Imprint: Chapter Two

In disbelief they peak through the open door and see her standing there. She stares at the house for a long time. Then she lays on the grass. They watch in awe, in disbelief.

“She is here.” says one female voice in a hushed relieved tone. “I can’t believe I can be so close to her. She is finally here. Do you see her Esther? Is it real?” Of course she knows it is real but feels the need for reassurance.

“You are being so serious again Nellie. We knew she was coming.” says Esther. Always so practical and calm but gives Nellie a gentle rub on the arm. She is tough and strong but could break in a second.

Esther looks back into the room behind them. Another lady sits in the background. She is on a wooden stool in the dark of the shed. A table in front of her with a lantern glowing and she stares mindlessly at it. Not saying a word but her presence is heavy and full of shadows.

“Is your mom going to come out and see her?” asks Esther confused. Nelly turns her head side to side slowly more in awe of what she watches before her than caring about her mothers mood. Esther sighs with disappointment at how Maria can be so mute all the time but especially in this moment.

The woman they watch grabs the handle of her suitcase and throws a bag over her shoulder. She is heading indoors for the evening. The show is over.

“What do we do now?” Esther says, standing behind Nellie. Her tall frame is imposing in the day let alone the night.

“We wait. We will know what to do when the time comes.”

Creeping back into the shed they drag the old door shut behind them.

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Imprint: Chapter One

I stand in front of my house. It is late. A cool night breeze tostles my hair and sends shivers down my back. It feels strange to stand outside my childhood home. It is dark and empty here. I dread the emptiness all of a sudden. The air is heavy and filled with sadness. It is this space, the house, yard and air – it all feels alone. It is empty.

When I would come home as a child I without fail the porch light would be on as my guiding light. If you were not too late you may even see a glow from the kitchen window. Now abandonment lays all around. Everything is in pain. The grass calls to me, asksing how I could leave it when I loved it so. I played with it every day. The grass was my best friend. We were one. We still are. I can feel our connection. It is sad that I turned my back on it.

I’ve been thinking about this place for years. It has always been my intention to return home. I didn’t think my return home would be due to my running away from my life but here I am. I always thought I would return home to be a teacher, that I would help my community. Now I’m here hoping it will heal me. Teach me.

While it is a cool night I have this desire to feel the grass. Plus I am not looking forward to what lies behind that locked front door. It is my grass. Not because of some land ownership law but because it knows me from all the times I’ve laid on it, danced on it, rode my bike on it, slid on it in the winter or when it chased me with dew on it’s fingers.

The grass and I share some bond.  Avoiding the inevitable I lay on the grass and feel it’s coolness beneath me. It is soothing. I realize my eyes are closed. I feel silly and panic for a moment throwing my eyes open. Then I’m greeted with the stars. They surround me like warm joyful grandparents who haven’t seen their grandchild for so long. All is forgiven immediately and they are delighted I’m home. In their twinkling I can see all the times I sang to them, prayed to them, and spoke to them.

I draw my attention away from the stars and sense the yard has settled down. It’s suffering has eased. But the house looms before me. This dark cold hard structure.

I sit upon the grass and stare at it. I know I must go in. I know I have to face it. It has been unloved for so long. I’m afraid to go in and feel the feelings of emptiness all around me. The house will smell different being all closed up for years. It’s heart is broken. Can I fill it with love with just my being here?

I will make some bread. The smell of it will wake the house up. It will warm it. The footsteps will ground it again. When I sit down to eat the house will feel settled. It needs someone to live in it again.

I grab the key that I placed in my pocket. The one I touched a hundred times on my bus ride down. Touching it made what I was doing real. I couldn’t believe I was actually running away and going home.

I unlatch the storm door and swing it wide open to hook it on the little peg resting on the east side of the house.  What a strange, yet simple, everyday thing for one to do.  We only used our storm door occasionally in the summer unhooking it to protect our homemade plywood door from a storm that pelted at it. During the winter we used the storm door all the time not hooking it to the east wall until spring. The fact that we hardly ever did this makes me wonder how I remember to do it at all.

The strangest memory hits me as I place the hook in the ring.

