Saturday, May 1, 2010

Louder Than Any Crazy Storm

If a forgotten feeling falls down inside of you, can anyone hear it? Can you? Can I?

If we can’t hear it, is it really there?

Last night, driving home from a wonderful night out, dinner with my daughter Carol and some live music played by very near and dear new friends, a tree that had fallen in my inner forest threatened to re-sprout itself. It was a tattle-tale bitch wad of a tree, with limbs reaching out and a knot-holed throat ready to scream of my previous bloody murder thoughts.

It really caught me at my guard, gave me that “what the hell would make me think about that again” kind of feeling.

The roads were shiny as we drove home from the roadhouse, the fried food, the good music. Carol, my eldest, and I were both tired, happy to be heading home at 8:30 pm, although also a bit humbled by the somewhat early hour for a Friday night, a rare night out.

Rounding, the bend towards her upper duplex in the center of our small town, was a welcome sight. Our sighs filled the cab of the truck, her relief to get home to bed, and my relief to be closer to home and soon off the shiny misleading rain-splattered roads.

We guessed, both of us shooting eyes upwards to the lamp-lit upper windows above the old meat market, whether or not the girls were still up. Her duplex rests up there, in the sky, over this old part of town. Were they torturing their sitter, my youngest daughter, their Aunt Ali? Were they coloring, reading or watching a movie? Who was up, who was down, or maybe they were all asleep.

“It doesn’t look like it rained very hard here,” I said, since that was our biggest worry, going out during storm-warning weather bulletins which had finally reduced themselves to weather watches and then trickled down to nothing to be afraid of.

“I guess not,” Carol answered, “or wait, maybe it did, look at the muddy patch in the drive.”

The mud wash from the driveway was wet and smooth like clay. I steered the truck around this, and pulled on further into the parking lot, to my usual turn-around spot.

As I did this, the truck’s low beams landed on a fallen tree branch, in the limey grey and wet muck of the upper drive.

“Wow,” I said.

“What?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing,” except that it was, and so I continued with, “It’s just that, well, that tree branch, and this storm. It reminds me of a time when I was little, all of us, and there were storm warnings. Mom for some reason would always go outside to check on things, and leave us inside.”

The truck was in total pause, caught partway through it’s usually Y turn-around maneuver, and I looked towards Carol’s face in the dark.

“Well, this one dark night, Dad wasn’t home,” I ventured, “it was lightening really, really bad, and during one flash, the driveway was empty. During a second flash, a branch appeared in the driveway where it had once been clear. We had all been kneeling on the couch looking out the window and one of us joked that the branch was Mom’s skeleton.”

“Weird,” Carol said.

“I know,” I continued, “because we were really young, like your girls upstairs. I couldn’t have been more than Lili’s age. We had to have been, the four of us, really young. And I remember for a second thinking I wished it was true, but then two seconds later my pajamas felt damp with fear, or maybe it was guilt because what I had wished for was really mean.”

“Grandma was mean.”

“She wasn’t your grandma then,” I offered, and then realized that she didn’t even feel like my mother now.

“I know, but …” Carol attempted.

I finished the Y turnaround and parked near her back door. Maybe I lied, my Y turnarounds, are more X, Y, Z-ish, but in any event, I got her to the door. She exited the truck, stepping out over the flat, but soft mud washout. A silly part of me wanted to tell her to come back and we’d make footprints! Instead, I excited my side of the vehicle, skirting the rain slicked muck, and we ran up her back stairs, into her warm upper duplex. Their home.

We managed to get all the way into the lamp-lit living room before the kids heard us. Lili was already falling asleep under a blanket in a nearby chair. Alice was on the carpet where Ruthie and Scarlet were drawing on white recycled typing paper, print side down, their heads close to their work. Our shadows fell over them.

The room came alive.

We all talked at once about the rain, and if anyone was scared, and the girls asked us what we had for dinner and if we really saw “Cookie” the woman in the band. Without even meeting Cookie they all had been giggly and intrigued by the woman’s name when I told them where I was taking their mother for the evening, to hear “Joey and Cookie” play music.

I passed on a message to the girls that Cookie wanted to be sure that I’d tell them the reason her nickname was “Cookie” was because that’s the only thing they could get her to eat when she was a child. The name stuck, a mother’s love and teasing to get beyond the fuss of a picky eater. Marie.

Alice gathered her things, we all said goodbye and our “see you tomorrows,” since we almost always see each other every day these days. Alice and I ran down the back stairs, out to the running vehicle, leaving my oldest with her three little girls, everyone safe, inside, tucked and solid. No one was scared. There were no cold sweats or guilty fears over strange wishes that are never going to come true, over crazy sad notions.

