“Finders were keepers unless title was proven”

mockingbird

Rarely did I keep a secret from my brother; he could tell by the guilty look on my face that I harbored something that I wouldn’t share.  At first, he would act as though he didn’t care and then, as time wore on, he would threaten to beat me up if I didn’t talk.  He was not above resorting to the occasional Indian sunburn if the situation were deemed necessary.

Second grade had begun and it was as terrible as I knew it would be and could have done without it, but Atticus assured me it would not, as I feared, “ruin me for life.”  It was on those walks to and from school that Jem and I began to find gifts in the knothole by the old Radley place.  Usually nothing would convince us to go that close without  a jeer from Dill, but everyday, we looked to see what might be waiting for us.  Even after Mr. Nathan filled that knothole with cement, we would reflexively turn our heads as we walked past.

I never told Jem about the key.  It was small and, to my relief and dismay, much too small to be a door key.  My imagination, kindled by Jem, Miss Stephanie Crawford and even Dill, had me certain it would unlock the cage to a half-crazed Boo Radley, holding bloody scissors and surrounded by newspapers.  I think part of the reason I never showed it to Jem was because he would want to investigate. Admitting I was too scared would have resulted in unrelenting brotherly aggravation and condescending taunts of being such a girl. That would have led to blackmail and using Dill as his co-conspirator.  So, for one of the few times in my young life, I kept my mouth shut.  Partly in self-preservation and, to an extent, because it was mine.  My secret.  My mystery.

After Mr. Arthur saved Jem’s life that night, I put the key away, no longer allowing my head to fill with fearful thoughts or hopes of buried treasure.  I think I finally understood that sometimes a key is just a key and that rather than let it lie forgotten in a drawer, it was given to a child as a simple gift.  Perhaps a way of saying “I see you.”  In the hands of a child, that key unlocked more than doors or hidden treasures.

ceg 7.31.15

Immediacy

images

He watched my foot tapping turn to a full-force dance and he laughed.

Not the sweet laugh from long ago, but the kind that is mean.  I don’t think I will ever forget the ugliness of it.  He knew I was almost frantic in my need, and yet he laughed, finding humor in my pain.  What is it they call it?  Schadenfreude? Coming from someone who is supposed to love you, it is never appealing.

That incessant need-It starts with a gentle nudge and builds to this screaming demand that refuses to quit until heeded. Unrelenting.  My thighs were squeezed together and I was using those I internal muscles I had learned about when I was pregnant.  Squeeze.  Hold.  Breathe.  I was terrified of losing it completely in public, but he thought it was funny.  He laughed as he saw tears begin to swim in my eyes.  I had come to terms with his bullying.  I had learned to ignore the almost constant stream of belittlement.  This laughing thing was an unwelcome addition to an awful repertoire that he had displayed for years now.

Through the blur of my tears, I spied the urban equivalent of an outhouse.  To me, it looked like a green gateway to paradise.  My nose found it as well, but my need was too great to worry about that.  I “ran” with my knees squished together, beginning to gag from the smell.  I heard his peals of laughter ringing in my ears and the sound of my own retching, as I grabbed the handle and slammed the door shut behind me. Fumbling quickly with the button and zipper of my jeans (had it always been so difficult?), I managed to yank them down and sit before my bladder completely let go. I cried in relief and gingerly rubbed my tender side.  In a fit of pique, his boot had connected with my ribs. The resulting bloom of blue, purple and black was impressive.

When I emerged from that little hut of horror and blessed release, I looked for him and contemplated, and not for the first time, what it would be like if I could just run away.  Run away and not look back.  I had stayed with him all these years.  I couldn’t just leave, even though he was a monster.  A monster.

But, I stay.

It’s not like you can divorce your own child.

ceg 7.24.15

Hiraeth (a collection of lunes*)

fireflies

it is a word full
of meaning
and of memory

the time of day when
lights come on
mothers calling out

lightning bugs begin
their glowing
dance of attraction

patio candles
come to life
flickering shadows

cricket song rises
sweet chorus
as purple darkens

snatches of laughter
drifting low
through open windows

some call it twilight
others dusk
perhaps the gloaming

it is the essence
of childhood
captured in a word

ceg 7.17.15

*thirteen syllables are arranged in 5/3/5 format