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Broken again. Hands emptied. Silly me. I thought I was entering the days of fullness and abundance. Each morning I met the sun as it rose with anticipation and an open heart. Five days to embrace sea and sand. Five days to write and plan. And here I am with pages and pages of notes and thoughts and knee-deep in sorrow, loss; depression creeping in, splashing around my knees like the cold water of the afternoon storm. Broken again.
This last morning I stare out into the sea and ask God, ask myself, “What did I expect? A cup filled to the top; a confidence unshakable,” I whisper into the quiet.
I grew up in a house full of women. I was just a young girl, so I didn’t quite understand the complexities of the dynamics at the time but looking back on it through the haze of the years, I realize that my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She had grown up under both the torment and joy of four older brothers and somewhere along the way she determined that she would stand her ground and speak her mind.
Momma wanted to give birth to a son named Joe, but all four of us turned out to be girls, so she gave up on the fourth and called her Nancy Jo. We were spread out along 14 years and two husbands, and she loved to say she broke the mold with each of us. We looked nothing alike and our personalities had little in common. We loved each other, resented each other, argued with each other, and insisted on taking our vacations together. We sat up late into the night talking and drove each other crazy on road trips. Family. Females. Sisters.
There he was, running away with little in his arms, but a blessing on his head. His name was Jacob, and he had a bad reputation for being a liar and a thief; a deceiver without integrity, only seeking his own advantage. Willing to destroy any relationship to elevate himself. He could play the perfect dark and disturbed hero on a Netflix series.
My new friend sitting across from me in the coffee shop leans in to admit in a whisper, “I really don’t like Genesis. Those people were supposed to be the heroes – but look at Jacob – I just don’t get it.”
From the time I was a little girl, I have loved the pretty things. Sitting on one of the twin beds in my older sisters' bedroom, I would watch in awe as they applied eyeliner and mascara, clothes for the evening laid out on the bed beside me; matching yellow shoes in their tissue-lined box. It was everything I wanted: perfect paint and sophistication.
These days I falter and pause. All the lovely layers are being stripped away to where the skin is raw and the emotions a bit ragged.
We love our superlatives. We love the warm glow of being the best, the most, the highest quality, surpassing all others, superior in all things, unusually good, outstanding, close to perfect. It is like a 13-year-old girl has high-jacked our brains and we have to create new endings to words to describe how amazing something is. (‘Super-superlative = bestest; as in you are my bestest friend.’ Yes, I found that in the dictionary.).
I have worked with a group of people who strive for excellence and the thought of it wears me out. I have seen grown women cry at the thought “You must always strive for excellence in all you do!” Phooey!
Some days fear wells up in me from some deep place. It is quiet in its approach. I don’t realize it has come to visit me until it has crept in through the back door and taken a seat right there in my kitchen. Whispering in my ear. Telling me the saddest stories and the most insidious lies.
I will start feeling vaguely sad. And isolated. And slowly I realize it is because I am listening to this ongoing, monotonous voice that tells me really mean secrets about myself. Secrets everyone else knows already. Secrets about how foolish I am… what people really think about me – or worse, that they don’t think of me at all. I have no talent. I really have no worth. I am mean-spirited. Everything I think about myself is just a delusion, a lie, a big puff of smoke. And mirrors.
See all Homemade
Why do we hold onto those old family photographs? You know the ones; everyone is in mid-movement, looking in different directions, a flare of light obscures a face while someone else falls off into the shadows. Heads chopped off; mouths open in conversation. Those really bad photographs. I have boxes of them.
My sister Ann went through every one of my mother’s photo albums and pulled out the pictures when we were cleaning out the house. She scanned many of them. We threw away the bulky old albums. All of the photographs went into large baggies to be distributed between the sisters. But the loose photographs still float around from Roanoke to Greenville to Atlanta waiting for who knows what to happen to them.
“You didn’t bring tomatoes with you, did you?” my sister asks as I walk in the door. Four days out of town is too long to leave my vegetables and fruit waiting for our return so I usually arrive with my cooler in tow.
"Yes. I not only brought tomatoes from the house, but we also stopped at a farmer's market along the way and bought more." Since my uncle Robert died, the summer is spent in search of the delicious tomatoes that once were plentiful in his garden. Used to, on my arrival in Greenville, my mother would say, "We need to run up to Robert's and get some tomatoes and squash…I’ve been wantin’ squash lately.”
There they are- those names typed out in black on the well-worn page; the margins tan from the oil of our fingers. The title reads “Record from the Elias Mitchell Family Bible”. Line one; ‘Married to Pauline Lucinda Wade in Chester County SC. January 4, 1870.’ Twelve children line up below in birth order. But below that, the death order makes us pause.
William Thomas, born October 29, 1870, dies on April 5th, 1874. James Cleveland, born July 5th, 1872 dies August 17th, 1873. Mary Irene, known to us as Aunt Mamie, makes it to adulthood to become like a grandmother to our mothers. Uncle Lumpkin makes it safely through, as well as Nancy Vistula – who my sister Nancy is named after. But little Sallie Beauford, born in 1887 doesn’t make it to see her first birthday.
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