Sunday, September 22, 2013

Firstlight

I've been reading Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd. I read The Secret Life of Bees which I loved. Some might call it Juvenile, and maybe the story line is a little juvenile, but her writing I found so poetic. Every single little section of the book seemed to be wrapped up in this perfect little bow, more like poems than chapters. Firstlight is a compilation of her early writings mostly things she wrote for
Guideposts Magazine in her thirties. The chapters are groups of short stories with similar themes. The first chapter is called The Crucible of Story, where she talks about her inner story. By inner story I think she means writing about the moments that make us who we are or define us. I've been writing and thinking a lot about the childhood I had, and only recently realized how unique it was, it certainly does say a lot about who I am, so here is one of my inner stories. 

When I was 18 months old my family was in a boat accident. We skimmed on shallow water covering an unseen island and the boat flipped. My mom was thrown, hitting her head on a rock. She was in a coma for 3 months, and came home from the hospital close to a year after the accident. When she came home we learned together how to hold our spoon without spilling our cereal. We learned proper pronunciation at speech therapy, how to hold a pencil and write our names. I learned how to jump and tumble on foam mats as she strengthened her legs at physical therapy.  

At physical therapy the room smelled funny, like sick people and plastic. The room was divided by 2 chalkboards back to back with gymnastic mats piled in front of both sides. There was always a space between the two chalkboardsI loved to hide inside this gap, where no one could see me. I was safe there; I had my own cocoon. Crouched in this small place no one could see me and I would imagine the two chalkboards each the arm of a loving mother who held me equal tension in her arms, no paralysis, who said I love you without a slur in her wordsa mother I was not embarrassed by.  

At some point I realized I was faster than mom, and that she would never catch up to me. I could run without a limp, I spoke clearly and did not need to repeat my sentences again and again. I was loose, I didn't now clench my fists and grind my teeth. I began to feel dubious about trusting my raising to her, if she could not do all the things I could do. I lived in open rebellion and protest of her. I knew that if I was in trouble I could run around mom and stay out of reach, because mom was too slow to catch me. I was so hard on her, it's amazing she still puts up with me.  

There was one thing I was sure my mom did better than most though. It was the vast amount of faith she had. When I turned 8 years old she opened her scriptures at the kitchen table and had me read a portion about baptism. I was awed that this was so important to my mom enough for her to sit me down so serious and read it with me, and ask me what I thought about it, and did I understand what baptism meant? I was in wonder of her strength of faith, with all that had been taken away from her. All my life she was steadfast. She never missed a day of church during my childhood. Until I was 18 and it was the week my Dad told her was going to file for divorce. It was as if the rug had been pulled out from under her and she didn't know how to fall, so she sat there so still, floating across from me on a kitchen stool, eating her breakfast. I'm ashamed that at the time I was relieved. I thought I was free to never have to deal with her disabilities again. I didn't call her or visit unless necessary. 

When I got married 2 years later my husband encouraged me to work on my relationship with her. In Mike's own non-threatening quiet way he essentially helped me realize I am her daughter, and I'm going to be her daughter forever, so I had better start learning how to get along with her. He also brought our future kids to the argument allowing me to acknowledge that she would want to be involved with her grand kids and I couldn't withhold them from her. I resisted him at first, putting these ideas in my mind, but I knew he was right. Little by little I began to accept that she would always be a part of my life and I wouldn't be happy if I cut her off. Slowly through years I began to accept who she was. I started by asking my Dad who she had been. Their answers surprised me and filled me with pride that I was just like her in so many ways.  

My Dad told me she had managed 3 salons, she was confident and outgoing. He said she was meticulous about having her hair and make-up done. He said she loved being a mother, she was proud of me and loved taking me everywhere with her so she could show me off. She loved to cut hair and she was very good at it. She cared very much about appearances, she was always fashionable, she loved to sew and be crafty. She had everything she ever wanted out of life right before her accident.  

I was amazed at the similarities we shared. It was incredible how much I have in common with the woman she used to be, despite never meeting this prior version of herself. It seems impossible to be like the uninjured mother she once was, but I do have her genetics. I used to think we were so different, I could never be the confident social butterfly she was, but I also learned how much we have in common.   

Knowing that someday I will see my mom again in a perfect body has filled me with hope and allowed me to love the person she has become. The old Lesa though still hidden has become somehow tangible to my mind. Once I felt this way I was no longer embarrassed by her. I could say with all my feeling that I love my mother and it didn't matter how she appeared to the public. She is who she is, strangers will stare and that is okay, most acquaintances understand and accept her easily. To all her friends she is effortlessly lovable. She is selfless and giving. She helps her neighbors and friends in any way she sees possible. She's always looking for ways to serve others. I love these things about her. I've learned to no longer judge her for her shortcomings and I've also discovered many of my own. She is a constant in my life. She has become a wonderful example I now admire. I am no longer ashamed. 

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