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The First Year, again

So, when I realized that in the scheme of things, in the scope and sequence of things, in the Great Design and Master Plan of things what time it was, well just imagine! I was both dismayed at not having known what I should have known, what I should have understood from the beginning, what I had never been told–yet which every sign had made so abundantly clear whenever I had kept all three eyes open: it was the the beginning again. It was the first year.

I sat for a while not knowing, and trying to feel. Knowing and trying not to feel. Feeling and wanting and not wanting to know what I now knew and must be responsible for. I felt the unction, the vibration: “work while it is day, for when the night cometh no man can work.” I heard The Voice: “What will ye?”

What will I, indeed, I thought! What will I and what won’t I? I remembered that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” And I looked down at remains of the harvest in front of me, of which I was still partaking. And this being the first year in the cycle, I made some decisions about what I would sow this Time. And I looked inward, both sad that I had found out late and yet relieved that it was not too late to sow something I could look forward to reaping.

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Happy Birthday…I think

My birthdays tend toward melancholy and nostalgia. I know better, and yet that’s how it is. At my age, it is difficult not to look back on the “glory days” that, oddly enough I didn’t know may prove to be the highlights of my life. It’s equally difficult not to regret what projects still have not been finished, what words left unsaid, what relationships abandoned, what dreams yet unrealized.

And so, yet again it is time to reassess. Scrap unworthy goals and set new ones. Determine what is worth pursuing and what paths are better not following. With–statistically speaking–half my life already over, what will I now do? Where will I go, and with whom?

But while I would be lying if I said I don’t want to do more things than I have done, truthfully what I am finding more imperative each day, is HOW I DO THOSE THINGS. That is to say, even if I only do one small thing, did I do it with integrity? Did I persevere until I saw the results I was initially looking for? Or did I allow myself to be dissuaded by nay-sayers (even those that insist in hanging out in my own head)?

At this point in my life, more important than accuracy, or even consistency is authenticity. If there is one thing I will celebrate this year, it is the blessing of still being on the path to being my most authentic self, and showing as much grace and mercy to myself as I show to others. Whatever I do, I will do it with boldness and with tenacity and with joy. Because that is who I am. I will give my strength to what I believe I should (until I see things differently) and then if need be, I will change my course, because that is OKAY.

This year, I want to live unapologetically–even if I do so quietly. I will accept that I don’t have to be popular, neither on social media, nor in my real human interactions. I will cast out the fear of judgment and criticism of people who have never taken the time to get to know me. I will give myself the love that I know I deserve. I will be my friend. I will embrace every part of me, and wish me well.

So, I guess this is a happy birthday, eh? Happy Birthday, ol’ gal! Happy Birthday.

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Man, but didn’t we laugh, though?

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Boy, but didn’t we laugh, though?

Sneaking in , right under their noses, no less

to explore each other,

Investigate;

Research.

Smiling through our kisses

While our hearts ached at the impossibility of it all,

The daydream;

The nightmare.

Pretending we didn’t know better,

We lied to make it better;

Making promises that would evaporate

With the dew on the grass in the morning sunshine.

Suffocating each other with kisses

And hardly able to keep up the frenzied rhythm

We set up with our bodies,

We crashed…only to begin again.

Oh! The sweet emergency of it all!

Dying to be together, we acted as though we could,

And snickered at everything,

Joked about everything, so lighthearted.

And held onto each other for life, wide-eyed in the silence.

In the dark.

Promising even that last day

That last time

That last kiss

That last smile…

Promising we would see each other again;

That we would belong to each other for the rest of our lives.

Sitting here now

Wondering where you are,

Wiping away the tears you would not allow me

To cry back then, I think, “What the hell was so funny…?”

Man, but didn’t we laugh, though?

5/06

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This Do in Remembrance of Me

I see the green toweluntitled

     and I remember.

I more than remember.

A flood of smells, sounds and other sensations

     wash over me,

crashing upon my awareness for the thousandth time.

I stand still; experience tells me the waves will pass.

But for now I am moved.

I am more than moved.

 The unbidden waves of remembrance threaten to knock me down:

The movement of your body against mine, in mine.

You are drenched, spent in every way.

Panting, hardly able to catch your breath,

you plead simply,

“Prestame la toalla.”

I move obediently in the dark to obey.

My life is to obey…or so it was.

I am keenly aware of your every motion in the darkness:

You rub the musky towel vigorously over every part of your body,

and I want to help you:

Your hair, your back, your chest…

My life it to help you…or so it was.

You will be healed through the blood I have shed;

You will be happy through my tears.

