Under This Tree

Under this tree, beneath the tall and extended branches, so very thick with leaves, I stand here alone.

I am hidden from the sun, and I melt away into the shadows cast over me.

Sometimes I can feel the other children looking at me.  I can hear them whispering.

Under this tree, I turn away from them.  I run my fingers down the deep grooves of the bark, slowly and intently.  I tiptoe in circles, balancing myself on top of the outstretched roots that rise in and out of the soil. I wrap my arms around the thick, coarse trunk, but my hands don’t even meet halfway.

Under this tree, time passes ever so slowly. Day after day, the other children run past me, laughing and shrieking, exploring parts of the playground which I’ve never even been to.

Days go by, and every day the air grows a bit colder.  And when the leaves begin to change from a rich green to the shades of the autumn rainbow, I am relieved.

Days go by, and the thick ice atop the branches weighs them ever so slightly closer to earth.  I can no longer find the roots to dance on as they are hidden beneath crunchy snow.

I am so very cold.

Days go by. Finally, the sun returns, and I welcome the warmth on my face.

I am relieved.

I wonder now why the other children still have not found me.

Have they been looking for me, wanting me to join in their games? But how could they see me underneath this tree?

For a moment, I think about calling out.  I imagine myself waving, seeking their attention.  I want to play, I think.

But instead, I turn away.

When the school year comes to an end, and my days on this playground are over, I am relieved.

Because under this tree –  my protector, my only friend – I have survived.

 

 

Written from the perspective of a child who is lonely, bullied, or different.  May it serve as a reminder for us and our children to pay attention to those around us, say hello, and include others.  Our simple display of kindness can impact the life of another in a very big way.

Into Words

                          

…while awake, the lens of my mind focuses, capturing images in all the places I exist, where moments, feelings, sounds, and words become snapshots which sit quietly in my mind, until each image grows into a splinter that prods, pierces, pleads, twists, until at last drips down, from my mind, through my heart, into my hand, onto paper, translated into a voice of its own, freeing my mind, for now, til I find myself awake once again…

for myself and anyone else who feels the need to write – no matter what we may feel the need to say, no matter who or who may not read it, or how insignificant it may seem….just write…what a wonderful way to give the snapshots of our lives meaning…

Climbing Tree

To touch the sky

From a tree so high

As a bird

Must dare to fly

Gone from here

No place near

Spread my wings

Farewell to fear

It’s time I go

Will they know?

Miss me, yes

Or miss me, no

 

As a child, I spent hours playing in a tree in my front yard, hoping to reach the top and beyond…

Good Shoes

She just wants nice shoes.  Black, size 8, and pretty.  That’s all she wants.

“Nice shoes for church this  Easter Sunday,” she tells her husband.

So out he goes, stopping at the first shoe store in town he sees.  This one has red for sale signs in the windows.  He walks up and down the aisles of tall shelves lined with boxes until he finds her size.  The women around him are standing before the mirrors, looking down at the reflections of their outstretched feet. He pardons himself as he walks between them and their mirrors.

It doesn’t take long before he finds what seems like the perfect pair.  He carries the box over to the counter.  “I wish my husband would shoe shop for me,” says the friendly woman at the register. “What a lucky lady!”

He nods shyly, thanks her and leaves the store.

When he gets home, his wife is sitting in her wheelchair, just as she was when he’d left her.  Pillows propped on each side of her body help to keep her upright. She asks if he’d had any trouble. “No, and they were cheap too,”  he says with a smirk.

As he takes them out of the box, he reminds her that they aren’t anything fancy. She waves her hand at him, telling him he knows she doesn’t care about those sorts of things.  He opens up the box and spreads the white tissue paper apart like a curtain, revealing a surprise. He pulls out just one black dress shoe, smooth and shiny with a flat heel, and slightly pointed in the front. She smiles and tells him they’re great.

He kneels down uncomfortably on one knee before her. He lifts one of her thin – but very heavy – calves toward him.   While holding her heel with one hand, he uses his other hand to gently rock the new shoe back and forth until it finally comes to rest over her hard, still foot.  She smiles, and he hears relief in her voice when she says it fits.

He stands up and looks her over. She’s trying to turn her foot towards her eyes –  just like the women in the store were.  But she can’t.  And, unlike those worn by the women in the store, he knows that these shoes his wife is wearing will never even touch the ground.

