A friend posted a passage on facebook from a book entitled, “Make the Ordinary Come Alive.” Kate rarely posts so when she does I always take special notice. It spoke about teaching our children to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. The simple descriptions of finding joy in the taste of fruit or the pleasure in holding someone’s hand marked everyday events for us, ones that I guess at times have been taken for granted. It’s in the small moments in life that we find our most treasured memories, I was reminded of that this afternoon as I stood in the street between two familiar homes reliving the most ordinary of days with two people I remembered loving as family.
Later the girls and I had taken Ruby for a ride. I glanced in my rear view mirror and excitedly demanded that Anna quickly take a picture. Since Kyle first brought Ruby home as a puppy from the cattle farm he has been asking, begging, pleading with her to stick her head out the car window and enjoy the ride. He has a way of always showing me the extraordinary in the ordinary moments, it’s one of the many reasons why I love him so much. “What?” the girls exclaimed. I shared that Ruby was finally doing what Kyle had asked after so many months, she was enjoying the ride.
Enjoying the ride
“The two little boys pressed their faces against the window and watched in horror as Mr. O’Neil lit the match on fire and set their cards ablaze. Devastation pulled on their hearts and filled their throats with a heavy air. Neither of them could speak as they witnessed the only piece of their childhood being torched before their eyes. Tears silently streamed down their faces. Kevin put his arm around his little brother in an attempt to console him, but John was already lost .” Medillia’s Lament, The Novel
When I came to this part in the script, I sat up in bed and set the pages on my lap. The connections to my own life were uncanny but after reading this scene I needed a break. I would be rewriting a scene from my own childhood, one that would impact me for the rest of my life. Jody set the scene with a quick sentence or two, the dialogue in quotes and then it was done. My mind however took hold of the short section on the page and brought it to life once again, intertwining it with images from my own childhood when my dad thought he was doing me a favor and threw my blankie into our fireplace in the living room. I remember watching in a state of terror while tears streamed down my cheeks. Muted by the knowledge that cries would go unheard or only make matters worse, I stood there and watched as the blazing fire singed each of the yarns that had been knitted into the one thing that made me feel safe in the world.
Jody has been needling me to go faster with the conversion of the script into a novel, and by all rights I should have been finished by now. It’s hard to explain out loud that without him even knowing it as I push further into the conversion process, I am actually rewriting parts of my life that I’ve buried and wanted to forget. My son would call it a coincidence; two strangers coming together to work on a project. A screenwriter who finished a script years ago and a writer without even knowing it at the time, lived it.
The quiet, cool air of the morning has lulled me into a sleepy dream state. The house is still asleep and the barn closed from last night when Kyle came home from baseball. I can almost keep out the thoughts that want to spin and that beg me to revisit a time so long ago, almost. It seems like a different world now, far away and with different faces and memories that hardly connect to where I am now, except for the ones that include Aaron and Anna. They remind me of how very different life was back then, the good and the bad.
Loss seems so empty and shallow when it looms over us. Yet it comes down bearing an incredible weight, heavy with sorrow, regret for time lost, and an unwillingness to let go or even believe that life can take away so quickly something that took years to create. Loss questions our ability to move forward, to rebuild in the knowledge that nothing is permanent or ever will be. It taunts us as we wake up each morning hoping to be refreshed but still aching from the day before. We become an empty shell ourselves, making our way through our day finding some comfort in routine and the ordinary.
I’ve been replaying old movies in my mind, reliving so many different moments. It’s amazing how with the flip of a switch you can travel back to a time as if it were yesterday and be granted a showing of memories that were once forgotten. The smells and views of my thirties seem tangible as the recollections move forward and bring back feelings of giddiness, joy, friendship, and love. My fingers want to move furiously across my keyboard and record each of the moments I thought I had somehow lost before they are forgotten again. Somehow it doesn’t seem right though as they occurred before the time I began recording my journey, blogging my days into a journal of life happenings. They are mine now and mine alone as my friend has left the space we shared so unexpectedly and I should treasure them and keep watch over them, remembering with love as I replay the countless escapades and follies for an audience of one.
