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.
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.
“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.