post it again now. My dad is on my mind.

*******************

Five years ago …..

Oh, no. Must I remember?

Having undergone some past fertility treatments, we began a brand new series, certain that these, finally, would work. They did not. Each month felt like a death that kept on dying. Hope and crushing, hope and crushing. I don’t even know the person I was then. I felt utterly lost to myself. My family never spoke of it to me; to them, it was too shameful to mention, so they simply didn’t. And the heavy, lingering sorrow that had stolen my hopes seemed to have taken my voice with it. I could not bring it up. I could not give voice to the shame, breathe out what was being carefully ignored. It’s inexplicable and probably unhealthy, this dynamic, but it’s there. MB and I were bereft and crazy and hopeless.

In the midst of these failed treatments, my sister got pregnant. She had two boys and had always longed for a girl. So had I, secretly.

And … a girl it was.

I remember the day my sister called to tell me she was having a girl. I heard her voice on the answering machine and somehow knew exactly why she was calling, exactly what she was going to say, and I could not bring myself to pick up the phone. I stood inches from it, my hand dutifully out, but paused in midair. From where I was, far from her, I could see her joy; I could see it. The very air swirled pink and perfect with the news of a girl. And I, with my selfish sorrow and small heart, sunk to the floor and cried and cried, the ugly cry that no one but God ever sees you cry.

Around this time, my longtime bachelor brother finally got engaged. There were echoing choruses of “Hallelujah!” all around at this news. Even I could manage that one. My family fairly exploded with the sheer elation of it all. A new baby girl, a wedding in the works. It was like a year of Christmas where every gift is perfect; a year of parties with everyone you like and no one you don’t.

But MB and I still went, quietly, to our treatments. And still, quietly, they failed. I was breaking in two from the overwhelming weight of joy and sorrow.

One day that year, my dad called to invite me to lunch. We met at Marie Callendar’s because he likes Marie Callendar’s and when he’s at Marie Callendar’s, he likes to order soup, which he did.

As we chitchatted about this and that, I was growing more and more nervous. He was working up to say something, I could tell, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what it would be. He’s not the demonstrative type. Emotions are private, you see.

He cleared his throat several times, in that compulsive way he has. I knew then he was nervous, too. Finally, he looked at me with those dark blue-grey eyes and said:

“I know your brother’s and sister’s happiness must be breaking your heart.”

I couldn’t breathe. I had ordered soup, too, in silent solidarity, and I saw my tears dropping onto its surface. Then with a choked voice I’d never quite heard before, he whispered:

“I’m so sorry, honey.”

And I was gone. Tears streamed onto the table; heads around us turned. I was quiet, but I was just gone. My father, who had never, ever spoken to me about it, understood.

He understood.

And he had said all he could. He mentioned it once and then never again. Still, in that singular moment, I felt no longer invisible; I was seen. I felt warm and alive and understood by someone I was sure did not, could not, understand.

I know they were just two sentences spoken softly over bowls of steaming soup, but they were among the best things my dad has ever said to me.

I was less broken for hearing them.

August 27, 2009

-image-the origins of “tee tee”

As most of you know, all my nieces call me “Tee Tee.” But it wasn’t always this way. Before the nieces came along, before Tee Tee was ever a name on anyone’s lips, I was called other things by my two nephews who struggled to say my real name. One of these, in particular, I might like to forget, but no one in the family seems to want to let me. Those wieners.

Still, I share these names with you now.

(Uhm, for informational purposes only. Not for personal use, ahem. At least not to my face. Or, well, my screen. You must resist the temptation. Resist, I say!)