We made our way up and down the rows of the strawberry field at Spillers’ Farm in Wells, Maine yesterday. Keeping our eyes out for bright red patches to draw us down close to the ground, our bodies moved slowly and carefully as if on the prowl. The sky was a Simpson blue spotted with white clouds which provided an occasional canopy of shade from the high Summer sun. Growing up in New England means picking berries and apples as you move through the summer months. In Keene, I used to eat more than I put in the bowl my mom handed me when we emptied out of the family car, at Emery’s farm it meant keep a watching eye on Anna as she toddled through the field stepping on plants, and now I’ve become the main force in filling our bin as the girls continually search out the perfect berry.
Our fridge is filled with tupperware containers of strawberries waiting for their fate to be decided. When Aaron was young it was always strawberry shortcake or angel food dripping with fresh berries in their own sweetened syrup. Family always visited for the annual Strawberry Festival held on the last Saturday in June, our backyard sat right behind the grounds and we could hear the music and crowds as they milled around the crafters and the kids follied in the games and activities. Our family has grown older and wider, our time has been moved in different directions but there is still something sweet in the memories found in yesterday.
Mrs. Poli sent me the most beautiful message today. It reminded me o what it’s like to come from a place of love, not fear. Sometimes we get lost in the ugliness of life, we fixate on the negatives, mix-ups, and regrets of better days gone by. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of “he said, she said” and forget the authentic moments that have taken place between two people, the ones we should hold onto. She reminded me of some of those special memories created so many years ago when I was living a different life, in a different place, in a different time. Her words sent in a flood of images that warmed my heart and gently wiped away my tears of loss. It’s in those memories that I choose the love I once felt so warmly as they wrapped around my heart and blessed my being; the fragrant smell of flowers as we weeded together in new gardens planted, the sweet sensation of Maine blueberries sliding down our throats as we choked on laughter, the hours spent shopping for nothing as we waited for 11:00 pick up, and the Christmas Eve enjoyed across the street hunkered in while the kids played and we became young again drinking martinis and giggling like teenagers. Sometimes in the dirty streets of life we forget where we came from and all the beautiful images seen along the way, before we may have gotten separated from one another. Then when it’s least expected there is something or someone to bring us back to where we are meant to be, in a place that is created from love and a treasure trove of memories that will always endure.
photo by Anna Grace
Kyle’s nieces were sleeping over and I wanted to grab something for dessert. We had left Ogunquit beach filled with salt air, sunshine, and wind. The sun had played a game of hide and seek with the large, billowing, white clouds. It played such a great game that we only caught sight of it for half the time we were there. The tide was at extreme low and provided the perfect bridge to cross the river to the other side. The sun had been able to warm the slow ripples as they lapped against the sandbars and it made us stay a while and let our feet lead us in no particular direction.
After hours of walking up and down the river and through the crashing waves of the open ocean our stomachs demanded a change. I turned left onto route one and headed towards home. As we passed all the familiar landmarks, Pie in the Sky came to my mind and a craving from long ago emerged. We pulled into a small space to the left of the old, quaint building and I urged the kids to come inside. I wanted them to smell the smells, feel the ovens, and take in the atmosphere of the worn torn space where pies had been baked since I was in high school and probably even long before.
We opened the screechy screen door and stepped up onto the wide wooden floor boards that had been worn from constant Summer traffic. The aroma greeted us with a strong hello as if it came up to our faces to welcome each individually. I had forgotten how busy the little space was, filled with counters, tables, blackboards, cooking utensils, and nostalgic nick knacks. Libby spotted three glass jars with gigantic cookies and asked if she could have one, Anna requested a pie that wasn’t filled with fruit, and I couldn’t stop thinking about their Maine blueberry pie which always had heart shapes cut from the top crust and arranged in the sweetest pattern.