On the way home, I dropped Alice at a friend’s house, an overnight she was attending in order to work on a school project for the rest of the weekend. I arrived home to find a less than coherent dog, and a snoring Mark on the couch. I readied for bed, slapping a furry hinder lightly and tweaking a fleshy warm elbow, in order to get the dog and my lover to follow me to the bedroom.

There was the jingling of dog tags, as Walter stretches, but not too far since he intended to curl up in the chair in our room immediately. Darkness fell and with it quiet as Mark has this uncanny ability to shut off the lamps and the TV remotes in one full swoop. For my part, I hurry to the bedroom in the fading light, to hit the wall switch, so I don’t trip and fall on shadows in the hall. That’s our routine. It’s how we keep each other safe.

Mark, still getting over influenza, drifted back to sleep in moments. If dogs could snore, Walter would have been through 50 logs by then already.

My sleep last night, however, proved to be wicked in process, disruptive to say the least. The room was humid. Everything hung heavy. I contemplated again whether or not we needed a dehumidifier for muggy, rainy days and nights. The blankets smothered me.

I eventually left the bedroom and slept on the couch, taking comfort in the cooler breezes blowing in off the low-lying marsh areas on that side of the house. The chirpy, chirpy nighttime froggy sounds from the pond at the end of our road finally lulled me to sleep.

In the end, I woke feeling refreshed, which surprised me since my initial trip through La-La Land was slow going, but I somehow had spent most of the night in the Land of Deep, Restorative Sleep. Maybe this particular storm had in fact washed me clean.

Early this morning, I heard from Carol that she and the girls had a version of the “Sound of Music” playing out in her bedroom after we left them last night. All three girls came in and told her they might get scared later, if it stormed again, so maybe they should have a slumber party in Mommy’s room.

It never stormed. She let them say anyway.

The scenario made me grin. I make my coffee, and spy two photos on the fridge, two of my favorite photo [things]. My middle daughter Bekah cuddles with me in one, the year Alice was born. In the second, Bekah stands in our front drive, the day she moved out for job and college. I see these pictures several times a day, every time I’m on that side of the kitchen, alongside the fridge. Sometimes I go there extra, and on purpose, just to look.

As I reached for my sweetener packets along the back counter this morning, a breeze arrived to tickle my forearm. I continued to gaze at the photos and think over the last 12 hours.

I smiled again. I felt as if I might smile, again and again. It shouldn’t but the again-and-again smiling feeling always strikes me as odd, like an “okay, what’s up with that” kind of guilty feeling.

I smiled some more, really tempting the gods who really aren’t watching, really aren’t keeping track.

I was amused at how, in rethinking the previous night, something wicked had came up, but it quickly quieted inside me, unable to fight the noise of what’s really out of ahead of me, and who. These days, though quiet, are louder than any past disturbance could ever be!

Adding milk, stirring my coffee, it became clear to me this morning that the lines are no longer blurred. I understand why I smile, and why it’s okay to smile again and again, and again. No one is going to get caught. No one is going to be hurt. It’s really okay to beam, be happy, content, standing in the place where I choose to live [life to its fullest].

Trees fall in all kinds of forests, and maybe in the dark brambly woods of my mind, during particularly stormy nights, the zombied limbs I thought were buried threatened to return. Perhaps they can and will continue to make strong efforts to come alive and infect my mind, weaken my heart, if I let them.

I won’t let them. I see that now.

The guilt and shame over what I saw or felt that wicked stormy night of my childhood may at times still be palpable and tell-tale, loud and ready to rip up the floorboards. Last night, maybe it was a close call, the storm warning that then fizzled out and came little more than a warning. While I could conjure up the memory, I refused to become again that little girl, cold sweat trickling down the back of her flannel pajamas, guilty over what she wished for, more than anything else in the world.

I had a right to be happy. I have a right to be happy, content, least of all scared.

My world is bigger now, better now. This many years down the line, the beat of my own true heart silences what fell in that forest. That little girl is not gone, but gone deeper. That little girl is me, living out loud, louder than any crazy storm.

['might need some tweaking but in order to do my 30 pieces of writing in 30 days, i had to get it up tonight before midnight. this is a goal i've set for myself. ironically this current 30-day challenge to myself comes after my previous challenge (30 collages in 30 days) and actually contains a collage of those collages.

there were a lot of sticks and stones in those collages, and the resulting piece of art was fitting for this piece.

i'm beginning to think that "challenges to my self" are the way to go, and that sticks and stones will not break my bones, and names will never hurt me. ;) ]


Restlessly Random said...

i heart this and i don't need to explain why, but i have to comment cuz you refer to ali as your middle daughter as the babysitter.

Anne Cunningham said...

fixed it; ali is my youngest daughter again. i remember, even, writing it and saying "middle" and i know i do that because carol is on one side of town, ali is here with us (in the middle) and bekah is in madison. great catch on your part. i'm really trying hard to come up with something based on something every day so sooner or later plumes and binder twine will be in the writing house! :)