Unsupervised kids can do anything. We cut our own hair and each others.
I once took scissors and went straight up the back of my sister’s young head, all the time telling her to trust me. The result looked like a hillside stripped wide for power lines. She didn’t speak to me for awhile.
I used to bleach my hair with hydrogen peroxide until it turned corn silk white. When I did it again, it got brittle and turned the yellow you’d associate with bad dental care.
My sister, Kristen, (whom I named my daughter after, because I loved her so much – and because she still loved me after her hair cut)…and I used to spend money on hair dyes. Probably money lifted from the folds of my father’s pocket during his afternoon nap. We bought a dye called, Coffee, which was a drastic disappointment, since we both pictured coffee with cream and sugar. Turned out the manufacturer took his straight up black.
She and I were friends and life-lines. I had her stand on my bureau once so she could gaze down at my chest. She swore I was not developing, but I insisted that if she could only look down, the way I could, well, she’d see the budding promise of breasts so apparent to me. She saw nothing, at any height. Oh well, a pair of well placed socks would do the job until the real thing arrived.
We used to daydream, she and I, about our grown up lives. Would we still live close to each other? Still sleep together when we came to visit? Still draw an imaginary line down the center of the bed to divide her side from mine…cross over and die? What would we name our children? That’s when I promised to name my first born after her. (She didn’t keep her end of the deal.) We knew we’d have to stay in really close touch, especially if we were going to get married and do-you-know-what with a man. Gross!
Falling apart under the trees.
I was searching for my former vision, my old way of seeing that got lost. I know it hides beneath a tangle of flowers against a damp richness of soil. I imagine it abandoned there, lying at an angle, surprised at the unexpected release. Dropped, lost, gone.
I searched for it today, that old way of seeing and being. It was important to find it because it took so much with it. It took the way I looked in the mirror after hours of receiving you into every cell of my body. It took my sexuality and the way I could never be in the same room with you without wanting to lie you down in our bed.
These days our bed frightens me. It has become a place of illness, of sleepless tossing against you and away. It has become a place for stories of fear and the confession of foolish past mistakes.
I couldn’t find that old way of seeing today. The will that dams my reservoir of sorrows broke open. I had to stand in the flood. Sweet that you searched me out. The trail of your journey etched in green across your white shirt. How comforted I am by the sight of you. You house a lifetime of integrity in your style, your choices, your countenance and wisdom.
I was the child who hid to mask the depth of her feelings. Today I become what I feared; another in a long line of demanding females expressing excessive emotion. My wonderings and confusion seem small next to your kindness. I am embarrassed to speak them.
The Buddha became enlightened under the bohdi tree. I sat on prickers and hard earth staring into a parking lot. My tree was cedar. Nature and your loving words cradled and enlightened me. Thank you for accepting and loving and listening. I’m such a handful for myself, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you.
I didn’t find my old vision and I miss it, but at least I can still see. Now I must be patient to see what I will be shown through these new lenses.
I imagined you walking down the driveway this morning. As I looked out the big circular window in the bathroom, there you were. Just for a moment. You were wearing black shorts and sandals. Morning light danced in the silver of your hair; your head was bent and your arms overfull with all that you carry from truck to house. Your walk was distinctive and measured. You didn’t look up or notice me. Your gaze was on the driveway and the cases in your hand. I imagined also, before loading your arms that you had eaten yellow plums plucked fresh from the branch, a little soft and overripe.
How grand and welcome you looked against that long gaze of forest drive, too preoccupied to notice the fields of clover, ferns and draped ivy that witnessed your return. The wooden piles that divide pavement from foliage quietly and firmly directing your path to our shelter and into my hungry arms.
In that moment, seeing you there, a smile drifted across my face, my body lit with recognition. He has come back to me, I told myself, he is home. But you are not here yet. You will not come tomorrow or the day after or the next. I must wait for your return. But the plums will not be able to hang on much longer. They are already losing their grasp. It is hard for me to wait as well, but I can pass the time. I have fasting to do, clients to see, friends who visit, clothes to sew, dreams to dream, pictures to draw and words to write. I’ll spend a day of silence going in and in and in.
I am a new person now that you are with me. I am a woman with a veracious longing. I am the desert and you are the water. When you are away, I return to my essence and know myself. It’s familiar, comfortable and rich. But when you are with me, I abandon the beauty of that place and reach for you. I can do nothing else, nothing. My longing has a life of it’s own and there is no stopping it. It’s a force running through me and its only path, surrender.
From nowhere you appeared in my life, changing it deeply and forever. Is it any wonder I have visions of you? My spirit lies open and waiting.
My aunt’s spirit came to visit me the night she died.
I remember it like a midnight fog.
I got up from my bed and let her in.
I don’t remember conversation, just the distinct sense of saying goodbye.
In the morning I woke, thinking it was just another dream, but as I made my way into the living room, past the piano, I noticed the front door ajar, and the reality of the experience came back.
The next week I received a letter from my uncle telling me she had passed, the same day and hour of her visit.
He enclosed a photo of her standing in the cornfield.
He said she was reaching skyward to show how tall the corn had grown, but I saw a farewell wave, a final and loving goodbye.
I’d written a letter ten years earlier, telling her of my love, and expressing all that she’d meant to me. My uncle told me she carried it in her apron pocket until the day she died.
written May 21, 2008