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Memory Immortal

A remembrance. A fleeting moment in time to grasp and gaze upon in wonderment. To be taken back. To feel the depth of emotion fresh, both glorious and devastating. I live in memory, what has already passed me by. I revere them, make them something immortal in their telling and retelling.

As a girl, by the red glow of campfire I learned this, listening to men old and hardened by age and experience come to life and youth once again in the telling of their former glories and defeats. I came to know their tales, their histories by heart, and they became a part of me as well.

My own stories I hold back. They are not to be spoken aloud to drift to the sky with dark wisps of campfire smoke, to be lost somewhere among the stars. My stories are to be touched and handled, ink to paper, more vulnerable because they are not erased as the echoes of my voice fade away into the night air.

On Paper

On paper my life
Is a series of the extraordinary
Fascinating, unique, adventurous
A girl, who by the ripe age of 18
Had replaced a roof for the inner city needy
Ran off to Russia
Lived the summer in an orphanage
All broken windows, bedbugs, and greater purpose
Looked bravely into the eyes of grown men
And declared that there was hope for them yet

They believed her

Found herself in the elaborate stone archways
Of St. Petersburg and Moscow
And carried them in her heart as a beautiful secret
Her greatest treasure
Her heaviest burden

A girl, who by 18 years of age
Embraced wild woods
And was intoxicated by the spicy smell of myrtles
Home in the lost places far from homes
Alive in the sounds of crickets and whippoorwill
Where her feet left no trace on thick pine straw
And her soul entwined with the solitude of swampland

A girl, who at 18 years old
Walked down streets in New Orleans
Embraced the homeless
Loved the palm readers
Gave warm smiles and sandwiches
Bourbon Street only confirmed her innocence
Drunk only on love for mankind

Left the only home she had ever known
Went to college, fell in love
With a boy not yet a man
Explored endless miles of mountainside
And poured out her heart
While the waterfall continued to crash and thunder

A young woman, who at 21 years old
Boarded a plane for China
And wandered the streets and got lost
And then found
Who embraced the beauty of terraced hillsides
Who felt the pulse of the city and loved it
And left her heart with children
Dark almond eyes, begging for love
Learned what it was to feel small
In the shadow of ancient temples
Learned what it was to find joy
In the presence of lepers
Learned what it was to be broken
Upon boarding a plane for home

On paper, a story worth telling
Yet out of sync with what I am now
Tired, small, cynical
Forever wondering what happened
To take from me all the zeal
The passion, purpose, wonder

Orion

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Orion is a friend of mine, we are long acquainted.

The cold air of nighttime hunts gripped me. I pulled my jacket closer around me in response. Silence all around, save the normal late night sounds of crickets and breeze and plants rustling. I would wait perched upon toolbox in the truck bed for my father to return.

Alone.

Children learn to entertain themselves in still quiet. My games were listening for the sound of my father’s return and scanning the sky for familiar constellations. The first I was good at, but there were long lulls in activity there. The second…I found myself to be no astronomer. I would have to find contentment in locating the star bodies most easy to pick out in the deep black night.

Orion’s belt was always easy for me to find.

I would watch him from my earthly seat and wonder how he ended up there in the first place. I was convinced he stood ready, bow drawn. I wondered what prey or foe was before him. Was he lonely, as I was? I felt him brave, and I willed myself to be as well. No fear in the darkness, the hunter overhead. How did he find himself among the stars? My overactive imagination spun tales in silence, halted abruptly by the voices of men returned with hounds and prey of their own.

Orion, my silent winter friend. With me through the years, a spot in the heavens I mark as familiar and cling to, a speck in a vast universe.

 

 

 

Bullseye

bullseye

I let loose my arrow and buried it deep in the target.

A self-satisfied smirk danced on my lips. Sweat trickled down my spine and I brushed back from my forehead damp hair broken free of its ponytail prison.

I drew another arrow from my quiver, felt the snap of nock on taut bowstring. A burst of strength and energy as I drew back and stared down my mark. A deep breath in. I smiled as I released my bowstring, satisfied as I heard the sound of my arrow hitting bullseye.

Relief in the release.

Gravel crunched under my boots as I crossed to remove my arrows from the target.

Another successful practice.

If only the rest of my life landed center bullseye when I drew back and took aim.

Just Musings

The summer is not hotter than it was in my childhood.

Banished to the outdoors in the scorching days of late July. My mother had enough of children underfoot. Grudgingly we would tromp out the side door and blink at the overwhelming afternoon sun. The air would hang heavy, damp and humid. We breathed it in, and exhaled all our bought air crazy. A quick assessment of what to do with our time suddenly free, and we were off.