“I can’t wait until Sunday,” she says, her eyes on her new shoe.

“I know,” he says thoughtfully as he collects the tissue paper and box.  “It’ll be a good day…”

A moment in time between my Mother and Father, teenage sweethearts. My Mother passed away from complications from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the age of 46. My Father was her full-time caregiver, as her illness robbed her of the ability to walk or care for herself at all. The love between them was extraordinary and rare. 

One Last Moment

She’s gone.

He knows. No breath. No movement.

He’d lifted her from her chair to the floor when he’d found her, placing the blanket beside her that had covered her as she’d slept. When he’d set her down, he’d heard the huff of her final exhale leave her body.

He feels himself slip away from this world and enter a place he’s never been before.  He sways as he looks down on her. Her head is turned to one side. Her thinning brown hair is pressed against the side of her still beautiful face. Dressed in one of his t-shirts, her legs are bent in the same position they were when she’d fallen asleep the evening before.

Maybe she’s just- and he pushes his hands against her shoulder.

No movement.

He runs his rough fingers through his graying hair and looks about the darkened room. Everyone’s coming, he says out loud. But no one can hear him.

His daughters – their daughters – come through the front door and enter the room. Cold air follows them and sunlight spills in, but disappears quickly when the door closes. There is wailing and shuddering, and they take turns huddling over her.  They speak to her in shrill cries. I love you, Mommy, they say.

But she does not reply.

One daughter shakily pulls out lip balm.  She trembles as she smears the lotion across her mother’s lips.

A car arrives outside and he tells his daughter’s it’s time.  They stumble about the room silently, wiping the tears from their chins.

The strangers are ready to take her, so he moves away from his wife.

Wait – he whispers to them.  They step back respectfully.

He kneels down beside her again and covers her bare legs with the blanket.  As he leans in close to her face, he is once again alone with her.  He hears nothing except the beating of his own heart.  Betty, he whispers, stroking the hair away from her peaceful face.  She’s the fifteen year old girl he’d met when he was just seventeen…When she became a woman, he became a man…When she became a mother, he became a father…

When her illness seemed to steal everything from her – her ability to walk, to feed, to bathe herself – there was a constant between them: the truest love they’d each ever known.

And while he knew this moment would come, where she would leave this world, he is not ready to let her go.  He feels a panic arise in his chest.

Betty, he whispers again, placing his hand on her cold cheek.  He finds her left hand and lifts it close to him. He purses his lips, not wanting to do this, not ready to do this.  He grips the small gold wedding band from her finger, twisting it slowly as it makes its way off and into his calloused hand.  He places her hand gently at her side and stands up quickly.

It’s done, he thinks. He gives the strangers a nod, and they move in towards her.

His daughter’s, their heads down, make their way outside. Suddenly, as his girls disappear outside and out of his sight, he stops.  He opens up his fist and looks thoughtfully at the ring in his palm. Slowly, he lifts it and slides it over his pinky finger.

Knowing he cannot turn back, he walks towards the cold air coming through the wide open door, and he heads out into the sunlight.

Mom and Dad. They would’ve been together for almost 40 years now. Mom lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) seven years ago at the age of 46. …Thank you for reading…

Nana’s Love

The nest of branches above provides shade from the summer sun as I swing in the quiet backyard.  I’m  not used to being all alone out here, but that’s alright because Nana is inside.  Besides, I didn’t even have to run the fastest to reach my favorite swing first today.

Although it may look like an ordinary swing to most, my swing is anything but ordinary.  It doesn’t matter to me that the white vinyl seat is speckled with stains, or that the chains that suspend it are creaky and rusted over.  This swing happens to be the highest swinging swing around, especially compared to the one that dangles pitifully beside it.

I watch Nana’s figure through the window. She’s swatting flies that have found their way to her blueberry muffins on the kitchen table.  She’s whistling one of her tunes.  I wish I could whistle that way, with those low dips and high-pitched trills.  And her lips never seem to tire the way mine do.  She says it’s because she’s Irish and that she’d be delighted to teach me, but I’d have to practice a lot.

