Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tide Turner

There are things about my childhood that come back to me in pieces. Moments like broken shards of life that I seem to catch in my feet as I walk along, suddenly registering and sending long, stinging flashes through the flesh of my memory.

I remember standing against the wall in the hallway of the dirty home I grew up in, little brother trembling beside me as Mom let us have it one afternoon. I remember gritting my teeth, refusing to cry, refusing to show emotion as, out of the corner of my eye, I saw hot tears stream down my brother’s chubby pink cheeks. Fear turned to anger as I had suddenly had enough of my mother’s tirades that day. Mouth pressed in a thin, hard line, I silently dared her to yell more. My eyes burned with hot defiance as I stared at her, knees locked, absolutely refusing to show that I had been moved. I can feel the vaguely damp carpet beneath my bare feet, and the tension gripping my locked knees and the rod of boldness shooting up my back. I can hear my brother’s soft, childish whimpers as he shakes next to me in fear and sadness. My palms are pressed against the wall. And then abruptly it all goes black.

Why does this moment all of a sudden come back to me? Where did this tiny pocket of time come from? It’s always been there—memories don’t leave, they just lower themselves into deeper pools of the soul—so what does that moment say about me? And what, I wonder, did it change in me?

It probably shocks you to hear me talk about my mother in such a way—my beautiful, wonderful, wise and sweet mother who I miss so terribly and am soul-achingly blessed to call my own. But just because someone dies a sad, sweet death doesn’t make them perfect, and my serene and thoughtful momma was not always so. I remember a lot of yelling when I was younger—outbursts at things I can’t even recall. I remember her throwing a butter knife in the kitchen when I was very small, explosions in the car when James or I hadn’t done our schoolwork like we should… Pockmarks on the canvas of my childhood. As I got older, she changed, softened, became more whole. The yelling ceased. If you had asked me about early memories with my mother two years ago, I would have answered that our childhood was quiet and uneventful. It’s amazing what reform can do.

In recent days as I’ve built up the courage to read through her private journals—writings she started when she was only three years older than I am today and lasted over the course of several brilliantly bound books through the days she breathed her last—I see a woman in battle, a tender, aching woman who wanted truth more than anything, and healing above all. She was a woman walking upstream, the majority of her life spent fighting the lies and abuse and curses she inherited as a child, and she did it not only for her own good, but for mine.

Years later, I remember sitting across from her at a rickety iron table in a strip mall by our house, her napkin laid across the metal grate between us as she took a pen and illustrated how all the trauma that had been passed down through the long lines of her family stopped with her—it didn’t belong to me, and had no authority in my life. And I remember squirming in my chair, rebellious adolescent blood coursing through my veins, just wanting to get out of the awkward, scarring event of being forced to sit with my mom in public. But now I see that she was right. She fought for me, and it stopped with her. The ugliness I saw seep out of her early on was only the lies and brokenness that had been bred in her heart throughout her life being drawn out like poison from a wound. All the pain I saw her endure all my life—like she was taking blows from invisible adversaries—I now see as waves crashing over her as she stood between us and the deluge of lies that sought to consume her. My mother was a turner of the tide.

Now when I look back on all the things that stab at my memory every once in a while—the painful, ugly things that hurt to remember—I see with new eyes. I see that hearts can be broken, but they can also be put back together again. I see that even the deepest of wounds can be sealed up and restored. And I know that above all, there is always, ALWAYS a fresh start worth fighting for.

I am the trailblazer.


Girl Friday said...

No words can express how inspired and touched i am by this. You are a wonder. And such a gift. (and so was she)

Mr. Fallon said...

I feel blessed to have someone in my life who, even if divided by hundreds of miles and different experiences, seems to be having the same kinds of discoveries and enlightenments that I am.

Projetor said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey girl, I totally forgot to tell you last night, but this post was moving in such a beautiful way :)

Anonymous said...

Your blog gives me hope that I can be the tide turner in my life. That the pain and trauma from my life can stop with me and don't have to be passed down to future generations. Thank you for being so open.