“I’m too straight, mama. I’m too straight.”
My son assuredly meant something by this, but it’s doubtful he meant what it sounded like to me.
I couldn’t help but laugh, but I couldn’t stop thinking about his words, either. And when we drove away from a bookstore with a new Cat in the Hat book in our possession, I found myself imagining a Seuss-style conversation with his older self.
Li’l D, just so’s you know, I’ll love you . . .
twelve times forever
Mommy, mommy, you love me, right?
I love you, silly, bigger than the sun is bright!
Would you love me if I were a girl?
It’s your heart I love, not the parts that show to the world.
What if I were sick? Would you love me then?
Aye, for it’s not a temperature that makes a good friend!
But if I were gay, would you turn me away?
As long as you love, you’ll make my every day.
What If I grow up and become a judge?
I wouldn’t wish law upon you, but my love wouldn’t budge!
Does this mean that you’ll love me forever and ever?
Forever’s too short; I’ll love you twelve times forever.
(And then let’s just add one more little forever.)
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
AUTHOR: Deborah Bryan
PUBLICATION DATE: January 24, 2011
PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services LINKS: Visit Deborah Bryan's Website or her Facebook Page Purchase: Amazon.com
I couldn't put it down. Deborah has an amazing writing style that I absolutely fell in love with after just a few sentences. Her descriptions are well thought out and extremely vivid which in turn leads the reader into her world with ease.
Renee (Life in the Boomer Lane) writes mirthful, subversive critiques of the media that make me wish she were responsible for all news, everywhere. I said as much the first time I read her blog, and wish it even more strongly now.
I was anxious when I invited her to guest post. I didn’t dare dream she’d actually say “yes,” but rejoiced when she did.
Beneath her wit runs compassion that is so much more than words. I am thankful she uses her words in all the ways she does: to speak out against injustice, to poke good-hearted fun, to encourage. It was at Renee’s urging that I wrote about my experiences testifying in court as a child; through that writing, I not only learned but increased my strength. For this I am and will ever be thankful to Renee.
Recommended post: The Day I Shook Hands with the Dalai Lama
In the midst of the riches that surround me, of family and friends and health and purpose, I am thankful for two moments in time that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my life.
Years before I was born, two children, one in Poland and one in Russia, each stepped onto a different ship. One was a girl, eight years old. The other a boy, thirteen. The eight year old was alone. There was no family to hold her hand. There was no family to stand at the dock and wish her well as she departed. She probably had a card either pinned to her clothing, or hung on a cord or rope from her neck. The card would have had her name and little else. She would have been surrounded by other children, all duly identified. She wouldn’t have known where she was going, and she wouldn’t have known what would happen to her after she arrived.
The uncertainty of where she was going or what would happen when she arrived might not have been unexpected. In her short life, she was used to uncertainty and to the knowledge that the security of family was a gift given to others and not to her. From birth, her understanding of parents or family was limited to the people in her village, almost all of whom could point to others and say “To these people I am connected. To this family I belong.” In a place where people spoke of “my grandfather” and “my grandfather’s grandfather” and defined themselves solely in this way, she was connected only to herself.
That her mother died in childbirth was a fact she had been told, just as she was told the sun rose in the morning and set at night. It is difficult to experience an absence when one has never experienced the presence. That her father abandoned her shortly after the birth may or may not have been told to her. The name on the cardboard she wore was that of a wealthy man in her village. It was a name given to her perhaps to ensure good luck. It wasn’t a name that a parent had given.
The thirteen year old was luckier. He was traveling with his mother, a woman who birthed him late in life and who was now a widow. Her other children, all grown, had families of their own. Years before, two sisters and a brother had made the same journey the boy was about to make. For that reason, he knew there would be family waiting when he and his mother arrived at their destination. But he would have been too young to have remembered them very well. His mother was all he knew.
He also knew that he was expected to step into his father’s shoes and become the breadwinner. The thought of being an adult didn’t scare him. The events he had witnessed and the people he had lost in his young life had meant an end to his innocence at a very early age. He might have thought that the price of instant adulthood was a small one to pay. He might have hoped that where he was going, young adults wouldn’t be lined up in one of the town squares and shot. He might have hoped that small children wouldn’t have to hide when soldiers went on their all-too-predictable killing sprees. Or, it is possible he may have wondered if where he was going could be even worse.