I’m swinging high, so very high, and I lean my head back, close my eyes, and extend my legs out as far as I can. I feel dizzy as I shift back and forth between the sky and trees that hang overhead.  In an instant, one hand loses grip and my bottom slides off the seat – my favorite seat – and I’m soaring backwards, finding  myself flat on a moss and leaf covered heap.

I lie there stunned for what seems like a very long time because nothing like this has ever happened to me. There’s a pain in my left arm, a pain I’ve never known in my seven years of living. I gather myself up, dead grass and twigs twisted into my hair, and I call for Nana while running towards the house.

Her eyes widen when she sees me and she leans in close, putting her hands on my shoulders. I pull my bad arm close to my chest and tell her what happened.  She nudges me to the sofa, where I sit rigidly and try hard not to cry. She leaves and quickly returns with a bag of ice, which she presses against my sore arm. Just leave it there awhile, she tells me.

For the rest of the day, Nana’s brow is low on her face and she doesn’t sit.  She wonders aloud if she should take me to the hospital. Papa comes up from the cellar and Nana tells him, maybe she broke it. Just give it time, he says with a thick brogue, for it’s sure to be just bruised.

Night falls and I’m still pressed against the couch, which I hate, but Nana keeps telling me not to move much – just in case.   She delivers me a chicken pot pie, my favorite.  And when she sees my eyelids begin to fall, she startles me and tells me not to fall asleep – we are going to the hospital.

I sit straight up.  I’m wide awake now. I’ve never been taken to the hospital before.

We ride off into the darkness, out of the country and into the city.  When we arrive, she holds my good hand as she leads me  through the door, then to a desk, and finally to a room of our very own.

After some time, we  leave and make our way back home, the city lights disappearing behind us.  It’s after two a.m.,  but I’m not tired at all.  I sit in the backseat and run my good fingers across the hard white shell that will cover my arm for the next six weeks. The doctor had said it was broken – split right down the middle of the bone!  Nana says loads of people will want to sign it. I look down, imagining it scribbled with all the names of people who will surely want to know what happened.  She says I need to keep it dry, and I wonder how I’ll do this since I’m in the lake every day.  Don’t you worry, she tells me, we will tie a bag around it.

It’s early morning when she tucks me in.  The worried look from her face is gone and I’m glad.  I smile and she smiles back as she leans in with her familiar kiss on my forehead. Go to sleep, she says, closing the door behind her.  And in the dark, I place my good hand over my shell and I close my eyes. And, like Nana told me to, I go to sleep.

The lake in the small town where I spent my childhood summers with my Nana and Papa… 

The Girl In the Picture

This photograph I find in my scattered mess of pictures causes a quiet gasp to escape me.

I have not seen this one in many years.

I don’t often physically hold photos in my hand anymore.  The photos in my home are encased in a frame or in an album that’s rarely opened. Some stay in a pile because there is no other place for them.

Each photo pulls on a different heart string.  Some make us laugh, some make us cry.  And some just make us realize how fleeting this life is.

But every photo has something in common.  Each one is a snapshot of a split second that has been captured forever.

This photo I’ve found today stands out from the rest in my pile.  It’s crinkly and peeling in places. I run my finger across the image, as though touching it will pull it from the thin paper and bring it to life.

There’s a little girl in the picture whom I recognize. She’s about ten years old here, a beaming smile across her genuinely happy looking face. Her head is leaning to the side, a gesture of her innocent nature. She is holding a baby bird in her cupped hands. It’s covered in a downy fur, its neck outstretched and its mouth wide open for food.

I remember this little girl well now. As she grew older, all the things that mattered to her the most became less and less important. They took a backseat to life, to the chaos around her, to all the things that were slowly chipping away at her childlike innocence and goodness.

Fear began to replace anticipation. Doubt began to replace hope. Tears began to replace laughter. Seriousness began to replace lightheartedness.

Darkness replaced light.

I hold the picture, feeling sad for the girl who lost her way in a world that did not quite turn out the way she thought it would.

I give her one last look – her easy eyes, her sun-kissed skin, the young bird she likely watched fly free from her hands – and I tuck the photo deep into the pile that has become a reminder of things passed.

A feeling of determination stirs inside me, and I decide then that I need to find my way back to that little girl, who is now surely a woman.

And that woman is me.

Although not always a simple journey, you too can discover that you still are the same person you once were,

no matter all you’ve gone through.

The child in all of us still exists.

~ Jackie