Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sharp Swords.

"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." – Albus Dumbledore

I am, admittedly, verbose.

I once saved the word ‘phantasmagorical’ in my box of alphabetical treasures, waiting for the moment when I could justify its accurate usage. Mid-way through high school I quietly trounced the bookworms with a score that put me, courtesy of my voracious appetite for words, in the country’s top percentile. I cringe at curtly clipped statements, phrases devoid of substance and gentility. I spend countless hours leafing through parchment, finding stories that will take my children on wild adventures carried only by their imaginations and the words on a page. I chased a career that filled my days with words and the power behind them. And in words I found rebirth.

Letters on a page—angry, sad, loving, spiteful, sanctimonious, misinformed, cautious, joyful—that raise the pen high above the sword.

“Mom, why do people say mean things?

“Remember how Miss D**** tells us to take three deep breaths when something upsets us? It’s kind of like that. People should take three deep breaths before they say something, because you can’t take words back after you say them. And words can make you happy or mad or very sad.”

“Do people say mean things about you?”

“Yes. Sometimes they do.”

From the moment those blue eyes said those four words that tore the earth from beneath me—No, he isn’t okay—words have failed me.

I struggled to fill tear stained pages with the pain of a grief that seemed endless, to find the words that would soothe my children’s suffering. Phone calls and emails and well-intentioned visits were a gauntlet run of subtle and not-so-subtle questions about what happened, what I saw, how we felt and what the spoils of death had left me. Words were thrown in anger, sinking deep into my memory like little daggers that would never be freed. I read the reports, reconciling the clinical facts with the moments that replayed soundless in my mind. I watched words on the screen as people hiding in anonymity claimed to know the intimate details, and in words I now recount the painful decimation of the life that I knew to be analyzed and questioned anew.

In words I struggle to give my daughter the strength and the confidence to withstand the hurtful words of children that should not be so willing and able to inflict pain in their own words.

You don’t have a Daddy. You’re not pretty. You’re fat. Your Daddy wasn’t cool.

And in words I watch adults set the examples our children embody, Facebook and happy hours and play dates the grown-up schoolyards where we hide behind claims of loyalty and self-righteousness without regard for the complexities of life and the impact we leave behind with a simple turn of phrase or carelessly thrown word.

“Sweetheart, words are an incredibly powerful gift. And many people don’t realize, or maybe they forget, that we have to be careful how we use that gift. Don’t ever let someone’s words change you, even if they hurt. Words can change the world, but only if you take care and use them wisely.”

“Mommy, I love you so much.”

“I love you, my beautiful girl. More than words can say.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shots Fired.

“Your call.”

Two words. That’s all it took to send me over the edge of the angry cliff I’ve been dancing on the edge of for weeks. Your call.

But it isn’t my call. It hasn’t been my call for years. It’s their call and his call and others’ call but never my call. And even when it’s supposed to be my call, it isn’t. Because, visible or not, someone or something else is always calling the shots.

Two words that pushed me out the door on to the cold, dark streets past midnight, coyotes and other nocturnal predators my only companions. Cold tears blur the path ahead, a path once clear now littered with doubt and uncertainty and risk, and my chest seizes with fear against the dark and the loneliness that greets me at every turn. While the world around me sleeps, I race to escape those two words that mean so little to everyone else, but everything to me.

Schedules built around others and their priorities and what they want and when they want it. Never what I need and want and when I need and want it. No protection. No support.  No one to shield me against the rapid fire. To dry my tears when they fall. To catch me when I stumble.

We’re in the middle of the gauntlet, a six-month stretch of milestones and holidays that only serve to proclaim in garish Hallmarked fashion that I am, supposedly, calling the shots on my own. I’m facing a minefield of memories that has dragged on for years, looking to a horizon forever in the distance. 

Shots fired. None of which are my call.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let Freedom Reign.

Royal Magistrate: “The prisoner wishes to say a word.”
William Wallace: “Freedom!”

My mother’s photo albums are filled with faded pictures and polaroids, a catalogue of time past and memories tucked away only to be pulled out over laughter and sparkling wine.

The tiny girl in a too-small t-shirt and rubber boots roaming the plains of my own hundred acre woods. A tiny bundle in my mother’s arms. Locks of warm brown hair and long, dark eyelashes hinting at mischief, perched in my father’s arms on a Mother’s Day long ago. Warm in my footed, polyester pajamas, a childhood fire hazard of the seventies. Pulling construction paper stars from the wall, counting the days to Santa’s arrival. My debut as a designer, naked save construction paper crowns and toilet paper wrappings. Looking through the images in my mind, I see the girl inside the woman today.

I’m either in clothes. Or not.

I have a love-hate relationship with clothing. I spend my work days proper and polished – jet blacks and creamy ivories splattered with bright color and glistening touches, simple sheaths covering my frame in confidence and comfort. The 3.5-inch peep toes that I slip comfortably into each morning even the playing field in the all-too-often male-dominated playing field that towers over me, my diminutive stature belying the tenacity of my will. The single diamond that I once wore is long gone and unusual earrings my only embellishment, the jewelry in the box forsaken but not forgotten.

But home is where the heart is, and for all my reticence and caution, I wear my heart on my sleeve. And my heart likes to be comfortable.

It does not like the bra straps that constrict and confine, panty lines that cut and that chafe. It does not like socks that sag and sweaters that scratch. It does not like Spanx that cinches and suffocates and nylons that itch and tear and roll. It does not like zips and buttons and snaps that bunch and nip and squish.

My heart … and my body … like freedom.

But naked is not permissible for the girl that has become a woman. There’re laws about that sort of thing. But on Sundays the little girl inside runs free. Pjs and barefeet reign, and cozy cups of tea are sipped on the patio in the morning quiet. Her wild mane piled high, her face clean of the socially required mask all women wear. The smell of laundry soap and clean dishes and the sounds of Sunday morning cartoons filling the house. 

And tiny feet peek out as they lounge and race and giggle and argue the Sunday away, wearing their hearts on the sleeves of their pajamas.