Over and over, I replay in my head the two moments in time when the first of each of their feet, the boy and the girl, stepped onto the worn, oiled wood of the gangplank. When, in that one moment, while the other foot was still on the ground, they existed in two worlds, one known and the other unknown. It is into that space that my thoughts keep returning. But I will never know their thoughts.
The girl might have hoped against hope that a loving father would be waiting, and that a family would be there that would become her family. The boy might have hoped against hope that his new life of a grown man’s responsibility might also include the possibility of an education that had been denied to him. Each of them, the boy and the girl, whatever hopes and fears entwined like battling lovers taking hold of their hearts, would still place that next foot on the gangplank and in so doing, walk into the rest of their lives.
It was that initial moment that led to all the others that followed. That a girl who was unloved would grow into a woman whose love for her daughter was fierce and abundant. That a boy who was never able to get past his own fear would grow into a man who would allow his daughter to take brave steps to get past her own. That each of them, the boy and the girl, would, from insecurity and from loss, together build a life of security and of love for their daughter.
For this I am thankful.
It took me three minutes to go from shaking my fist at Valentine’s Day to believing there might be some merit in it.
As a kid, I loved Valentine’s Day. How could I resist adult-sanctioned sugar highs? How could anyone?
As an adult, I’ve scoffed (generally quietly) at the idea of designating a day for showing love. I’ve shaken my head at the idea love could ever truly be expressed in a purchased gift or greeting card.
When Chris asked if I’d be interested in writing a Valentine’s Day post for a good cause, I was too busy balking at the words “Valentine’s Day” to hear the “good cause” part of his question. But as the seconds ticked by, my thoughts raced faster and faster toward a surprising conclusion.
Last year, I argued against Mother’s Day detractors on Facebook by stating that none of the gifts I wanted could be bought at a store. I wasn’t celebrating it as a way to get mad loot. I wanted only a morning off and the gift I described here. Besides, I typed furiously, the day wasn’t meant to make up for a year of love not shared or shown. I felt it should be taken as a reminder: Hey! Look! I know you’re busy making ends meet, but slow down and take time out today to love on the moms who light up your life!
Within 180 time-stamped seconds, I realized that my words about celebrating Mother’s Day last year were no less relevant to Valentine’s Day. Regardless of its less than savory origins or its original link to one’s romantic love, I wondered, was there really any reason I couldn’t personally celebrate it as a day of remembering to stop and say “I love you” to all those who brighten my life? That I couldn’t designate it a personal “reminder day” to step outside of time and say, “I may get caught up in my commute, job, blogging, editing, writing, and parenthood, but my love for you is timeless”?
Love needn’t be expressed with boxes of chocolate or greeting cards. It can be expressed in a smile, a hug, a loving word, a song. A day itself can’t tell us what or how to celebrate. It doesn’t demand we show our love on it and it alone.
That’s a human choice. We choose how we show our loved ones that our lives are better for them, on Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year.
Today I change my stance on Valentine’s Day. I do so thanks to the innocent question of a friend who asked if I’d consider posting about a little girl named Donna, about whom I previously wrote here.
Donna celebrated her last Valentine’s Day in 2009. In October 2009, she died of cancer.
But here’s the thing: for her four years, she lived. She lived with joy, bravery and panache that continues to inspire thousands of people who never met her face to face.
I admire not only Donna, but also her mom, Mary Tyler Mom, who lived through 31 months of her daughter’s cancer treatment . . . and then relived it through Donna’s Cancer Story so others could see for themselves the brilliance of her daughter’s spirit.
Does my admiration stop there? Not by a long shot. I admire and applaud all those who watch their amazing little lights shine on in the face of cancer, and those who work tirelessly to see those lights endure for many decades yet.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss my son goodnight every night, not knowing if I will ever get the chance to kiss him again. Wondering alone makes me wish a million times over I could take away illness and grant life.
That’s outside of my power. What’s within my power is helping Donna’s light shine by telling you about her courage and exuberance. By telling you about the countless lights holding strong in hope for a cure, and about what you can do to help some of their parents know the joy of many more years of bedtime kisses and dance recitals.
From St. Baldrick’s, here are some of those ways:
How can you help conquer kids’ cancer?
1. Donate now to fund lifesaving research
2. Sign up as a shavee or volunteer at an event near you. (Once you find an event, click on the blue box that says “participate at this event.” If you want to join the Donna’s Good Things team, click here.)
3. Can’t find an event near you? Organize your own event. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation will coach you every step of the way. In particular, they are looking for new events in Maine, Mississippi, Alabama and Utah.
