Love letters and the long way home….

024
Shame is a psychopath with a fake badge.

Guilt – it has some value.
Guilt says,  “hey,  that was a bad call.  So not you.  Go apologize.”
It’s crisp.  Clear. Put things right because you’re not gonna want to haul this around.
“Acknowledge. Own. Forgive. Learn. Grow,” Guilt counsels.  Go clean off and get back in the game.

Shame doesn’t care about you or what you carry.
It serves no redemptive purpose;  it’s there to punish you for being.
And it will use whatever raw materials it can sieze from your untidy life
to assault your sense of worth with trumped up charges about your circumstances
until it hijacks what it’s after:  your identity.

I send Allison several letters and packages that first year and don’t hear back.
Edith assures me that this happens sometimes.  A testing period.  To see if I’ll stay or leave again.
This idea stings deep,   not because I don’t understand,
but because it escalates the beatings my heart’s been taking for years,
blungeoned by a single blunt word:  Abandonment.
There.  I said it.
I remember the first time it was used to describe what I’d done.

It was the Summer after.
I’d turned in an article to a little publication and was eager to read my words in print.
I wanted so badly to write and this editor had contacted me,  interested in teen pregnancy stories.
I froze as she skimmed through my copy and slowly stabbed,  “wait, you gave your baby away?”
I could barely remain inside my skin while she red-penned my heart in disapproving silence.
I’d felt fried in hot oil by “your baby deserves better than you,”
and now here was the  flip-side:  “who abandons her child?”
A shame sandwich.
The girl I used to be gets snuffed out in the squeeze.

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In the years that followed I would put away my typewriter and pens and wordy dreams
and decide I didn’t fit with the fresh faced girls at the beautiful college campus where I’d won a second chance
with an essay and a visit to the dean to explain why my high school transcripts
bled with red pen as well.
I found my place instead in the world of nature and greenhouses and flowers and fields,
places that didn’t look too hard beyond the dirt and clay of me.
I would build a life with my limp and keep to the edges,
always a little on the outside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now It’s March 2010 and I’m driving to Greensboro through the slushy white of a rare late snowfall.
I hold on my lap a birthday gift for Allison that I’ll deliver to Edith in person this time.
I need to walk through those doors and put my eyes on the voice at the other end of the line,
on the one who reads and approves and mails off my packages to Amanda.
This is the voice that has assured me that she still welcomes my offerings,
doesn’t find them intrusive – I’ve asked and Edith says keep writing.
She relays Allison’s gentle words of thanks.
She is still not ready to respond.

I’m learning to keep my palms up and the openness hurts like a wound un-bandaged
but something free is happening in these wild and vulnerable places,
coming back to life as I unpack my love for her and these shards of my soul shut down.
Each time I dive down to find another pearl to send her,
I recover a part of myself as I pick up my pens again and really,  really write.

And as I pull into Greensboro,  I’m looking for something that I can’t define.

Edith meets us in the parlor and and I find myself searching her face for traces of Rose’s.
I ache to see it.  A picture?  Something in her file?
It’s been over two years and I haven’t heard back.
I wonder what I thought I might discover by coming
and pull some air back into the hollow of a powerful heartache
as I realize I won’t find it here today.
I’m still knocking.

I want to come inside.

048

“You thought you’d left it all behind
You thought you’d up and gone
But all you did was figure out
How to take the long way home.”
– Roseanne Cash

I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
Thanks for coming along for the ride;  this summer series is setting something loose in me.

To write through the window…………

046
The windows are open to a warm October afternoon
as the phone rings and I’m startled  by the sound of the roar in my head
as my eyes land on the caller ID and see my hand  lift the receiver.
Children’s Home Society of N.C.
I answer in slow motion,
feeling the turn of the earth as a season changes.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
She’d just turned 18 the last time I’d spoken with the adoption agency that had placed my child
and I was the one calling.
At last she was “of age” and I could finally offer what I’d held heart-tight
for her until then,
could say my love and I’m sorry and how are you and I’m here.

No,  I’d been told.  The records are sealed.  Permanently.
The heavy weight of the words I’d signed in my childhood landed hard,
a door politely slammed on my heart.

But I may,  they’d offered,
in the pleasant way of a helpful customer service rep,
send a note to be sealed in her file.

I wrote my heart out that day,
raw already from wrestling to prepare my other kids for this,
hoping I’d told them well,  that they might comprehend the impossible,
not be singed by the shame that had branded me –
wanting them to feel secure and understand my heart,
to feel her wanted-ness and their own.
I was afraid of hurting someone.  Of hurting everyone.

