I am most me paddling on the lake toward purpled skies, tromping the thick, leafy floor of our woods or up turning stones along a secret stream…I am most me, alone. I like to sit and be still and listen. When I was little, I roamed about our yard and field, my magical domain. I climbed to my tower 30 feet high in the White Pine, or to a jungle nest way out the bare arm of my Mimosa. I ran from villains and dove daringly into the feathery concealment of our bordering boxwood. And when the weather turned, I found solace in my room, happy in a book. I played with neighbor children some, but usually, I played happily, alone. People have been good to me. I have generous, kind parents and grandparents who lavished love and the freedom to roam upon me. But, I have few imprints of people from my childhood.
I remember it raining…it being cold. I was in first grade and dressed in pajamas for a St. Joseph’s Catholic School Christmas Program. We had to get from our classroom to the auditorium. It was a good walk for a first grader, in footy pajamas, in the rain. So the big boys – the sixth graders, they seemed so huge at the time, came and carried us, one by one across the huge parking lot and around the way to the auditorium. I remember it so vividly. The starched white shirt of the sixth grade guy. His steady gate. The quiet joy that seemed to radiate off my silent but willing porter. I don’t remember anything that we sang. But I will never forget that ride across the puddle filled parking lot. It was somehow important and something that I have yet to unwrap. But that moment imprints my soul; its symbol, foreshadowing and incarnation. My hazy memory still brings tears as it was an early “with someone” thing that I really remember.
And I can see my Nana and I walking at the lake, to the blackberries that grew across the narrow roadway. I remember she cautioned me a little about snakes who she and I like very little and who like blackberries very much. It is warm…heat radiates through my keds and up my legs from the eroding payment. I can’t shake the image…nor can I really comprehend it. But it hangs in the entranceway of my mind. It is somehow about “together.”
I didn’t talk to Nana much…but I always let her near. I always wanted her nearby. I hold secret, a terrible, and yet maybe somehow wonderful thought. The last time I talked with her, seven years ago now, she had fallen…in a blackberry patch, picking berries for my jelly, no doubt. I didn’t tell anyone, it just didn’t register as dangerous. She was an outdoor person, too. She got hurt in little ways like me all the time, it never slowed us. A week later, she collapsed walking back from her mailbox, hitting her head a bit on the pavement. A neighbor put her to bed…She refused to call any of us…She went to sleep and never woke up. Blackberries and snakes…the warning there all along…
And then…there is this strange wet, cold day. We went Christmas shopping…all of us. My father went with us. He carried a black, large umbrella. He used it to keep us dry as we scurried across the street in the rain. I can still smell/taste that particular rain. I just remember not being able to believe that he was with us, shopping at our downtown Belks. I don’t remember being interested with any decorations or possible gifts…just his presence. I am sure that I walked about that so familiar store just staring at my father and the familiar workers to see if they thought it as wondrous that he was there.
I enjoy people so much more than I did. But much of the “little me” remains. I like people best… alone. I like to talk with someone…just the two of us. I like to take people down the river or out on the lake – just us. I like to walk the surf line and climb a hillside trail – just us two. It’s closer to alone, which remember, I do best. So writing, which I have always done for me, sometimes, rarely sometimes, for a very loved friend… writing shared like this…with response and maybe even questions is “with” done fabulously for me.
To have you read, take your time to enter what may matter only to me, with your interest and intellect and maybe even your heart …is dreamlike. I have made many promises to write. More and more, the internal pressure builds and wills me do so. Thank you to those of you who challenge me with your faithfulness to lay down thought and memory and ideal. I will do my best to fulfill my promises. As said so perfectly in my favorite movie, Notting Hill, “There are things to say…..”