When Elder Nephew was very little and the first one to struggle with “Aunt Tracey,” one day he quite simply gave up and started calling me …. Trashy. Yep. Trashy. He become totally obsessed with Trashy. How on earth this was somehow easier to say than Tracey is beyond me. I mean, you’ve got the “t-r” and the “s-h” consonant combos crashing together in one ego-squashing nickname. Despite my vigorous attempts at eradication, Trashy stuck around long enough to really mess with my psyche. Sometimes, I’d catch him muttering it repetitively under his breath, Trashy … Trashy … Trashy, as if his wee toddler brain simply could not contain the magnitude of my trashiness and needed to sit and offload it all from time to time. I became paranoid that this little ball of chub actually knew what “trashy” meant. Not that I was trashy. Oh, no. I am and always have been Snow White. Amish. A nun, even now. But hearing that all the time, I started to think this child, the apple of my eye, was some freaky soothsayer who sensed in me a hidden inner trashiness just waiting to bubble forth. Trashy … Trashy … Trashy. Of course, this name did not go unnoticed by the rest of the family, those piranhas, and so I was besieged on all sides by a firestorm of Trashy-ness that still flares up even today. Little pisher. I’d make him pay for it, but the lad is now a fearsome giant.

Younger Nephew struggled with “Aunt Tracey” too. When he finally threw up his chubby little hands in defeat, he started calling me Tayhee. Now Tayhee was certainly preferable to Trashy, especially since Younger Nephew would squeak it out in the little crinkly-crackly voice he had at that age. I’m telling you, that kid was smushable to a dangerous degree. Everything about him was basically crack to me and I was jonesing for him BAD. He could not pronounce the hard “g” sound to save his life and instead pronounced it as “d.” If I was leaving, he’d ask, Where are you doh-ing, Tayhee? If he wanted more of his favorite fruit, he’d ask, May I have some more drapes, Tayhee? And sometimes, he’d snuggle up to me, stroke my face, and say, I tink you’re a pretty dirl, Tayhee, and my heart would burst in a sudden coronary of love.

Then there was Piper. That girl struggled with pronouncing “Aunt Tracey” even longer and harder than her two brothers did. She couldn’t do it. Just could not get it. She would weep because she couldn’t do it. At that age, she just had major speech issues. I mean, the poor kid called her older brother Jawa and although I know I’ve never used their real names here, TRUST ME, it’s not even close. He was just Jawa. It would be like calling someone named — oh, let’s say Donald — Jawa instead. Yeah. Like that.

One night, I was up at my sister’s, babysitting overnight. The boys were 12 and 9; Piper was three. At one point, she was showing me how she could pronounce all the names of things in a certain picture book. She was so proud, proclaiming these words to the whole house, basically.

“Look! A didge!”

“Oh, yes, honey. A bridge,” I’d say.

“Look! A boon!”

“Yeah. A spoon,” I’d say.

“Look! A fag!”

“Oh, sweetie, yes, that’s a flag,” I’d say, choking back laughter. She was so intent, so SURE, you see, in what she was declaring.

Bless her, she did not get a single one of those words right — I mean, her speech issues had basically reached critical mass at this point — but it was all so endearing, so precious, that if I thought of the day she would learn to speak correctly, I could actually feel the cold stones of dread sinking in my gut. I was head over heels for her little impediments.

Her brothers, who had heard her loud pronouncements, suddenly plunked on the couch, surrounding her, and Elder Nephew said, “Piper ….. can you say Aunt Tracey?”

She shook her head, oh, so sadly.

“Nooo.”

“Come on. Try it,” said Younger Nephew.

“I can’t.”

“Come on, try!”

“I caaaan’t!” she wailed.

I shot them a sharp look and a warning voice.

“Guys.”

Younger Nephew tried a new approach, trying to be helpful.

“Pipey, maybe you could call her Tayhee, like I did. Can you say that?”

“Nooo.”

The despair.

There was a slight pause. Older Nephew chimed in, an evil gleam in his eyes.

“Hey, Pipey. I know what. Why don’t you call her Trashy like I did?”

“Oh, haha. All right, you two, that’s enough, or –”

I tried to think of some dread punishment, even though I was smiling at his wicked little grin, his newly sprouted devil horns.

“– you can just go to your room and dinner will be the water you suck up from the carpet after I pour it under the door!”

“Aunt Tracey!!” they said.

“Oh, I MEAN it.”

But I was laughing and so were they.

Piper, on the other hand, suddenly dissolved into a puddle of tears, her face hidden in her palms.

“I can’t! I can’t say anyfing! I can’t say da name wight!”

I jumped to the couch, shoved those wretched boys aside, and held her close.

“Oh, sweetie. It’s okay. You’ll get it.”

