"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, September 1, 2008


The three story school house sits in dark brick implacability, as it has for decades,  square in the middle of a town block. The perimeter is lined by buckled sidewalk, tired grass and ancient horse chestnuts. The flag pole is off to the right of  deep steps leading to  double doors that open onto acres of scuffed hardwood floors. For five years, from second grade to sixth,  I  sit with my classmates on these steps to have our group picture taken with our teacher. I am always the one with short bangs, long braids, and a smile I wish desperately someone would see through.

Whenever the wind blows, the metal clip that holds the flag in place clangs in a syncopated beat against the metal pole. My mind tells me that there has to be more than one clip, but it is only one that I ever hear. I don't know why that is. It is the constant song of the clip and pole that keeps me steady company for those five years. 

Some wind ghost has been playing the music of that flag pole in my head all week. Sometimes it's a real sound. The wind chimes in my back yard. Something banging against the old milk can welcoming visitors from my front porch. Even a particular metallic ring of a car door closing. Sometimes the only vibrations are happening somewhere deep inside of me.

It's lonely, this sound. When I hear it, I'm the only person on the playground of that old school. A lost little girl for whom life is bleak, and who waits for a time when she can be free. Being alone isn't all bad.  It means I'm safe from those who will hurt me. It also means I have no hope of being close enough to anyone who might love me.

It's compelling, this sound, full of longing and urgency. It promises something more, better, safer - if only I can hold out. It tolls like a bell marking the hours of my life, a life that can't start until I'm somewhere else.

It's heartbreaking, this sound. 

It's the heartbreak I feel now. The heartbreak of a child who will never know clean, unconditional parental love, and who will believe it's because of something wrong with her. The heartbreak of a child who survives the desolation of that loveless life by believing she can make someone love her that way - when she's older and in charge of her own life. The heartbreak of a child mind contained in an almost old body just beginning to realize that there is no way to have that unconditional love. The window closed long ago.

That child will always be alone in the schoolyard, imprisoned, and kept company only by the lonely music of the wind playing metal against metal.  Unless she can finally accept that her loss is real, and permanent, and in no way her fault. She's tired of the schoolyard and the lonely company of its ghost children and ghost music and ghost hopes. She longs for substance. 

I hear you, my dearest school girl. I'm here for you, with you, enfolding you. It is time to release the ghosts, to grieve the loss, to face yourself. You're ready. I'm ready. The wind is ready to carry us both up and away and into. Love. Life. At last.

This is my third  or fourth grade picture. I'm in the second row from the top, fifth from the left.


Mark Lyons said...

I picked you out right away :) the pretty one with the smile. I'm sorry for the pain and the lonliness that you felt...and still sometimes feel. And I am thankful...and hopeful...that through your writing and continued introspection, healing will come.



kario said...

The mother in me aches for the little girl that feels this way. That little girl has such unprecedented strength and she has held on for so long to hear the words you're offering her.

Please let her know I'm joining you in offering her boundless love and warmth. I may not be her mother, but I will love her and see through that smile.

You are amazing.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Heartbreakingly beautiful. I love you and everything about you.

Nancy said...

Your words, as always, moved me like the winds that are stirring in you. You have an amazing way of putting emotion on the page so that it is three dimensional. Beautiful words from a beautiful soul.

contemporary themes said...

I could have written that! Only not as beautifully as you have. I weep with your little girl and mine and the permanency of the loss we must accept and grieve.

It's so hard, though, to believe it wasn't my fault, even as I feel and experience the rejection of those I love now who want nothing to do with me anymore.

"It also means I have no hope of being close enough to anyone who might love me."

FUCK! That's how I feel now in my 40s.

You, my dear friend, are the most awesome person! I love you with all of my heart JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!

Your writing is brilliant. I say that every time, and every time I mean it FULLY and COMPLETELY.


contemporary themes said...

Oh, and you are so adorable! I clicked on the photo and picked you out right away! : )

Anonymous said...

Funny, I picked you out right away. I see the smile. I see the pain of not knowing unconditional love. As your healing continues, know that you are loved now....unconditonally.
Your beautiful writing, as always, goes right to my soul.

Jerri said...

Your writing shakes my bones, Deb. Shakes my bones.

Wish I had some way to convey how beyond beautiful this is. You are.

Love to you. Then. Now. Always.

contemporary themes said...