I am running to the door to see if the boy was ready to come out and be in the sprinkler. My nieces and nephew were here and two of my sisters. We had all changed into our bathing suits behind a blanket on the clothesline at the back of the yard. Why hasn’t this boy come out from his change area behind the storm door. I run over to the door to see if he is almost done but I’m not careful enough. I run past the bit of door he was using as shelter and see he’s naked. I see his boy-bits and I am frozen. I’ve never seen boy-bits before. I knew there was a difference between boys and girls because we were often separated and we kind of liked different things. I had no idea that this was something I would see.

I stand forzen hold for a while. It feels like minutes and he quickly lifts up his swimming trunks and starts to get dressed all the while covering himself. He seems scared or nervous. I runaway confused. He follows shortly afterward and we both pretend it never happened but later I would tell Melinda.

Now I insert the key into my lock. I need to shake and jostle things just into place. I feel a click and then the door is loose from the lock that has held it captive to the world outside.

The door squeaks open a few inches and my nervousness is in full swing. What if there is a skunk sleeping on my bed or mice scurring all about? Shit! Why am I coming home in the dark?

I have nowhere to go. I must go in further. Using my cell phone as my flashlight I creep into the porch opening the kitchen door. I listen for the sound of little critter feet moving. Nothing. I don’t smell skunk in the air. I step over the threshold gently.

There is no power. There is no water. Planning to run away at the last minute, late at night, is now making me wonder if this was the best decision. I bring my bags to the bedroom and pulled back the covers on the bed that has been made for a decade. I shine my light on the sheets and see nothing crawling around. I don’t undress, crawling under the blankets hoping to just fall asleep. I need to distract myself from the fact that something might crawl around in the darkness while I sleep. I fill my mind with memories of sharing this room with my sisters and sleep comes fast to me and I would expect.

Dreams Drift Away

Recently I read a writing prompt asking to remember a moment that seemed like a mystery.  My mind drew a complete blank. I was certain that there must be a million mysterious moments through my eyes of a child but I could not recover one. Or maybe that question was too broad and my mind didn’t know what to choose. Well, I got one now.

The sand came in. I know how but I see it laying before me. Three mounds of it. Dad says in his stern, don’t disobey me voice that we are not to play in it.  We listen.  I sense something very special is going on here.

There’s been a lot of talk about us building a house. I’m excited to have a new home. I will be like my friends.

I hear dad has made something called blueprints. I guess we need blueprints. One evening I see dad hovering over a large sheet of paper on the table. He explains to us that this is the blueprints of the house. A bunch of faint lines. It takes a moment for my eyes to register a picture within all these lines. He shows us where the bedrooms would be. Us girls would have to bunk up but that is okay. I see a kitchen, laundry room, and an actual living room. A real one.

These are the actual blueprints.

We are going to have a new house! The sand is in for concrete dad says. He has blueprints made. This is going to happen!

I go to bed dreaming of my new room. I imagine what it will look like when it is done, smooth walls and shiny windows. Maybe we can even have our own dresser and I won’t have to share. Right now I only have a drawer. One single drawer and my friends have whole dressers.

The next day us girls surface with excitement. Mom on the other hand is tense. Angry maybe? She’s been wanting this I’m sure of it. It seems as though she starts the fight’s with my dad about it. I don’t understand.

Us girls decide to stay away from mom. She could snap any second and that means screaming. We go outside to play.

The sand mounds sit there. We don’t touch them. Us kids do nothing but nothing happens. The sand sits day after day untouched. Soon the wind takes away the lines that separated the sand mounds. Nothing is said and we don’t dare ask. We sense the tension. We know our new home is not coming. I told all my friends and now I don’t know what to tell them. I feel like I lied.

I’m not sure when we started playing in sandhill. The next year perhaps? It became our sand hill and quite frankly we had a lot of fun in it. I don’t know how we survived so long without it.

Years later my friends would ask what happened. They have faint memories of us going to build a house. My memory of it is vague, like an event that blew past me that I was unable to catch. I hum trying to remember for I know this memory of their’s is true.

“Hmm … All I can remember are the three mounds of sand for concrete and blueprints laying on the kitchen table. I don’t know what happened.”

If you can find one moment that left you baffled, please share. It may take some thinking. Thinking is the easy part. Being aware of your thoughts is tricky. The mind has a way of getting carried away and keeping you out. Remember it is your mind. You are boss.

Thank you Sunstone Creations for the photos!