“I woen!!” She sobbed into my chest.

I stroked her head in silence for a minute, trying to think of something I knew she could say, no problem.

“Well …. how about ….hmm ….. what if you called me Tee Tee? Do you think you can say that?”

She sat up and looked at me, giant blue eyes, streaming red cheeks, and nodded.

“I fink so. I fink I can.”

“Okay, sweetie. Let’s do that then, okay?”

“Okay.”

The moment was over but she snuggled back down into me. She’s a very snuggly child. And that’s fine with me.

Late that night, when the house was still with sleep, I woke suddenly to the sound of her wailing outside the master bedroom door.

“Tee Tee! Tee Teeeeeee! I need you!! I hab a bad dweam!! TEE TEEEEEEEEE!”

She howled that name to the heavens as if she’d always been saying it. As if it had always been buried somewhere inside of her and just needed the right moment to come out. And this was it.

I flung open the door, scooped her up in my arms.

“Ohhh, baby. Shhhh. Come here. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Between hiccupy sobs, she spoke.

“Can I sweep wiff you, Tee Tee?”

Sweep.

“Sure, sweetie. You can sweep with me. Come on.”

I crawled into bed with her and lightly wiped her tears with my fingertips while I whispered and cooed to calm her. She just watched me, those big eyes never moving from my face. After several moments, the hiccups subsided and she reached a warm little hand to me.

“Tee Tee,” she whispered close to my face, “let’s hold hands, okay?”

“Okay. Let’s hold hands.”

So we fell asleep holding hands like hobbits, Piper …. and Tee Tee.

And that’s how it all began.

August 25, 2009

-image-oh, dad

untitled-4-dad.jpg
Dad, 16 and really tan.

I like to tease him about his general hotness.

August 24, 2009

-image-church: transparency

I saw something miraculous at Maybe Church yesterday: a moment of genuine transparency.

Before the sermon, a man and woman got up to share about their life.

Honestly share.

They shared that their present life is ravaged and ripped up and strained to the breaking point. Before the whole church, they shared this. It wasn’t self-pitying or melodramatic. It was just the simple, humble truth of where they’re at. The courage that took — I couldn’t even take it all in. And, actually, the man shared much more than the woman. I mention this only because I think it could be fairly easy for a man to abdicate, for lack of a better word, the emotional “work” of that moment to a woman, but he didn’t do that. He spoke. Simple, straightforward honesty.

And I held my breath. It brought me to tears. Plus, it WAS church and, let’s face it, that’s all I do there anymore.

I really think it was an act of heroic transparency.

It mattered to me and impacted me much more than the sermon that followed.

Maybe it’s because we feel so raw. Because, though our circumstances are different from theirs, we’ve also come to understand, over the last few years, what a ravaged life looks like and feels like. Being on the brink. On the edge. And finally falling off.

Starting over.

Completely.

And the shame. The suffocating shame of it all. It’s hard to dig out from under that mountain. I’m not sure I have. I think I’m just lying there. I can hide and it’s warm, you know, buried under the mountain.

I look around this new place we live in and see the boxes I still can’t unpack. I mean, for God’s sake, we lost our home in January, and here we are, still with unopened boxes. Part of me just can’t accept this new place, so I can’t bring myself to unpack them. Well, okay, I have neatly stacked them in every closet we have, so they’re hidden from general view, but they’re there every time I open those doors. And, you know, I think maybe I will just stop opening those doors. Who needs to open closets anyway? It’s as if I can’t quite commit to this alien reality yet. This new lesser life that came in no small part from the hands of a fellow Christian. Some form of major denial lingers. And a bit of paralysis.

I know I still reel inside a bit from the fact that some immediate family members just never responded when we finally told them we’d lost the place — after we’d lost the place and moved out. Honestly, I look back now with regret that I ever told them. I mean, I knew exactly what would happen, that’s why I waited so long — and I was right, sadly — but I still went right ahead and shared. And when I say they said nothing, I don’t mean they said nothing of consequence or nothing I really remember. No. I mean it literally: They said nothing. They continue to say nothing. The situation doesn’t …. exist to them. Same response with our infertility. Certain family members, once they were eventually told, just shrugged a collective shrug and never mentioned or inquired about it again. Anything with the slightest whiff of shame is silenced. There have been one or two shining moments of acknowledgment but that’s generally the family dynamic — and it’s an ongoing struggle with forgiveness that I’m mostly losing, really.

