Cedar Chests

There is a word for loneliness tho I can’t think of it now. I am the last of my kind: the last of an odd-lot family that never quite matched up. We didn’t nest like Matryoshka dolls. We barely rotated around each other.

Mother watched over the place where we lived. I know nothing of what happened before I got there – obviously, yeh? I know little of what followed since I lived in my own skin with barely a thought for what was outside of me. I lived in books, in other people’s stories, with dogs & horses. The Black Stallion whinnied in my dreams, nuzzled me awake on dark mornings when all there was to anticipate was sitting in rooms with tall windows, in front of dark nuns & recite catechism. There was the beach to ride my bike on, the boardwalk to cruise. There were bushes to pick leaves from to fold & fold to green specks & toss like verdant spitballs.

There was homework & religion & church on Sundays, choir singing, being pulled from class to attend a funeral for a song. There was jump rope in the schoolyard but no invitations to join. There were kids making out in the coat closet, but I pushed back my glasses & walked by. There were sisters of St. Joseph, white-wimpled & less than charming, more like to rattle their beads at you like snakes, dull gold crucifixes hanging heavily at their knees. There were problems & penmanship & geography & “JMJ” on the papers for Jesus, Mary Joseph.

There were lunch bags to open although I couldn’t tell you now what was packed for a sandwich…but I remember loving the chocolate cupcakes far more than the Tastycake Junior cakes. And milk.

There were saddle shoes to tie, clothes to warm on the radiator before wearing. There were teeth to brush & that one sinking soul morning when I saw pinholes in every tooth since I never did.

My mom didn’t mean to be a non-Mom, I’m sure, now that I’ve been a lost-cause mom myself. A generation untaught in the ways of caring for children; a generation to whom a child was an inconvenience & expensive, an appetite needing feeding, a blouse needing ironing at the end of the day when all that should have been left was sleep. There was a child of me who wanted nothing more than to slip into a book & become invisible for to be noticed was to be yelled at for something.

There was a brother in the house, but no love lost or found between. There were absent sisters so much older I only knew their names & their husbands’. There was Everly Brothers music to memorize & act out…”Bye Bye Love”, “Wake Up Little Susie” – these delicious situations for which I would not be accused yet could happen in a song I could sing.

Once someone asked me about my family & I blurted: “The ocean was my mother.” How fortunate the child growing up by the sea! How unbelievably lucky to have Eternity always east of me, China securely buried underneath  – all’s you had to do was dig deeply enough. There was fog to hide in on the beach until the trash trucks rolled near & I realized how foolish this could be. There were seashells to glue fake pearls into & sell for fifty cents outside from the stoop.

There was sand to sweep, figs to ignore, clothespins in a ragged bag on a low-belly rope. There were nor’easters crying over the land, slashing an innocent sidewalk with rain making that short hop from bay to beach. There were fall-down times & climb-tree times & this is all I remember of any of it. My thoughts were filled with guilt – I was most assuredly a big sinner tho trips to confession never took more than a couple of minutes, there were hail marys to count for penance & a Pater Noster to say for stealing Hershey bars.

I had no father to speak of save the one who thought child support unnecessary so Mom would yell about that. But I could do nothing except add it to the shadow bag; somehow it was my fault he did not pay.

I don’t remember much. A Barbie taken from me, so I’d not spoil her wedding dress given by an aunt who first noticed when I needed a bra. There were too-big clothes delivered by the Sears truck. There were always glasses on my face, cat’s frame eyeglasses slipping down my nose.

I wear glasses still. I live in the desert. My mother died alone in her bed, happy not to be in hospital where she thought the Filipino nurses were talking about her in Tagalog. There was a wailing phone call from my  sister in-law when Joe died in Germany. But I already knew he had crossed over as my husband channeled him before the call. My sister Rita died after telling me not to write to her anymore. Sixteen years older than I, we had nothing in common except letters & I cannot recall what I said, but I was rather a melancholic. Teri just died 1/26 but I have heard nothing at all except that she is gone & not a word of closure. Perhaps more guilt attends that.

I sleep well & if I wake for nature, I have a coffee & return, warmed, to bed. I drive a nice car which I may yet pay off in this lifetime but may not. I know nothing still. I know everything always.

My heart hurts at times with all I want to say. I can move heaven & earth with words, but I can make no one listen. I can ask for understanding, but who will tell me they do?

Time contained an endless blue joy of life & a hollow gray empty just on the other side of that.

At the end of my life, I have possessions & nothing else. I have friends but they are spun into their own cocoons. I have stories few have time to hear.

I have words for wings so I fly.