It wants to shut you up, close you in,
set your peace on fire.
And it won’t be hushed until it burns your courage down.
I lean into the turn of the year with a hungry hope and my walking-forward shoes laced up brave,
I’m going looking for some shelter in this storm
but it becomes a hurricane
as I pull out into traffic in some group work and wreck my heart instead,
my past and present colliding with such an explosion of pain
that I’m propelled through the window injured,
but land soft in a healing place.
Edith calls to tell me she’s retiring and we speak warmly –
will she please mail the birthday package I’ve sent;
she’s not sure where Allison is right now; I tell her bold where
and she doesn’t flinch or freak and I hear smile in her voice.
We part well and I feel a chapter end.
This will be the the last gift sent where they will comb through my words to approve.
The training wheels off, I’ll be able to look up her address and send love on my own
and this freedom is bliss to me.
I plan a heart trek to her hometown but pull up the day before
because I see, from the cloud, that she‘s there visiting right now
and feel it sure that this would somehow cross a line.
I couldn’t be that close and not run to her, I know, oh God
I want to go, but I watch instead from just hours away
as she togethers with the ones she loves and welcomes,
and I feel the thud of my un-belonging
and ache an ache that I can’t wrap words around.
Weeks later, March 2016, I’ve got a wilding to drive east tomorrow
to put flowers on her mother’s grave.
I’m headed uptown to a favorite barbeque place to make a foodie Friday gift
to our hardworking peeps and as I sit waiting for my bag of lemon pepper wings,
so near the street where she used to live, I grin at the walls covered
with years of signatures and happy graffiti.
My eyes swim over to a map of our state and I feel my feet moving slow
from where I’m googling her hometown for tomorrow’s travels.
My eyes lock onto her name printed bold and pink, right over where my google map points.
It feels like a sign and I take a picture, kiss the wall, pick up my takeout
and wonder at the bigness of this grace that’s holding us.
Her mother is two years gone this day and we travel there together, my husband and I,
to at last be in this space and it feels a sacred journey as we pull into her town
and I roll the window down because I need to breathe the air and I cry somewhere inside
because it’s happening at last to feel the where that welcomed my baby home.
It’s a really good house, the sixteen year old of me can see,
and we eat lunch down the street at the local barbeque place
that has served the community for decades and I taste friendly food
and the neighborly way and everywhere I feel the whispers of her face.
The woods hum stories as I stand beside her mother’s grave
and see how my fistfull of daffodils look a small drop in this space so wide
that I wonder can Allison ever hold space enough for the both of us.
Her mama loved her, I can feel it. I honor her that and as my fingers trace
her name I tremble thanks for the home she made and the legacy that is hers.
If I could hold this woman’s hand I’d squeeze it now and breathe peace, nothing left unsaid.
I get up and wish we could stop at their house, climb out of the car, knock on the door
and be invited inside.
But there is gift in the parting and I feel it at last
in a wrenching place where I stand with my arm draped around the girl of me
in front of the spacious yard where my daughter played football
with her people just weeks ago this day
and finally I know it right down to my atoms and cells
that I did not abandon my child.
There’s a roaring that climbs from my spirit inside to a courtroom false where I’ve often been dragged
and I see it as clear as the sun that sets in her hometown now
that abandonment was not in my heart,
but beauty and bests and safe pasture and love,
and yes, shame, that I wasn’t the one who deserved.
But I’m done buying into this sense that I’m less because I’m outside and not welcome in.
And as we drive back in the after of a powerful day
there builds up some brave to get ferocious with shame
and I feel a holy fury rumble up inside my soul
– where the winter wounds had closed me I feel my breath becoming whole.
(In the weeks to come there’ll be roller coaster waves
but I’ll crawl no longer beneath the dull weight
of all the words I couldn’t say.)
“It is unearned love – the love that goes before,
that greets us on the way.
It is the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left,
when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking
and most charming charm have failed you.
Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze
that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others
who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.”
– Anne Lamott
So you see I’m telling our story – that part of us that aches to belong,
to be welcome, to be seen and invited in.
In the only way I know, I’m dragging our shame into the light
and offering “I know” and “you’re okay” and “I’m with you and we’re alright”
Just a few more twists and turns through this, our season of the night.