When your reality is denied long enough and often enough by people who really matter to you, you start to question your own sanity. Maybe you’re just nuts. Maybe you’re just imagining things. I mean, if your reality isn’t seen or acknowledged by anyone outside your reality, is your reality real?

I blather on about all that for a reason and that’s this: that at one point, when this couple started to share about how the church had upheld them and encouraged them and tangibly helped them, it was beyond comprehension to me. Literally. Warm hands of Christian compassion and fellowship touching their lives? From people in the church too? Uhm, what’s that? Is there such a thing anymore? No. No, it was like hearing a foreign language. Or tales of mythical lands and magical creatures. You want to believe these things exist, but you don’t see them in your life; you haven’t encountered these magical creatures. They sound lovely, they do, and how nice would that be, but …… no. The cold Christian hands that have touched your life for too long now have been hands of violation and destruction. Maybe once, long ago, one or two of these creatures crossed your path, but that was so very long ago and the desert since then has seemed searing and endless.

I really hope to encounter these magical creatures one day, though I don’t hold my breath for it anymore.

But yesterday …. yesterday, the miracle was transparency.

I saw it with my very own near-sighted eyes. It was blurry, but I saw it. THAT does exist.

And, you know, that’s not nothing.

A final note: If you wouldn’t mind, pippa, please add this family I just mentioned to your prayers, too. There are child safety/custody issues, daunting legal issues, job issues, everything. It’s mind-boggling, their burdens right now. Thank you. Uhm, again.

-image-calling for prayer

What I’m about to do, about to ask, I do with the permission of the person involved.

Most of you know our beloved Sheila. I’ve known her through our blogs and through our probably thousands of emails for — what? — four years now? Four years ago we stumbled across each other’s blogs — I found her, she found my drama camp posts, hahaha — and I thank GOD regularly that I know her. The impact of her in my life has been profound and true and deep, even though we’ve never met. She’s the real deal. A true blue person and the dearest friend. She’s seen me through some horrible times and I only ever want to do the same for her.

So, pippa. Our dear Sheila needs some prayer right now. She’s going through a personal hell and, no, I’m not going to divulge the details. (I will say, so that people don’t get scared, it’s not a physical/health-related issue.)

Beyond that, I think it’s enough to tell you that she needs people of prayer lifting her up.

So here’s what I’m asking:

~ That people set aside a commitment of time to pray specifically for her. You don’t need details. God knows what they are better than any of us. I’m not going to dictate what that time frame should be; people have different constraints on their time. But I’d like for people to say, “I will give this day as a day of prayer for Sheila” or “I will give this week as a week of prayer for Sheila.” Do it in your mind, your heart. I’m not asking you to say that in the comments — unless you want to. I’m asking for a commitment, yes, beyond one short prayer. Let’s give Sheila who gives so much — as you know if you read her blog — some concentrated time and effort back in her direction.

~ Also, this is key. PLEASE do not send emails to Sheila. If you want to communicate with her about this, please do so only in the comment thread here. I know you — you dear people — and know, of course, that your emails would be well-meaning, but it could just be something that’s too overwhelming right now. Let’s not place a burden on her to respond to individual emails. So, PLEASE, again — I ask with everything that’s in me — do not email her about this.

~ Of course, feel free to share your sentiments with her here. That would certainly be welcome.

~ If you’re willing and able to commit to this, please let her know that, too, in the comments. Again, you don’t need to state what your time frame will be unless you choose to do so. Just voicing your personal commitment to prayer will be meaningful.

~ That being said, I know I have readers out there who are more comfortable not commenting and who may very well commit privately to do this. That’s perfectly fine. Please don’t feel pressured to comment if it makes you uncomfortable. Public or private, the commitment is the same and equally valid.

Thank you in advance for your prayers, dear pippa.