And it is a fair exchange. The sweat of your brow

 has brought me to life

Tonight.

Today

I hold the green towel and I hear,

“This is my body that was broken for you…”

But something seems wrong with that thought.

The seemingly merciless waves have subsided

and I wonder why I am clutching this green towel.

I remember myself.

There are other things that must be done around here.

©2006

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People: My First Grade Teacher

lgekkc3tperdvzis70v3  My favorite teacher was either my First Grade teacher, Mrs. Schwakowski, or my Third Grade Teacher, Mrs. Calabrese, who looked exactly like her husband, the band director of the town’s only high school.

Mrs. Schwakowski was thin, lanky, and athletic-looking. She always wore pants and sweaters. She had an angular face and a sharp-edged haircut that accentuated that fact even more.

She seemed so evenly good-natured. I guess that’s the thing I must have liked most about her. She neither snapped her fingers and referred to groups of her students as “people,” like one of the Sixth Grade teachers could be heard doing [People, get in line!]; nor did she coddle and fawn over her students as some of the Kindergarten teachers downstairs did.

I wasn’t her favorite student. If she had a pet it was Stephanie Shmidt. How could Stephanie not be anyone’s favorite with her long eyelashes that looked like they were snow frosted on the tips. How can anyone’s lashes look like that?! But I sure liked the way the way the teacher would entrust to me certain responsibilities that made me feel important and grown-up. Like when she would tell me to deliver the attendance to the office!

Honestly, though, I don’t really imagine that she had a favorite. She treated us all fairly and kept us all at the same distance. I’ve seen some teachers hug their students. Mrs. Schwakowski was not a hugger. I don’t even remember her giving any special attention to Angie, who used to make a point of crying every single day. To me, it was kind of embarrassing. I remember wondering if she was really supposed to be in the First Grade, after all, or if her parents had gotten her moved up a grade. You know how some of the more affluent people of the dominant culture used to get their kids moved up a grade all the time. At any rate, whenever Angie cried–that is, upon being dropped off by her mom; whenever it was time to change from one activity to another; or whenever it was time to go home–Mrs. Schwakowski would simply ignore her!

I’ve never met anyone so gifted at ignoring another human. It is an amazing skill that I cultivated while raising my own kids. Angie used to make a point of her crying. Some days it was obvious that even she was not that enthused about her task and she’d have to put forth extra effort just to work herself up into her usual frenzy. First she would manufacture big crocodile tears. Then the whimpering would start. With each whimper, her bottom lip would pout further and further outward. Then she’d begin the pathetic wail that would lead anyone with a less-experienced ear to believe that there was truly something wrong with this child. But when this would avail nothing, then next step in her routine would be to ratchet up her cries to those of the despondent; and then the outraged because Mrs. Schwakowski was as unmoved as a mountain impervious to pebbles tossed at it.

Angie’s entire performances from start to finish never lasted more than four minutes from start to finish. And every day we were as shocked and happily surprised to notice that because of the quiet and firm impasse created by the force of Mrs. Schwakowski’s personality, Angie had suddenly become just as engrossed in coloring or writing or reading as the rest of us.

But ignoring Angie wasn’t her only gift. Mrs. Schwakowski commanded her troop in a way that I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a woman command, direct, and instruct 30 small individuals. I don’t remember ever hearing her voice raised in shrill tones like I used to hear Mrs. Daniels. I don’t remember her making sarcastic remarks that might go over our heads like the Fifth Grade teacher, Mrs. Summers, or the Fourth Grade teacher, Mrs. Edminston.

Her presence alone held sway. Her wish was our command. Somehow her will became our own and we found ourselves repositories of vast amounts of knowledge: how to read long sequences of ABC’s strung together into words and sentences; how to manipulate those same ABC’s on paper, creating our own words; how to stick blocks together to represent numbers we could never have imagined as real things; and above all, how to color inside the lines!

You might imagine that her somewhat boyish haircut outlining her facial features might make her intimidating. Especially since under her daily sweater she only had tiny insinuations instead of the big mounds that motherly teachers sometimes smothered their charges with. But she was approachable. She had a just-right warm candle smell, like a person who only uses body spritzers instead of colognes and perfumes. And her skin–you could only ever see her face and hands–was the exact peachiness of the “flesh-colored” Crayola crayon that comes in the big box of 68.   At the end of every single day, Mrs. Schwakowski looked as quietly energetic and unruffled as she had that morning. Her goodbye was as calmly expectant as her morning hello. I have never known a more person more constant. I wish that every single child who has to attend public school could have a Mrs. Schwakowski as her First Grade teacher.