Posted by: morrowsl | May 26, 2015

A letter to myself.

This started as a writing suggestion in our group.  But it became a bit cathartic for a morning that started with a dream.

Dear Sheree,
Remember when we were ten and Papa Vincent died? How we cried and cried and cried, but felt guilty that we were only crying because our vacation got cut short? Remember how the last thing we truly wanted was to sit in church and pretend that we’d miss an abusive drunk who always managed to drop lit cigarette butts directly in front of our oncoming bare feet?
That was our turning-point summer. That summer, when the boy who lived down the street from Aunt Stacy and Uncle Jimmy’s house invited us swimming and we just knew it was because he, at fourteen, had a huge crush on our ten-year-old self. But we never got to find out if he was the man we’d marry because Papa Vincent died and we had to come back for the funeral.
That summer that began with our first funeral and ended with a move to a huge house filled with the remains of two families, forever altered by alcohol and anger and death.
That summer when we first slipped out the back door of the house in the dead of night to meet boys. When we lied to our parents about leaving the skating rink early because Darlene had a crush on Wick McKenzie and he wanted to drive her home. When we realized that our friends, so much fun only months earlier when we rebelled against the school dress code and wore jeans on the last day, became childlike when compared to the friends of the Danna cousins who drove and smoked and lied to their parents. That summer when the world as we knew and accepted it became small and restrictive and oh-so-uncool. That summer of our first “French” kiss. That summer, when we were ten.

All the things we can now look back on, good and bad, are anchored in the events of that summer. We weren’t yet “dry behind the ears” as the old ladies used to say. Up to that point, we’d hardly lived, hardly been out of our own small Texas town. That small town where everybody knew everybody and a quarter of the inhabitants were blood relations. Where Halloween meant a night of roaming the streets unchaperoned and unafraid, canvassing the entire town for candy. Where “swimming” meant a number three washtub filled by the green garden hose at the back of Daddy’s full-service Texaco station. Where an old black man could be hugged and even kissed on the cheek by a young white girl and nobody gave it any thought at all. Where piles of discarded Watkins Imitation Vanilla bottles made us wonder who did all the baking and why we never smelled it. Where we began to be aware of how sheltered we were but failed to see that’s right where we belonged at such a tender young age.
By summer’s end we’d seen and heard things that couldn’t be left behind, blown from our memory like the leaves swirling by in the oncoming winter wind. Our little world had been expanded to include emotions we only barely understood.

The years that followed were filled with so much struggle. Was it the sheltered upbringing that made us want to do it all as fast as humanly possible? It certainly wasn’t fear of growing old and never having done anything. We never gave a thought to growing “old”. That was something our grandparents did. We were bright-eyed and tight-skinned, slim and fresh and green like new flowers yet to blossom. All those admonitions from our elders that we take care of our bodies and minds against the day when living our lives would be the very thing that tore both down. So we drank and smoked and took little bright-colored pills. We slathered skin and hair in oil to darken one and lighten the other, then spent hours baking in the hot Texas sun. We rode in cars that moved far too fast driven by boys who drank far too much. We said “I do” when we should have been saying “Oh HELL no!” and we started babies whose lives would be shaped by so many mistakes and bad decisions. We yelled and screamed and cried and threw things. We ran away and hid out and crawled back and changed our minds. We asked for help and sought wisdom in professionals. And met new people and started again.

Dear Sheree, here we sit, more than half a century of years have passed before our eyes now. It’s doubtful, even with our mother’s good genes, that we’ll put another half century behind us. Have we learned the lessons the old folks felt the youngster should? Did we grow in a way that will help us to shape the young lives we now oversee? Did that small Texas upbringing make us better? Or worse? And what of the years to come? Are we ready to face what the future has in store for us? Or are we better off hiding out until Kingdom comes?
I think I know where we need to go and how we need to get there.
But then, I thought the same thing when I was ten. That summer.


Responses

  1. Lovely, powerful writing–been thinking about this for days since I read it the first time and keep coming back to it. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • You’re welcome. And thanks for reading. This is what happens when I don’t force it.

      • So, you know–don’t force it!! =D Love you!!!


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