August 22, 2009

-image-Protected: psychic eyeball theatre: sunday morning

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August 21, 2009

-image-one word answer

The Rules: Uh, the answer has to be one word.

I think I got this from Sheila several months ago. And sometimes, you’re just feeling lazy.

1. Where is your cell phone? Table
2. Your significant other? Working
3. Your hair? Ponytail
4. Your mother? Haunted
5. Your father? Dreamer
6. Your favorite time of day? Dusk
7. Your dream last night? Longing
8. Your favorite drink? Coffee
9. Your dream goal? Meaning
10. The room you’re in? Bedroom
11. Your fear? Alone
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Elsewhere
14. What you are not? Tan
15. Your Favorite meal? Asian
16. One of your wish list items? Trust
17. The last thing you did? Dinner
18. Where you grew up? SD
19. What are you wearing? Jeans
20. Your TV is? Old
21. Your pets? No
22. Your computer? Mac
23. Your life? Alien
24. Your mood? Perplexed
25. Missing someone? Always
26. Your car? Dependable
27. Something you’re not wearing? Nosy
28. Favorite store? Online
29. Your summer? Sticky
30. Your favorite colour? Red
31. When is the last time you laughed? Earlier
32. When is the last time you cried? Yesterday
33. Your health? Good
34. Your children? Missing
35. Your future? Dubious
36. Your beliefs? Tested
37. Young or old? Mid-ish
38. Your image? Invisible
39. Your appearance? Visible
40. Would you live your life over again knowing what you know? Unsure

-image-i need this song right now

(Why did this post disappear? But I found it. Haha. Take THAT, you disappearing posts.)

Okay. Let’s go to a happier place, shall we?

I literally SCOURED YouTube recently, looking for this song. It’s called Montana and it’s my favorite Spanish worship song. Hey, I live in So. California. I was on worship teams for over ten years. I know a LOT of Spanish worship songs. This is a live recording of the worship team at a church called Shalom Hebraic Christian Congregation, and, you know, I gotta say: This worship team is TIGHT. They are GOOD. Holy COW. Few worship teams sound this good in person, this clean. Wow.

(You know, our “maybe” church could …. uhm …. take some lessons here …… uhm … just sayin’ …..)

Hm. Maybe I need to go to this church. Where are they located??

The song is based on this scripture from Matthew 17:20, where Jesus is speaking:

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

To the video.

Okay. I’m basically in love with everyone on this team. The leader has a kind of soaring purity to her voice. Not necessarily crazy about the vibrato that creeps into it, but there’s no denying its power.

The Howdy Doody guitar player is amazing. So casual. I mean I can testify from personal experience — yes, TESTIFY, Trace!! — that this song races along at breakneck speed. It’s very easy for the band to lose control of this song and this guy is just so nonchalant about it. Makes it look effortless. (Cullen, that guitar confuses me. Uhm, can you help me out? What am I looking at? Why does it look different?)

And do check out my new boyfriend — the keyboard player — starting at about the 2:22 mark. Oh, how I MISS being on a worship team with black people! Those people know how to worship — they will FORCE you to shake off any shackles you walk in with. They are completely unabashed about it. White churches need much much more of that spirit. Just look at him, groovin’ along there in his cool glasses. Check out his head bob. LOVE him!

Then the bass player. Okay. Just listen to the bass line in this song — it’s insane. But, again, no problem for this guy. He rocks that bass. Plus, his face is killing me. Joy, joy, joy.

There’s some old white guy on the conga drums off to the side there, but I can’t see him very well. GO old whitey!!

They sing the song in Spanish and English, but I prefer it in Spanish. Just more pleasing lyrically. Gets the feet moving. You WILL feel better about life after listening to this. I basically guarantee it.

Oh, she doesn’t start singing until about the 25 second mark. She’s testifyin’ first. Just go with it.

Spanish lyrics posted below the clip.

Si tuvieras fe
Como un grano de mostaza
Esto lo dice el Senor
Si tuvieras fe
Como un grano de mostaza
Esto lo dice el Senor
Tu le dirias a la montana muevete, muevete

Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera
Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera

Tu le dirias a la montana mueve te, mueve te

Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera
Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera

August 20, 2009

-image-not again …..

