Listening to: "Faded" by Alan Walker
Outside: English fog à la James Herbert
From my 1998 journal:
I am fifteen years old in the picture at left.
A sophomore at MVHS.
Dirty blonde or mouse brown hair.
Ocean blue eyes (thanx to my new contacts)
As I look at this picture, I wonder, what will I be doing in 20 years? What state will I live in? What dreams will I have in what unforeseen bed?
|Thursday, September 24, 1998|
Well, fifteen-year-old me, here's your answer:
I'm a mom home from work, raking my hands through wavy post-ponytail hair. I don't even live in the United States anymore - I have moved to England and I've been here for almost twelve years. Blue-eyed and little more blonde, I straighten my glasses - I no longer bother with contact lenses - as I look at this picture and tell this girl: Hold on tight, chicken - you're in for a bumpy ride.
|Mother's Day. May 10th, 1998|
This girl doesn't know it yet, but she is about to embark on some rough seas. She is soon going to say goodbye to the tidy completeness of her nuclear family, as that ugly word "divorce" rises up slow but urgent and smokes everything out. There will be nothing but an empty garage bay where Mom's car used to be, and a house with empty walls: crumb-strewn, off-kilter. Bye, Mom.
She will watch her sister's car drive away down the driveway for the last time. She'll stare out that living room window and wish her sister back, but she is gone, off to Washington State, to join Mom. The crushing abandonment, a silent house, and me, at age seventeen, drowning in the dust. Bye, sis.
There will be many more leavings, many more goodbyes. You will go off to college at Ball State University! (Bye, Dad and Step-Mom!) You will move to England! (Bye, Literally Everybody I Have Ever Known!) That first one will be hard. The second one will be even harder.
And, here, the hardest thing of all: You are going to drop a flower on your mom's casket.
Maybe, I realized, as I sat in my living room this past Saturday surrounded by all of my old journals and treasure boxes and rocks and drawings and photographs and cards and letters and old McDonald's toys and all the pages and poems and thoughts that made up my life, perhaps these goodbyes, however painful, shaped me into the explorer and deep thinker I am today. I had to learn to begin again every time. Beginnings are scary. But begin we must. And here I was, tear-streaked, cradling a decades-old notebook like a newborn babe: I had survived. I had made it through the impossible and crawled out into the sunlight on the other side.
All those things I wrote about, in English and choppy, sophomore Spanish, summed up my experiences and my hefty of catalogue of Naive Unknowns: what was the big, wide world like? How hard is it going to be? Am I strong enough to make it? (Would I die early? I wondered obsessively. Would I get hit by a drunk driver? Fall down the stairs? Get mugged at Wal-Mart?)
|Top: Mom, age 7, aboard the U.S.S. Constitution at Boston, February 22, 1954|
Bottom: A card, "SCHOONER," from an Original footpainted by P. Driver
(Published by the Association of Handicapped Artists, Inc.)
"...life isn't quite so simple anymore."
This very night, on the eve of the first year of my mom's passing (I hate to call it an anniversary - as one who proof-reads newspaper family notices for a living, I prefer to keep the word "anniversary" on the Happy side of the page), I can honestly say to my fifteen-year-old self that I now dream more deeply. I live and see more deeply. The yawning darkness of indecision and fear still have that depth and wholeness, that cruel voice and texture that they always had - perhaps more. But my dreams now are much, much bigger.
So, child, there you are. You are living a new life after the loss of your mom (our mom), and you are hungry for nostalgia, for the chlorine of the summer pool, for one last walk down to the boat dock with her. You paw blindly around in the dark of your thoughts, sometimes, grasping for firm memories to hang on to. These memories are the solid masts and rigging when the sea-storms rage. You are going to wish and want and feel.
"What will I be doing in 20 years?"
Here's what I'm doing: I'm writing this letter to you, to say there is a life after life.
Hang on tight.
|A letter saved sealed for twenty years, |
as per Mom's instructions.
Inside: I found love.