Wednesday, July 6, 2011

storytelling.

I don't have to tell you how much I've been struggling with writing as of late. And it's not that there aren't stories there. They just don't feel as connected to my guts. So to appease my own lack of presence in this space, I will pull a few old tales out of the memory banks.

When I was in grade school, I wore the badge of troublemaker with a small amount of sadness, but mostly with pride. I was tough. I was little, but I was darn tough. And I was fearless, in many ways - at least I thought so. Or at least that's how I remember things through my rose-tinted glasses.

I remember starting out nearly every school year with each student being able to choose their own desk among the rows of desks. Friends would choose to be amongst friends, and I was no different than any others. However, without fail, every year (and not too long after the year had started), my desk would be moved from wherever in the room I had chosen it to be to be right up closer to the front, away from my girl friends, and right smack in the middle of the boys. Yuck. The boys.

This move every year (and even sometimes multiple times a year) shaped me in many ways. It affirmed that:
- yes, Laura, you are such a troublemaker that you cannot be outside of a supervisor's watchful eye (a belief that hurts and has crippled me in many ways), and
- yes, Laura, you are not allowed to be with your friends because even though you are able to get the work done quickly, you distract them too much and they cannot finish.

I know from my years of university as an adult that the second statement is absolutely and unequivocally true. Most if not all of my university friends could attest to that.

But that first statement - it became so ingrained in me that it was a part of my identity. And it was so much a part of my identity that I wore it as I said with pride, and I nurtured and fostered that troublemaker-ness in many ways.

Here is where it gets dangerous.

I learned years and years and years later that yes, although I was a distraction to the other girls that sat around me, the main reason teacher after teacher after teacher moved me to the spot amongst the dreaded boys?

I was because I had a profound ability to create and maintain peace around me. Many teachers placed me amongst the troubled boys who needed assistance, and they found that I was gifted in that area, and would help the four sitting around me - in front, in back, and on each side. And all of this was in elementary school. Several teachers recognized this in me and utilized it to make the best of their classroom situation.

Imagine if someone had told me that.

"Laura - you have a profound ability to create peace amongst chaos wherever you go, and you are a vital member of the classroom."

And here all along I thought it was because I was only annoying and only bad.

Imagine of the truth was the message I stitched onto my heart and soul rather than the sense that I was no good for nobody. Where would I have gone instead? How much less time would I have wasted searching for value in myself?

Words and actions are powerful, powerful things.

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My Grandpa Harris died when I was quite newly pregnant with my firstborn. It's hard to believe we've just passed 12 years ago that he's been gone last month. When he was first gone I dreamed of him so often. He would be in his big coat, standing in the little entrance to their home in Lloydminster - he would open his arms big and wide, and envelope me in such love, such acceptance, such comfort and joy in those dreams. He came to visit me in dreams so often when I was at a place where major things were going down in my life, big decisions being made... and he always brought me such comfort. I miss him greatly.

At his memorial service all in attendance were invited to come up and share. Several of his own children went up to speak - I'm sure some of my uncles made some of us laugh. My mom probably went up and prayed and said something that embarrassed us kids as is often the case with mamas and their growing teenage and young adult children...

For me, I knew I had to go, I felt compelled to go - and my cousin Katrina really wanted to go up and speak as well. We seemed to both be lacking the courage to go alone so we accompanied one another up to the microphoned podium and said our piece to this man who meant so much to us. I remember she spoke about her fondness for Grandpa playing the piano with her. I remember Grandpa playing the piano, too. And the harmonica. Those memories make me smile.

When it was my turn to speak, the memory I wanted to recall and share was so crystal clear that any fear I had in speaking was quickly abated by the fondness the memory invoked. It is still clear as day today. Grandpa was a tinkerer. He always had all kinds of interesting things in his garage, in his office, and he was always keen to share his excitement over new things, or he was unable to contain his curiosity over a perplexing or new item, or problem, and in my memory, he was always willing to drop whatever project he was working on to satisfy the curious hunger for knowledge and understanding of a little child. 