When I called Kyle to let him know we had picked up dessert he said, “thank you, now I’ll finally get to try Pie in the Sky.”
I looked back over my shoulder and saw Anna and Libby standing where I stood more than thirty years ago as my mom shook the seed packet into each of their palms while she took turns holding their hands to keep the treasure safe. I moved quietly along the rows pulling up new seedlings of grass that had eagerly popped up overnight in the warm, rich soil urged on by the morning soaking from the sprinkler. The dirt was dark, pungent, and silky. The weeds pulled out easily as their roots released their hold from the Earth. I could hear both the girls small voices as they replied to my mom’s directions on spacing and depth. My heart warmed as she asked them the same questions she used to ask me. This farm has enriched our lives in so many ways, today’s memory will be bottled and added to our new collection.
I lost my little girl yesterday as she headed off to the beach with a friend. Somewhere in all the confusion and chaos that comes with the last day of school I forgot to watch over her carefully, making sure I had packed everything she would need for her time away from home. The kitchen was filled with scurried activity as we rushed not to be late, wanting to just make it through one more day until Summer was all our own. I had meetings after work, both girls were heading off in separate directions to avoid boredom hanging around waiting for me. It’s been the three of us since we moved out of their dad’s house nearly five years ago, something I’ve grown accustomed to, even loved how it has all worked out. Anna left the house in leggings and a t’shirt, she had pulled her hair up into a messy bun and slung her backpack over her shoulder as she ran out to catch the bus for last time before becoming a teenager. I made her give me a hug, more than a lean in and told her to be kind and polite as I handed her some folded up money for lunch.
Somewhere in the late afternoon, between rushing to get Libby to horseback riding lessons and bringing Rowie back to her mom I received a text from Anna asking if she could get dropped off by 6:30. First I wanted to know if she was having fun, she replied “a lot”. I answered, “Of course”, it was the last day of school and more than anything I’ve always just wanted my littles to be happy. On the way to Portsmouth this morning Anna shared this picture that she had taken of herself at the beach yesterday, I stared at the image in front of me, searching for a familiar face. Where was the little girl I had read to at night, taught how to garden, knit and paint on her easel in the sunroom? My little girl was lost. I squinted and held her phone closer as my eyes welled up and I tried to smile. I had lost my little girl yesterday on the last day of school but in her place I found Anna filled with the promise and glimpse of everything she will one day become.
“There were a few Tufted Titmice and a couple of Chickadees. It reminded me of the days so long ago, when I had spotted a snowy owl at Fort Foster. I remembered the animals that my brother had come face to face with while building our home on Gerrish Island. It also reminded me to slow down. I realized that there is more at work in this world than my personal journey and dramas. As a result, I’ve been trying to let life unfold and equalize into normalcy. The beautiful birds in their state of quiet peace gave me a lift, just knowing that life, and its many cycles, will continue with or without worries or fret. If you allow yourself to step back, and just be an observer to all that is occurring around you, you will be amazed at the new level of insight and peace you will achieve.” pg. 165 A Little Lift, Writing to Live
I wrote this more than three years ago but somehow the words I conjured up then seem to have just as much meaning today. Life is a constant push and pull checking to see how each of us will respond when challenged. It’s a matter of choice, the only control we have is that of our own reaction or inaction. There is a quiet wisdom in recognizing that we always have a choice.
It’s here, finally here, after one hundred and seventy five early wake ups. As I sit here and write I hear a backpack being dragged down the stairs, with a loud thump as it passes each riser and lands on the tread below. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation as all the possibilities beckon to us to come and play. Someone posted today as being bittersweet, saying hello and goodbye in the same breath. It’s the age old right of passage that touches each of us in different ways, memories of myself and my childhood friends as we belted out “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” on the last bus ride home fills my mind as I get the kids ready and off to finish up their school year.