There is freedom perched upon a hot pink bicycle seat, no hands, down a dusty, white driveway.

I would sing at the top of my lungs. No one cared about my noise. There is freedom in not being heard. To speak whatever you wish without reprimand and only a younger brother to judge you is freeing.

But younger brothers grow tired of the bossiness of older sisters. I was often left by my own younger sibling, who favored pellet rifle hunts to my ramblings. It was in those moments I would sit on our creaky front porch swing and surround myself with my most treasured belongings.

This collection consisted of a dogeared copy of Treasure Island that both looked and smelled ancient, any type of snack I felt I had hidden from my brother, and a journal with a lock and key. I read and reread that text with great glee, thrilled with the tale though I had read it dozens of times. I was on that ship, far from my own front porch and the safety of home. I had a thirst for adventure with little means of quenching it.

Pen in my hand, I would do my best to imitate the writing of the authors of the classics. I felt destined to one day write something worth reading. I filled many bubblegum pink journal pages with my youthful observations. I was certain I was going places.

I don’t know when I gave up on becoming remarkable.

Life can leave us jaded.

I look back with longing on days of youth and simplicity and dreaming. Some days I try to reach back to that place and retrieve all that I’ve let slip away. How does a woman dream new dreams, find a new remarkable? I hope sometimes that the girl who really was quite remarkable is quietly waiting for me on a front porch swing somewhere, and that when I find her it will all come flooding back.

 

 

 

Still Sorry

Tiny hands reach for mine, sticky from a melted popsicle. Almond shaped eyes, black as coal and sharp as a knife’s edge stare into mine. I am in awe of her loveliness. Her perfectly smooth skin, the cherub-like face, her dainty mannerisms. She tugs my arm, willing me down to her level. She speaks to me in demanding, confident Cantonese words. The translator tells me, “She says you come back tomorrow, yes?”

My eyes fill with tears until they threaten to spill and she is nothing but a fluid figure before me.

“No.”

The message is relayed and she looks at me, betrayed. I hastily try to explain that I have to go home, back to America. She turns her back to me. We are done. The week of bonding, snuggles, giggles, kissing boo-boos and chasing away nightmares means nothing to her now. I am leaving her and that is the only truth, the only memory she will carry of me.

I stifle a sob as she walks away without looking back.

“Hey, Kitty!” I choke, “I love you!”

No response as she walks back into the dormitory and I am left to wait for the taxi that will take me back to Guangzhou. My heart is all a mess.

Eleven years later, it is still a mess.

I pray for you, Kitty. All this time and continents away and I hold you in a place that is reserved for you within my heart. And just so you know, I gave up on myself a little bit when I left as well.

I’m still sorry.

Kitty

 

My Nathaniel

My Nathaniel,

I listened to you playing today while I was folding laundry. I heard you weaving a fantastic tale. It was, as usual, unlike anything I had ever heard before. I smiled to myself. Then I sighed. There are some things you should know as you grow older, my son. Things I try hard to tell you every time I have the opportunity. Things I hope you will hold on to.

You are unique. You are unlike any little boy I have ever known. You think on your own terms, learn things in your own time, master skills in your own way. Your thought processes are all your own. You do not care about what everyone else likes or the way everyone else does things. That makes you different.

I love that about you, my dear boy.

I hope you always tell your own stories. I hope you are always unashamedly interested in the things that make you feel most alive. I hope you embrace the characteristics that make you unlike anyone else in this great, big world. I hope you pursue your dreams even when people tell you they are crazy.

Hold on with fierceness to the electric spirit that you possess.

Because some day, people will try to change you. They will do this because you are different, they will do this because they don’t understand you, they will do this because you do not act, talk, or think like they do. And they will be wrong to try to change you. So wrong.

Stay free, my love, from the shackles of expectation and conformity. Run fast from those who try to rob you of the joy in your stories and musings. Ask hard questions. Ask them often and expect answers just as you do now. Do not be discouraged when people laugh at you. Walk in the confidence you have right now at this tender age. Be strong, but keep a soft heart. It is okay to cry, it is okay to laugh, it is okay to feel the entire range of your emotions. Always stand for what is right, even when no one else is. Never stop telling the truth even when people don’t want to listen.

This world can take from us that fire in our hearts if we let it.

Continue to love people. Always be kind. There is no weakness in compassion.

Don’t be afraid to make people uncomfortable.

Never, ever, ever apologize for being the person you are.

I look at you and see strength that I don’t see in myself. I know mothers say this often, but it feels different in your case—you could change the very world. I feel it in the deepest part of myself.

I wait in breathless anticipation to see the man you will become. Right now I’m cherishing the boy you are.

Be brave and strong. You are the light.

With all my love,
Mama