Even now, rewriting this story, I remember what I said at the memorial service then and I will say it again now. Grandpa didn't make an effort to show that he was all fancy-like I'm going to drop what I'm doing to show this precious child how important they are to me, to the world, to God, that this little person's childhood is so fleeting that I must maximize on it and show them how wonderful they are, bless this little one for their curiosity... in truth he was plain and simple and just as curious as I was. So when I came to him with what I now know was a simple, plain, castoff piece of copper pipe - I was all of seven years old, and completely enthralled with this commonplace item that to me looked like it was a part of pirate treasure - or formed from something as exotic as squashed money - or was so unbelievably important that it was so very special that I discovered it in my Grandpa's yard and was seeking his knowledge and help to return it to its owner.

Only thing was, whether he acted this way on purpose to appease and delight me I do not know... but he acted like I had found something like pirate treasure - or something as valuable as if it were formed from squashed money - or something so unbelievably important that it was so very special... he began, under my watchful eye, to perform a series of tests on it - he had all of his electrical testing equipment in his garage and various other cool things (like a photocopier? that was the coolest thing eva when I was 7 8 11 14... oh, the good times we had with that photocopier!). But Grandpa sat there and humored me for what seemed like the better part of an afternoon, helping me figure out what this item could possibly be, and what could we use it for? and where did it come from? and my question do you think someone misses it? and once we had figured out that it was pipe, he asked me the most important question of all what do you want to do with it?

I remember that afternoon with Grandpa so fondly. I still miss him. But he taught me an important lesson that day. It's a lesson that I have sadly forgotten at many times during my days and months and years as a mother.

There are many days where I have gotten so wrapped in a fog in my head that I am forgetting to remain curious with my children. I feel so tired and fatigued by the questions and the curiosity that it feels that loneliness and depression and something as menial but menacing as a lack of finances is the boss... and if one of my brood found something along the lines of this pipe, tragically they would be simply told it's just a copper pipe, it's not a toy, a plumber threw it away, it's garbage. leave it alone.

And for that I mourn. But I can change it. And I am making my very best efforts to do just that. I am so grateful for these days again where the sunshine can spill into my spirit and wash me and my children in its warmth, and when browned well enough, all of us retreat into the cool of the house with pink cheeks and sun-kissed shoulders. I wish my Grandpa could give me that big hug in my dreams again that reaffirms to me see? you are complete. you are good enough. you are loved. you can do this. you are so special. you are vital.

Lots of things can add up to a big heavy monster of an oppressive sadness that falls over a woman, a wife, a mama, a family - they can add up exponentially for a long, long time. And just sit, heavy. And then the light and more of the Light helps me to see they are also waiting to be dispersed, and then put away. Every time.

Oh, but how we love the sunshine. I'm hoping to come out and play, because I can, I love to, and I am. I've missed you all. I hope I've been missed, too. (shameless plug.)

Photos and new posts are a comin'. It's summer. Time to shine and tell some more stories.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this.... when I think of Grandpa I smile. For him, we were so good just the way we were/are.... he treated all of his million grandkids like precious gems. We were all special in his eyes. Much like the way our Papa in heaven sees us. Even then you were such a support to me - going up to share at grandpa's memorial. Thank you Laur. Love you xo

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  2. Sadly, I would tell my kids the same thing. It's just a piece of pipe, garbage, it's not a toy, Don't touch it.

    Thank you for reminding me that I am not the only one fumbling through right now, and that I need to take the time to play as well. Poppy asks me a hundred times a day to jump on the trampoline with her but there always seems to be something a little more important going on that keeps me from jumping with her. Yesterday my heart broke after she walked out there and sat out on it alone with her head hung and I truly believe that she was heartbroken that I couldn't make the time to jump for a few minutes. I decided that was going to have to change. The bills and the laundry have to take a backseat to my children and it started yesterday.

    Thank you for your beautiful words, and you have been missed :)

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  3. Thanks for that Laura... you have such a good memory for details of the past, That always did, and still does, amaze me... I must admit our car boot is a treasure box for the things the kids find... old hair elastics (yuck), bits of wood, rocks and plastic. But it kind of depends on the day and my mood, sometimes I just tell them "it's rubbish" ...but after reading your post I'm going to be more involved in their wonder...hands can be washed after all :) :) -Karen xx

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  4. grandpas are the best, aren't they?

    i always envied the kids at the head of the class for having the confidence in their own intelligence and ability to sit so close to the teacher, ready for a go at the blackboard.

    big love to you as you weave your summer of stories.

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  5. so glad I found your blog, Laura!
    I already like your stories and I've only read a few.

    xo rhonda

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make no mistake, I am smitten with your words. please say hello, or pour something out - you will make my heart happy.

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