(Read the post below this one first or this might not make sense. Also, this post contains, well, spoilers about that post. Read it first.)

So, L.

An email AND a comment today?

Which — please allow me to explain — went into moderation, a kind of holding pen, waiting my approval because you’ve never commented here before. That happens to every person who comments for the first time, so no, it wasn’t something I deliberately did to upset you. I just need to correct that assumption.

And I won’t be approving your comment, sir, but I will address it — and your email, since they said the same thing. I can only assume you really wanted me to get the message.

All right.

You’re upset with me, again. This time because I used the word b-i-t-c-h in this post.

“That’s not a word for a proper Christian lady to use,” you said.

“It doesn’t help your witness,” you said.

“You are dishonoring God,” you said.

Honestly, I don’t know how much more breath I can expel in sighs and still have breath left to breathe.

You know, L, writers write. If we accept that as true, then I’m a writer. I actually have a compulsion to write, a need to write. One of the things I do on this blog is tell stories — stories from my life. When I do that, I try to be as truthful as memory allows, understanding that that lens is always a bit clouded in all of us.

I’m sorry it offends you, but that word is key to the story. It’s key in my memory. It was said. It’s there. The story loses something vital without that word. As I said, I like to be as truthful as possible in these stories, and sometimes — I hope you can agree — the truth of the human condition is just not pretty. Frankly, at the risk of offending you further, I don’t think my mom was wrong in calling her that. If THAT woman doesn’t fit the definition of that word, I don’t know who does. It’s actually mild in my estimation.

As far as using it in the story, well, I chose not to sugarcoat it. I choose not to sterilize my memories here because, well, I don’t live on Sesame Street. This blog is not the Mickey Mouse club. Should I have written, “You …. nincompoop”? “You goober”? “You not very nice person”?

Believe it or not, L, I don’t sit down to write a post thinking, “Hm. How can I offend L today?” I don’t set out to offend anyone, actually, with what I write. I AM careful even though you can’t see it. The processes of my mind are not visible to anyone, but I know what I go through when I write a post and I know the kinds of choices I make. I do try to be mindful of my audience.

Uhm, okay. You know, I’m trying to maintain control of myself here and it’s hard. I’m coming back to this later. I’m not calm enough.

All right. It’s later and I’m somewhat calmer.

So, L, again, I have to say: I don’t know why you continue to read this blog when it’s such an affront to you. It’s silly to you; it’s offensive to you; I’m not a proper Christian woman. I mean, WHY read??

But you know what, L?

I’m offended, too.

I’m offended that you can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. That you seem to regularly — and completely — misunderstand me and this blog. That you and I seem to speak totally different languages — but yours is the only correct one. That you seem to have missed the ENTIRE point of a post that I ripped my guts up to write. It’s not about a single word. It’s about much more than that. It cost me something to write that and it pains me that it was lost on you. All for one little word.

I strive for transparency here. It’s one of the few places in my life where I feel I can even begin to touch that. I understand, though, that some people don’t respect that. And that some people are uncomfortable with that. And that some people are blatantly hostile towards that. The other thing I find — strange to me — is that those people are generally my fellow Christians. Why is that, I wonder? Why is it such a problem? Such a threat? All I can say is that the transparency of heaven is gonna really chap some hides.

I’m not quite sure why, L, but you seem to have me in your crosshairs. You seem to feel that you need to scold me, set me straight. It’s an ongoing problem I have on this blog and it usually happens with men. Of a certain age. And I have to tell you: All the scolding in the world probably won’t conform me to the proper Christian lady you need me to be. How successful are you in general scolding strangers about their lives? Has this worked for you in the past? This approach baffles me. (But I’m baffled by everyone’s approach these days.) And I’m not quite sure WHAT you want me to fix or change. Maybe you could just pray for me. Entrust me to the Holy Spirit. May I gently suggest I need to become more like Jesus, not more like you.

As far as my witness, sure. It needs help. Always. Always. My Christianity is crooked and broken and I walk with a limp down a sometimes meandering road. That about sums it up. I really don’t try to represent my Christianity or the Christian life on this blog as anything different from that. Again, it’s not Sesame Street. I’m sorry that I’m not together enough for you or that I don’t behave well enough for you. For me, that’s not the sum total of Christianity. Behaving just so. Perhaps we simply see faith and the Christian life differently. Actually, I’m quite sure we do.