And aching for connection so that she could finally hold the whole of her story,  beloved.
That she feel the light that I kept burning for her…..for the all of her,
her life and parents and story and song.  For her own unique way.
I’d trembled over what may need to be faced,
but strong love overrode the fear
and reached out anyway,
smacking hard into a door,
closed and sealed.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~

But the windows are open this day in October;
we are all eleven years older
and I answer and turn sharp onto the road that I travel today.

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“I’m calling because of the note you left in her file.”
It had been a persuasive invitation to come get me if ever they please could see a reason.
They had seen one.
“We’ve waived a court order because of your note; she is sick and needs her medical history.”
It was urgent;  would I please comply.
Yes,  yes,  my maternity lunges forward,  and suddenly I am fully a mother,
rushing toward her crying child.

Listening intently to the description the woman from the agency gives of her symptoms,
I recognized them as familiar struggles to my mother,  my sister and I.
“Tell her,”  I plunge in,  and my words flow quick and steady like a ticker tape,
my voice barely supporting the pounding of my heart.

“Will you let me write her,”  I ask.

The next day the voice calls back, warmer this time, to take the information I’ve gathered.
“We’re going to let you send us an e-mail.
We’ll cut and paste and remove all identifying information
and pass it along to Allison.”

Allison.  I’m hearing her name and it’s music and mountains
and everything I’ve missed.
I hold it like a gift that I’ve been given.

And so I’m swept once more to the wide nursery window where I’d last stood 29 years ago
watching someone else hold and rock and feed my baby girl
while I pressed my face against the cold hard of the glass,
tracing her tiny features with my eyes until I could know
and store them away.

This is how it came to be that, eight Octobers ago,  I again pressed my heart up firm against the glass
and began to write through the window….

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I’m taking this Summer to share a story long in the living
because it’s shame and hope and grace and love and we all dance with these,
and it’s only in the lonesome that the shame gets it’s teeth.
I’ve written a smidge of back story….you can find it here.
I’ll fill in the spaces as the courage comes.

Be back with a fresh one next week.  Thanks for sharing the road
and for your patience as I wobble through:)

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story.
It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t stand being shared.
Shame loves secrecy.  When we bury our story,  the shame metastisizes.”
– Brene Brown

Teardrops in the wind…..

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I post this every year….a healing,  loving ritual

because I need to somehow honor those days out loud,
especially for those who maybe still haven’t found their voices
yet.
And for all mothers everywhere,  because our hearts bear always the stretch marks
of loving and letting go.

It was March,  1979.
Breezes turned balmy and I pulled off my shoes,  letting swollen feet tramp across warming earth.
I was pregnant with my first baby,  due St. Patrick’s Day.
For weeks I had ached for time to stop,
squeezing myself shut to the coming separation,
the word “relinquish” heavy on my heart.

But today the weather had turned,  and hadn’t everything somehow changed?
Spring had come with her own dreamy wildness
and waves to ride far beyond the looming loss.

I spent the day sunsoaking,
watching the wind stir the tireswing I’d played in
not so long ago.

I was newly seventeen,
an “unwed” mother
with an unwanted chore:
to give my baby to someone she deserved.
Soon she would come apart from me,
gone before the leaves flushed out.
Their buds were fat and ready to pop.
Like me.
I went quiet with the knowing.

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But this day was vivid lovely and it got inside me.

As the sun began to dip low,
a storm of pain rumbled and hammered down urgency
inside my belly
as grownup voices began herding me into the night.

As my frightened parents gathered my things to the car,
I lunged back inside for one last moment alone
with the gentle life that had shaken mine
with her own gentle worth.

I lowered my heavy frame onto the bed and tried to sing one last lullaby
but could do only tears.
A fragile goodbye.

Following strong contractions downstairs and into the night,
I returned home with only fierce memory
of her tiny fingers and face.
But I’m forever marked by her essence,
often swept away by her melody
as it drifts across my heartstrings.

I recognize her song.

Thirty seven Springs.
I honor each of her days.
And today I tenderly comfort the girl-in-me who carried her
before she was transplanted into the garden
that nurtured her to thriving.
And I remember those shimmery days when we were just us,
when she was still mine.

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Thanks for giving a listen.  For being a witness.  I hold it as a gift with love and thanks.

“The dark does not destroy the light;  it defines it.
It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
– Brene’ Brown

“When you get to the place where you understand that love and belonging,
your worthiness,
are a birthright and not something you have to earn,
anything is possible.”
– Brene’ Brown

I’m celebrating life this week and want to offer up a package of goodness,  Stargirl style,
in a drawing.  Just because I can.  And it makes my heart smile.
I’ll draw a name from comments and make up a gift box
full of handmade art,  handwritten love,  and beautiful little surprises
picked especially you.
A little love bomb:)
Just plunk a comment in the box and I’ll send your name into the mix.