I will match up to $250 of total donations made by you to the Donna’s Good Things team. If you donate, please forward me a copy of your receipt (sans personal info!) so that I know how much to match. If you’re donating in someone’s honor or memory, please let me know in a few sentences whose honor/memory so that I may help their light shine in a follow-up post.
Donna lives on in her family members’ hearts, my heart, and in thousands of other hearts that see the beauty of baldness in a way they might not have without Donna. For her parents and those who knew and loved her day to day while she still danced through this world, the dazzling breadth of her impact cannot possibly replace the loss of her light here.
Yet she is remembered with love, and her memory is a blessing to many children who might live longer because of her. And you.
Let’s make that count, on Valentine’s Day and every day. Together.
P.S. Karin of Pinwheels and Poppies, Chris of From the Bungalow, Katy of I Want a Dumpster Baby and Lisha of The Lucky Mom are also blogging for Donna today, along with several others! Be sure to visit Donna’s Good Things on Facebook to find all of the posts. Happy Donna Day!
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
Thanks to Martine (nascentnovelist), I spend at least 10-15 minutes per week writing with a posture that wouldn’t make a chiropractor breathe fire on, at, or around me.
It’s not that Martine devotes herself to preaching the merits of good posture. It’s just that my introduction to her was via her entry on maintaining good posture through long writing sessions. The contrast between that entry and the one recommended below kept me coming back for a kind of “more” that’s much more comfortably achieved than the kind she reflects on here.
Recommended post: Challenge yourself!
Give it that extra push!
When Deb asked me to write a post about something I was grateful for, the answer popped into my head immediately: my back injury. It sounds weird, I know, but I am. My back injury has been a constant companion for over two decades, and like a nagging aunt that refuses to leave you alone until you button up your shirt before going out in November, it’s been giving me good advice. I just needed to learn how to listen.
When I was six years old, I fell from a ladder and landed straight on my back. I couldn’t sit or stand for a week. My parents were terrified that I’d never be able to walk again, but I healed. Up to a point. I could move like a person, but not without pain, and I was stiff as a board. Touching my toes? Forget about it.
I spent my adolescence and early adulthood in agony. Every day, part of my brain would analyze dull aches and sharp stings for signs of serious trouble, all the while spending an uncomfortable amount of hours and dollars consulting specialists. All those years I was convinced that I’d like nothing more than to be like everybody else: pain free.
At twenty-two, I finally despaired. My back had been better for a few weeks, good enough that I hadn’t really noticed it. But when I carried two bags of groceries home, it went cachunk, and suddenly, it hurt so bad I didn’t know how to get back inside my apartment. And the thought hit me: what if it never gets better? What if I have to live with this pain for the rest of my life?
That was the moment when things began to change. My doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists had been telling me to be careful all my life. If I were to work out, I had to do it gently, slowly, repetitively. At the first sign of pain, I needed to stop. I should probably stay away from barbells all together, but if I braved that part of the gym, it would be to do many slow reps with very low weights. Swimming, water aerobics and long walks were the workouts of choice for me. You know, the same advice they give geriatrics patients. It was clear to me that this was as good as I was going to get, as long as I did things their way. But what was my way? That’s what I needed to find out.
I struck lucky. Met a certified personal trainer who didn’t mind making a training program for me without charge (we’re still together). I didn’t tell him about my back injury, so he made me a strength building program with a hint of cardio and let me loose on the other side of the gym: where the olympic bars live. It was terrifying and exhilarating. Then I started working for a chiropractor who didn’t believe in the safe-is-better-approach and who pushed me on an unsuspecting group of martial arts people.
Getting good advice from certified professionals helped, but the change came from inside me. I decided to test my limits. To push myself. To learn the difference between bad pain, and necessary pain. And what do you know: by accepting a little pain at the start, I got better. My muscles grew stronger and soon, they were able to support my back. My posture improved. And little by little, without me even noticing it, the pain disappeared. I still can’t touch my toes, but I can deadlift 225 lbs.
So did I get my wish? Am I pain free? Most of the time. But my injury is still there, pushing me back into training every time I slack off. It’s a reminder of what happens if I let myself be held back by the advice of others instead of listening to my own body. It’s a push to continue to improve. It’s not a handicap: it’s a tool to make sure I’m doing everything right, and an alarm that warns me if I’m doing it wrong.
last : Little Gratitude | Two Ships (2/17/12) : next