4 Lessons Learned: Week 4

Memory is also fickle.  She must be wooed and courted if she is to succumb to our charms.

Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach

  1. Maybe it is important to know that it remains a challenge to recover memories.  They do not want to surface easily. Most days I pull on them, pull and pull until they smash through some hard barrier.  Often I get to exhausted with all my pulling. How challenging it must be for those with memories that want to be forgotten.
  2. My journey through memoir writing is affecting me in some amazing areas. One night this past week I was really upset. The kind of upset that would cause me to run to the city to blow off steam. Instead I grabbed my journal, out of the ordinary for me to sit still to write when I am so upset, and went to my room. Instinctively I knew just how to write out my frustrations. I wrote a letter to the culprit that knew what buttons to push. I was very happy that my body and heart just took over and left my mind/ego behind to catch up with what is going on.
  3. It is up to me to calm down the stresses I put on myself that prevent me from meeting my goals. I remain my enemy and it interferes with my writing.
  4. It feels like an awesome responsiblity to hold someone else’s story.  I asked some of my friends this week if I could post a few stories about them on the internet cause I didn’t want to use pseudo names. The ones I asked said yes.  Now I feel stress.  Wow.  They have put my version of their past in my trust. Now I am nervous.

11 Lessons Learned: Week 3

  1. There is only one space now after the period?  Damn!  When did that change?  Who changed it and why? Was a bill passed through parliament about this?
  2. The passive voice is strong in me.  I am forever writing with it and thanks to wordpress spell/writing checker it is catching it every time.  I am learning to make stronger sentences.  In On Writing Stephen King explains the verbs well for me.  I learn grammar the best in the most abstract random ways.  Don’t sit me down with a grammar book cause my brain will freeze.  I need someone to sneak it in like Mr. King, or Grammar Girl, for it to stick.  Well the passive and active verbs haven’t stuck yet but I am learning.
  3. That the only right and wrong way to publish a memoir is with your conscience.  What you are willing to live with and what you can’t live without. It is challenging to write a story about yourself, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, but to do that with others in your life is not something easily weighed on ones conscious.
  4. I have gained great appreciation for how I was raised (see, passive voice.  I will leave this one in).  Unintentionally my parents gave me more gifts than I was aware of.  I knew I had a fabulous childhood and that is why I wanted to write This Old House but I am now seeing more and more gifts.
  5. The fear of saying what I want to say is still present.  I often type something and then think ‘Shit.  I can’t say that.  What will people think of me.’  Not saying it is weighing on me though.  I am going to have to get it off my chest soon and release that inhibition.
  6.   I have started writing things in my memoir writing book called JIFFs.  Short abrupt memories that plop into the middle of a main memory that I am writing.  I write the word JIFF in the margin and I am going to come back to them and investigate them more thoroughly at the end of my journey.  They are so short and random but I hold on to them for a reason.
  7. Now that I have a theme I have started a sheet where I brain-stormed memories that tie to the theme of my embarrassments, fears and feelings of inadequacies but also the light side of it the joys and the quirky moments and simple life that was so fulfilling and we had no idea.  I hope to put it in a timeline soon and post it on my website as a living document that I will add to as memories come.
  8. This process is connecting dots for me.  I love connecting dots.  That is my biggest passion of all – solving mysteries!  For example, I discovered where my fear of talking came from, being corrected by my peers in the grade three classroom for using the word ‘worser’.  Wow!  How long we hold onto some little-big things!
  9. While the memoir writing process is amazing and healing it can also be dangerous … is that the word I want to say?  Some memories don’t want to resurfaced, or they don’t want to come to the surface yet.  Write gently when you hit a moment that slows down your pen quickens your heart but stops your breath.  If a memory doesn’t want to come don’t rush it.  How to know if you need to push yourself or not?  Trust yourself.  If you choose not to push the memory see how you feel afterward.  Do you regret it or feel relieved?
  10. Uffda!  Can I make it so that I have learned 10 lessons this week?! I will combine it.  Tone of voice and point of view.  When I write about the memory of being picked on in Grade Three for using the word ‘worser’ I write it from the POV of me as a girl with the tone of voice of confusion.  The confusion I felt as a little girl still lingers.  I will re-write that scene a few more times to get the meat out. (Horrible analogy for a vegetarian).
  11. I have issues using the word ‘onto’.  Gotta stop.