- Carl Jung
so when i was born, the grandparents, friends, family, and associates gathered shoulder to shoulder in the delivery room. i was the first grand baby born to to a first born father, and an only child mother. both had stories that root much deeper than these descriptions, however... i was a big deal. my sex was unknown until i appeared on the scene. and so anticipation could be sliced with a cake knife as my mother's pains became more frequent.
wine was served, and schlit cans could be heard echoing down the hallway as immature husbands crushed them on their own foreheads. smoking was permitted in the hospital in those days, and my grand entrance was veiled in a heavy curtain of exhaled cigarettes. the nurses and doctor could barely push through to check on my mother, and inevitably me.
when i finally pushed through into the festivities well on their way, a hush graced the room as the doctor announced..."a healthy baby girl!" and then the uproar magnified like peace had been declared to those who survived a world war.
i was the first baby girl born to the group. and i was passed around from unfamiliar arm to unbearable breath cuddling me and professing charming destinies for my newly given life. all toasts were made, and this celebration in my honor slowly began to unwind. my parents were left to recover and coo, to compete with each other on making the most perfect descriptions of their new found love.
i was perfect. i was adored. i was all hopes and dreams realized. and we rested us three, for another day or two, greeting visitors like a royal family, if not for my cowlick refusing to cooperate with the countless attempts to spit smooth it down.
home we finally arrived. and we learned our roles and accepted each other and studied all imperfections brushed off as devils thoughts to be resisted and replaced quickly with appreciation for this gift.
my grandfather met me a few days into my new life. and furious at the name 'erin' my mother chose for me in honor of his very irish heritage, he took to calling me Mary. he adored me, and he was not shy about smothering me with love, and a confusing new identity. he believed my mother named me for Hank Aaron, and was offended my mother did not name me after his mother.
so my dual identity was groomed at a very early age, and my confusion over humanity ignited before i could even roll over. i learned to trust and depend on these strange and stupid humans, as they learned to meet my every need, and soon my wants as well. other babies soon followed in this camp of close knit friends, and i received a sister to torture and eventually boss around.
my family grew to three sisters, raised on a farm on a river a long way off from the rest of the world. our childhood was a well controlled environment, and beautiful expensive gifts were showered over us on all occasions.
my universe did not inch much further than the country road that passed by my driveway. and i really had no interest in imagining a life any different than the one i lived. my grandmothers were doting, and unique and each determined to pass on to me the interests and qualities they held most high.
i was a thinker, and a dreamer, and far too busy exploring the pathways inside my head, to retain a damn word the old birds said to me. but my gram's knew me better than my parents, and they identified traits i possessed and nurtured each and every one.
i balked at all encouragement, all starring rolls in scenes dreamed up by the adults raising me. but still, i found myself bragged about in nearly every conversation before 13. "how mature, how grown up, how thoughtful, how well behaved, how creative, how beautiful, how charming, how delightful!" and as these words flew past my ears, i wondered who the fuck they were referring to. it mattered none, as long as this bitch in question remained behind the scenes. i was not about to share my fame, with someone so potentially threatening.
but i was slipping. a slope that both captured my attention, and offered no release from the gravitational pull it harbored like magnetic beams from cartoons i watched.
my parents paid for me to sing, dance, play instruments, travel, participate in sports, clubs, and social events... yet i took to none. i shined at none. i revelled my lack of ability in every area of interest. i grew dull, difficult, disinterested in all extracurricular activities.
it was the unseen that i shined in. thinking, dreaming, waiting, wondering, wondering all about the manipulation of life before my eyes. i failed in school, i failed in sports, i failed in socializing with others... but still these odd adults all around me... showered me with praise.
i tested them time and again. pushing their buttons, making scenes, distracting them from their passions, for attention. i pushed their patience, i punished their unconditional love for me, and still they embraced me with the love one must give to its offspring, or else eat it.
my parents mothers turned blind eyes to the boil i became. ignored the frequent hair color changes, the tattoos, the lies, the cussing, the offenses i patiently collected like most girls do with miniature dolls. my fathers mother... graciously bragged about any small accomplishment i accidentally added to my resume. she encouraged me to chat, to share, to embellish a patience so foreign to me. she offered her disapproval in small doses, and she demanded very little attention often unfocused, unenthusiastic, un interested. she actively reached out to me and shared her love of music, holidays, family, and home cooked meals... even when she knew i only noticed how untidy the lose ends were, and how much i despised the covered up edition that everyone else seemed too willing to accept.
when asked "how are you?" i learned to bite my tongue and say "fine" even days aftyer giving birth to a baby boy at age 18. nothing was fine. in fact i did not even understand the meaning of the word. but she preferred not to gossip, and believed it was no one's business but "ours". so many secrets we swept under the carpet as guests arrived for some festivity.
celebrating the good life, and brushing off the defeats to our ambitions was her way. put on some rouge, some flashy beads, and smile through gritted teeth at the clowns surrounding us. somehow this stage life was not one i was cut out for. never the eye for detail so many women mastered, my lose ends frayed out from under the carpet... and hiding scars was just too time consuming.
but i learned that loving family and friends often meant doing things that made me feel uncomfortable. and doing these things afforded me the peace of mind to enjoy myself, because they appreciated my efforts.
i offered those closest to me much pain and disappointment. took me years to understand that no matter the shape or size i arrive in, my presence is welcome. my participation is counted on. and regardless of the news i carry with me, avoiding a topic is not the same as lying about it. small talk comforts small folk. most humans will never climb to the heights i've reached. and most of them dont want to hear about them either. it is kindness to listen, to show interest in the oven mits another knitted... even if i'd rather buy my time back and leave.
the unexpected joy happens in unplanned moments scattered thinly through our lives. the laughter and happiness exchanged rarely beats breathtaking views or trips around the world. most people are just not wired to get much further than their back yard. i can not get the time i wasted back, nor can i share another moment with my grandmothers. both have passed by my life, and what i took, is all i have to remind me of their gifts.
i heard my parents talking one late night in the kitchen. something said about her not being my fathers mother, but marrying my grand dad when my father was young. in my mind she equated to a spy, or an outsider. i never allowed myself to accept her as a wonderful human, because of the secrets overheard in childhood.
she was so much more than his step mom. she was one of the only people on earth who showed me unconditional love and support. and so much more.
it is too late for apologies or explanations. i cannot force time not spent with her, or offer love not shared with her since she exhaled her last breath of air. i cannot make up for anything i said or did, or more likely didnt do. but i can change how i spend the time i have with the people who still might find happiness in this gift.
she sacrificed a wandering mind, a playful soul, a passionate heart so she could be there for the people she loved. i dont believe i will ever have that regret, but i accept that for many it is hardly a regret, its a selfish fulfillment of what makes them/ her happy.
in the end, if we can exhale one last time with out a mind full of damn i wish i"d just done...
than a good life was certainly achieved.
in the end she suffered and slipped away from all her hard earned memories. but this was unpredictable and unfortunate... and the majority of her days she spent satisfied.
i will miss her presence, but her spirit is, as always, watching over me.