Look. I’m just tired, L. Tired of explaining myself and having it basically fall on deaf ears. So I feel it only fair to warn you that any comment from you in the future will disappear into the ether before I even see it and I will be setting up a filter, if possible, on my inbox so that I don’t receive your emails. I can’t stop you from reading this blog. Only you can decide to stop what just looks like masochism to me. But as much as is in my power, I can stop you from communicating with me.

Because I don’t think we have anything more to say to each other. Or, rather, I choose not to have anything more to say to you. I don’t want to commit any more mental or emotional energy to this.

Honestly …… honestly ….. I’m dealing with enough on the Christian front these days.

August 19, 2009

-image-her real eye

I was six years old the day my mom seemed suddenly different to me.

This one day. This single moment.

It was a fault line that shook everything in my world for several stunned seconds. The flutter of a heavy veil showing a glimpse of face I’d never seen.

This one day. This single moment.

I was six. Just a little kid. At that age, my childish eyes saw her as one thing and one thing only: Mommy. I was busy making mud pies in the backyard. Rolling down the glossy hill across the street. Swinging on the park swings. These are the things that consumed me. I had no sense of her personhood. No concept of her “self.” Those things didn’t exist for me. I was aware only that Mommy was a blonde goddess, golden and rippling through my life like a banner. I couldn’t possibly understand that she was also a kind of hermit crab, forever scavenging new and better shells to keep her and cloak her. It confused me: the sun of her appearance, the brittleness of her heart. I wanted to bask in that sun; I wanted to live in that heart, but it wasn’t that kind of sun and it wasn’t that kind of heart. No matter what new shell she found to house her hidden self, it was never big enough to hold me, too. Yes, she clothed me, fed me, put me to bed, but she never played. Never acted silly. Never let down her guard with me or my siblings. She simply didn’t know how.

Sometimes, I would flutter about the living room in a made-up ballet, hoping to catch her eye. Her real eye. An eye that might actually see me, not that veiled eye she preferred to use. Mommy, hi! Watch! Watch me! as I wobbled like a top across our smooth cream carpet. Sometimes, sometimes, she would glance at me vaguely and say, Oh, you’re my little sunshine and I’d look, hopeful, at her golden face only to see that, no, it was that shrouded eye gazing back at me again. Not the real one. I tried so hard to find that real eye. But I was just a little kid. I didn’t know her history then. How she was slugged and beaten and struck with heavy objects her whole life until she had fled home for the blessed respite of a rigorous college education. I was only aware of being hungry for her, of always trying to be as good as good could be in the hopes of getting just a tiny extra piece of her.

Of her looking at me with love with her real eye.

She was a golden goddess and I craved her my entire childhood.

That day was a summer day. A pool day. My mom, my sister, and I wandered across the lazy street to the giant neighborhood pool to swim the day away. During the summers, I craved this pool nearly as much as I craved my mom. Entire days passed where I was not dry until bedtime. Entire nights passed where I dreamed of nothing but jumping in that pool again. Entire summers passed where my blinding yellow hair was green or bronze or shiny gold from too much chlorine. I was a fish, a dolphin, a gliding manta ray.

But what I really wanted to be was a water ballerina.

I’d seen them once, you see. At Sea World. These perfect floating creatures, these glittering eels, twirling underwater in weightless sequined circles. Their ballet was never wobbly like mine, never teetering or unsteady. Water, I decided, was the key. It smoothed out everything. Sure, the Sea World creatures were sleek and polished and didn’t wear bathing suits with pink ruffled bottoms, but I tried not to think about that. Every day in the pool, I practiced and convinced my older sister of the importance of this, too — for the sake of our future as world famous water ballerinas. Side by side we worked, pink-ruffled bottom and blue-ruffled bottom, twisting and flipping and somersaulting for hours. I thought if I could learn to arch my back and curve my foot just so, like those perfect Sea World mermaids, maybe mom would finally look at me with her real eye and be proud.

