“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.” Elizabeth Lawrence
When I think about those early years, when mind consciously has memory, I think of summer. I think for a lot of people that is how they see their childhoods in bright shades of summer. I remember mine in shades of emerald sunkissed greens, yellows and oranges, and the spectrum of the rainbow. That is not to say that my childhood was perfect-it wasn't. I remember being lonely even though I had two grandparents that doted on me and loved me as fierce as a wild wind. I never knew anything was wrong with my life. I knew people lived differently, but to me my home-my way of life was normal. My grandpa, who I called lovinging, "Papow" was the magic man. No matter how many skinned knees, nightmares, hurt feelings, or when I would be sick, he could make it all go away with something as simple as just being there. My grandma, I called "Mamow", it was my word for "mother" for her. She was sweet and loving, and everything I learned about grace, beauty, and embracing love came from her.
My grandparents worked harder than I ever knew, and whatever financial problems or storms that blew, I never knew about them. I was free in that respect, because I never knew about harsh words, torment, poverty, or the ugliness that the world held. They were my eternal sun and blue skies. They were Christians who instilled in me values and morals, some of which I still hold dear and some I've wrestled with and continue to do so. They're ever endearing hopes,dreams, and beliefs never failed with me or my sister. They chased as many shadows away that they could.
When I first comprehended hurt, it was not by the school yard bully even though there would be many throughout my life, it was from someone who was supposed to love and cherish me. It was also the first time that I realized I was different from other children. I grew up in a time when traditional families were still the majority. It shattered my Leave it to Beaver, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prarie thought processes. My father, my biological father, was not there and it made me question, "Why". Why wouldn't he want to be in my life everyday? Why, would he want to live so far away? Didn't I deserve to have a father to show up at school plays, church programs, and regular parent-child activities and occasions? Wouldn't he want to be there for my birthdays? What was wrong with me? It was those thoughts that would stick with me and would affect my life and how I would be towards my own children. I used to pretend that he lived right next door and would come and see me everyday. I could lose myself in imagination that somewhere, he was off trying to get to me-perhaps fighting a dragon or thwarting evil somewhere. Perhaps he was Clark Kent and he had just misplaced his Superman cape. There was a small tear inside my heart that grew to a hole.
My biological father, is not a bad man. I don't want to give that impression. Clearly, he wasn't able to provide me with what I needed, but it didn't make me miss him any less. He was not an abusive man or a man who was hard when it came to emotions. He was just the opposite. My biological father was a man who was capable of great feeling and a lot of love, but his own demons and suffering took presidence over the things and even the people that should have came first. It took me a long time to make peace with that. It was a hard long road to get over the broken promises that would crush me and his absence in my life. I had to accept him just as he is-I had to accept that he had limitations and those were his not mine. I had done nothing wrong, and blaming myself would not change that fact. I had to forgive and that forgiveness was not easy to give. I had never been one, even as a child, to hold grudges, be hateful, or angry-but I was towards him and it was poisoning me. I had to let it go-every single bit of it and accept he loved me in the best way he could. The biggest instruments that helped that was the fact that since I was a young child, my aunt-his sister, had been there where he could not. My aunt Debbie along with her and my father's mother and my grandma Betty, had kept the best part of him for me.
My aunt Debra Harris inspired me to work hard at whatever it was that I loved and she exposed me to so much! She took me to movies, exposed me to art and literature since she was such an avid reader and articulate woman, circus, and pretty much activities that her own children took part in-she took me as well. My aunt Deb gave 110 percent in everything she did whether it was working a job that most men couldn't do, raising her children, wife, daughter, friend, sister, and aunt-she put her whole heart into it. I learned from my Aunt Deb that strength comes from within and that even though life is hard and most times unfair-you have to work hard and love much through it. The storms that woman has weathered would have left many bleeding in the streets or given up-but she's weathered them and fought with a vengence. Her fighting spirit and her intelligence knows few limits. She along with the spit fire that was my Grandma Betty, are the very reasons why I was able to forgive my father and why I abide him the love I have for him. I could have become a very bitter child and adolescent and even adult had it not been the combined efforts of her, my grandma Betty, my mamow and papow. I wanted to be like my aunt Debbie, when I was a child and those are pretty big shoes to fill that even now I've not done anything other than mill about at the foot of the mountain. The love I have for her, is unsurpassed. The adoration I have for her-there is no comparisson. My grandma Betty, though she is gone now, was a strong woman as well and so very talented. I come from pretty good stock you could say.
One of my favorite memories of my mother, was when I was around twelve or thirteen years old. She lived in an upstairs apartment and that summer was brutal in that apartment where she only had a few fans. We'd spent the day taking turns taking cold showers and baths to beat the heat. My mom and I were the only ones up in the wee hours of the morning, when it was still dark outside, watching The Big Chill. During the movie, Van Morrison's, Into the Mystic was playing. My mom for no reason at all got up and pulled me up with her and she twirled me around and I had one of my first dance lessons. I can remember the laughter in her green eyes, the sway of her hips, the way her skin still smelled like Panama Jack tanning oil from where she'd laid out earlier, and her blonde hair swung as she moved. My mother was born in Ohio and had never been to California, but when the Beach Boys wrote their song about California girls-they had to had my mother in their minds; she was the epitome of summer beauty and youth in that moment.
I don't remember too much strife with my mother. She was always there in some form or another, but other than a collection of moments she was never the overly emotional type. She didn't dote on any of us-not like mamow and papow did anyhow. It was always said that the heartbreaking failed relationship between her and my biological father was to blame. She had loved him with a young love that had ran deep but had not realized the bells and whistles of living in a grown up world. They had fallen in love, produced two children, and were ill equipped to be together and raise a family when they both still had no clue how to heal their own demons. My mother was always kind and she always knew the words to just about any song that came on the radio. For the most part she came to most of my school and church functions. She always had food when I visited and at Christmas time was forever trying to bribe me and Kim into telling her what we'd gotten her for Christmas. However, there was always that part of my mother we could never reach-that shut off valve. It was that cut-off that led to her vices and continues to do so to this very day. My mother was robbed from me by those vices and like my biological father, I have had to accept that I either accept she loves me or I don't. I have to accept that I will never have the kind of relationship with her that most young women have with their mothers and there are guards around her castle doors that will never change. I'm still working on my feelings with her.
It's funny how when you're a child, you don't always see the things that you do when you are older-when that invisible veil is either torn or lifted between childhood and adolescence. I sometimes think that if my life had been harder, perhaps it would have made me a stronger woman; would have helped safeguard me. If I would have had better survival instincts, then I would have been immune to bullies. Then I remember what my Kindergarten teacher, Lydia Powdrill, had said to me: "I can only be me, but I can be the best me I can be."
Many of the moments in my life have not been idyllic and surely they could have been a lot worse. I think that is just part of life. Each one of us is destined with something in our lives we have to work through and take on. For me it's been about learning to stand on my own two feet, breaking cycles and curses, embracing my life and what it was meant to be and what it can be, and living-yes, living-more than the physical aspect of life. I still am on the journey-many things I have not done, finished, or accomplished and life is finite. It has a beginning and end and its the end we don't know when, and I have to believe that every day I breathe, every day I wake up-there is something to see, do, someone I can help, and love I can share. There is always someone who will stumble and needs help to get back up.
So all my firefly moments-that swirl around blinking on and off, each one holds something for me, but rather than hold them in my hand-I have to let them go so I can catch the next one.