At one point that day, during this strenuous workout, I surfaced and saw her. Mrs. Parker. The fattest lady I knew. The meanest lady I knew. She was a stack of old inner tubes. She was a walrus. She terrified me. Her skin was orange like Tang. Her hair was red like flames and, on that day, stacked high in a ridiculous mountain of curlers. I heard myself starting to giggle nervously at her until my mom shot me a single warning glance from her deck chair. Mrs. Parker sashayed over to the stairs at the shallow end and dipped in a foot the size of a pot roast.

My sister and I resumed our important work. Flipping, splashing.

Mrs. Parker dangled her fat foot in the water just a few feet away.

“Stop splashing,” she commanded.

We didn’t. We couldn’t really hear her. We were half underwater.

We splashed, twirled.

“STOP splashing. You’re getting my hair wet.”

Still, we didn’t. We were busy ballerinas.

“I SAID STOP SPLASHING!!!”

My head broke the surface just in time to hear her yelling. The rest happened so fast, all at the same time it seemed. My sister splashed closest to the walrus. Too close, too close. As she screamed, Mrs. Parker plunged a thick fist into the pool, grabbed my sister by the neck, and thrust her brown head under the water, holding her there. I huddled nearby in the water, only my eyes bulging above the surface, like a frozen little hippo. My sister’s neck was lost in that giant fist. I could see her brown hair floating around her head. I didn’t know what to do. I opened my mouth to scream, but water rushed in to drown it. Let her go! Let her go! Let my sister go! I could hear it in my head, but I couldn’t get it out. I shivered in the warm blue water.

At that same instant, I saw it. The flash of gold as my mom leapt across that deck, roaring like a wounded lion.

In a split second, a seismic second, her brittle shell shattered and I saw her real eye. An eye so raw and bitter, so full of hidden rage, that it was bound to break free somehow …. it had to …. some day. No flimsy shell could contain the universe of betrayal that burned behind that eye. A supernova of pain. It had to burst out, explode.

And this was the day.

I was terrified and I was mesmerized.

“LET HER GO, YOU BITCH!! LET MY DAUGHTER GO!!!”

She didn’t even sound human, my mom. She roared and growled and threw herself headlong at this mound of woman twice her size. Who was this Mommy? What was that word? I started to cry big heaving sobs. My sister was being drowned. My mom was going crazy. I just wanted to be a water ballerina. I sobbed harder and peed in the pool from fear.

Then I saw her do it. My mom, my golden mom, plunged into that water, wrestled my sister up and safe, wound her arm back and slugged that orange walrus with such primal force she fell backward onto the deck shrieking in outrage.

But mom’s roar was louder.

“DON’T YOU EVER — DON’T YOU EVER COME NEAR MY GIRLS AGAIN, YOU BITCH!! DON’T YOU EVER!!”

That word. Mommy didn’t use that word.

She collapsed at the side of the pool with my sister sputtering to breathe in her arms. Then she saw me there, still trembling in the pool.

And she looked at me with her real eye.

“Tracey, get out of that pool right now.”

You obeyed that eye in an instant.

As I stumbled out of the pool, still sobbing, she grabbed me hard. It hurt how she grabbed me, but she held us, my sister and me, at the edge of that pool, tighter than I’ve ever been held in my life, tighter than I’ve ever wanted to be held.

“Mommy …… Mommy …..” we heaved in her arms.

I don’t know what happened to Mrs. Parker in those moments mom held us tight by the pool. To this day, I don’t remember. I only remember she was gone when we finally got up to leave. In spent silence, mom collected our things, took us each by a hand, and led us across the street toward home. On the way, I stole wide-eyed glances at her face, but it was dim, guarded. She didn’t look back at me.

In our room, my sister and I shook and sobbed while we wriggled out of our wet bathing suits. At the dinner table, I looked anxiously at mom for signs of her real eye again, but the veil had fallen back into place. A new shell had been found.

She had seemed suddenly different and now she was suddenly the same.

It was temporary, this shell. I would see her real eye again many times, directed at me, but right then, that night, when she tucked me into bed with her careful veiled eye, I breathed a sigh of relief.

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