Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Girl in the box

Last time I was back in Canada visiting the family I found a box of my old life. It had hundreds of dusty and molding papers, photos, clippings, print outs, and mostly poems I had written.

I decided they would be worth keeping, if only for the humour and nostalgia in going over the thoughts and offerings of the teenage dreamer I was.

The plan has been to scan the lot, and then send the paper piles back for a boxed existence in my mother’s basement on some back shelf.

Last night I dragged out the various envelopes within, and sifted through. Most of the poems I found there were naïve and badly composed. They try too hard, with long adjectives and disjointed concepts. Who was that girl? I find it amazing that she lived in my frame, looked in the mirror and saw the young me.

So much has changed and I have forgotten how she felt. All that is left is the paper trail of her untidy emotions.

And then I found the following. It is dated April 22nd, 1994. I was 24 years old and Q was just over 1 year. We were living in an old row house in Toronto. The back window looked out over rusted train tracks and beyond that, lake Ontario.

The highrises around us were overflowing with the city’s poorest and most marginalized. We dodged used needles and condoms that littered the sidewalks on our daily outtings. I remember having at first thought the neighborhood was vibrant and gritty, when we had opted to move out here, for cheaper rent but still within walking distance to work.

We had recently lost our restaurant, investors had backed out right as the place was establishing itself as a fixture in the area. It was a few blocks over in the ‘trendy’ neighborhood of Queen West, and Q’s father, (my ex-locker partner and high school sweetheart) was on a slippery path to self destruction. It was the reason the business had fallen apart. Too much too young? Addiction: lies, behaviour changes followed.

This particular day, he gathered our comforter from the bed and carried it with purpose to the living room with it’s big bay window. Q and I watched him with curiousity, and I with a sinking feeling in my stomach. He hoisted himself up on a chair, and stretched from his tippy toes to nail the heavy blanket across the top of the window frame.

The smashing noise from the hammer was deafening and Q looked up at me, uneasy. I scooped him up and whisked him off to the other room to play. Then M walked by us. The light in the hallway had disappeared, shrouded in thick cloth.

M: “That old lady from next door! She keeps watching us! Well, I’ll show her…”

me: “What are you talking about?!”

Door slam. He was gone for the afternoon. I could only guess where, and did not want to take that mental journey. I lied down beside Q and his stuffed animals and sang softly, running my hands gently through his loose black curls, until he drifted off to sleep. Then I got up and decided to write, to put things in perspective and keep myself sane:

“His face was broad, the skin creamy and smooth and tight. This carefully beautiful face, created as if to make a mother question the sarcastic overtones of a ‘concept of God’.

Oh, he was no ordinary soul. A mother was sure. Why, one only had to ponder the enormous circumference of his eyes. Not uncommon was it to be stopped several times during the daily walks, with comments of praise and astonishment at the wonder of his gaze.

A mother again had to question her accomplishment. For even then she knew it was a twosome till death-do-us-part. Mother and child. Somehow she's known this while he played within her. Mompati - 'my companion', the name she'd given him after all the others on his birth papers.

And she felt comfort in that shred of stability, as everything else slowly fogged over around her.”
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24 comments:

Miss Footloose said...

Beautiful. You've had and are having quite a trip through life. Looking back at our "old" selves is often an interesting and sometimes painful experience.

The pale observer said...

Thanks MF! Yes, it's strange. I remember what happened for the most part, but not how I felt - until I read something I wrote...

OdetteO said...

Thank you for sharing that. What a journey you and Mompati have been on.

staceyjwarner said...

Wonderful, I just recently threw out old cards and letters that I had kept for years. I have no idea why I did it. Now I wish I hadn't.

We are the same age...

lovely post

much love

Matthew said...

I have nothing from my past really; no photographs, no letters - nothing. Reading this, I wish it were different.

This was enthralling for so many reasons. I'm glad you saved it.

The pale observer said...

Thanks Stacey - coming up on the big 40 in a month! Yikes.

@Matthew - my hubby is of the belief that EVERYTHING must be recorded and kept (photos and letters, diaries etc.). As a result, his boys' lifes are documented completely. It's so nice to watch the old videos and hear their little voices... those are things memory cannot keep for you.

That's why I didn't toss this heap of papers. I was intrigued when I read that little excerpt I'd written, as I don't remember having those thoughts...

Captain Dumbass said...

That was a really good post.

The pale observer said...

Thank ya Captn

Scarlet said...

Beautifully expressed. It's amazing what old photos, letters, journals and poems can bring out of us today. I haven't had time to sit alone with my "box" from the past, but you're inspiring me to dig for it!

TheChicGeek said...

This is so beautiful, Holli. You write so well.
I can feel the emotion of that day through your words, and, as a mom myself I understand. There is nothing like the love between a mother and a child. Thank you for sharing your words with us today. They were beautiful.

Have a Happy Day!
Kelly

Kay said...

I went through the same sort of feeling when I went through my old journals before we left Illinois to return to Hawaii after 34 years.

Your writing is just beautiful and captures a mother's feeling eloquently.

Thanks for visiting, Holli! I really am enjoying your wonderful blog, especially since my son was in Mali for 27 months with the Peace Corps.

blunt edges said...

m speechless...one of the most touching write-ups i have ever come across!

The pale observer said...

Scarlett, Kelly, Blunt - thanks! *Blush, blush*

Kay - I actually began my time in Ghana as a volunteer 14 years ago with a Canadian organization very similar to the Peace Corps! - thanks also for visiting and commenting.

180|360 said...

Wow, so beautiful. I've saved all of my old photos and writings. I used to look at the regularly in my 20's to try to figure out who I was. I haven't looked at them once in my 30's.

sassy said...

I wish I had thone things. I'm an expat as well, and they are, well, God knows where, forgotten in the bottom of I Don't Know Who's basement.

I loved your words, first time here.... very nice to meet you.

Julie Dao said...

This was so beautiful and touching. I really enjoy reading all of your posts but this is one of my favorites - it's amazing what memories can do for us!

I've passed an award on to you at my blog!

Sweden's Ford Fairlane said...

It's when I encounter blogs like this that I realize how powerful these means of communication are. I really like your way of writing and since I'm soon-to-be a Ghanaian I will defenitely keep an eye out for your blog.

And oh, thanks for the visit to my blog! You're the first english native speaker who's commented, I like that! [Looking at pictures can everybody do even though I mainly write in Swedish.]

/Magnus

Yuko C. Murray said...

Beautiful and poignant. I truly enjoy your writing... that must come from what seems to be a turbulent life? Thank you. I'm so happy you've found me! I feel enriched that I know you are here.

Tamika: said...

That was lovely. Sometimes just laying next to my girls stroking their face all of my worries spill away.

The pale observer said...

@ 180/360 - thanks for the comment. Why have you not gone back in your 30's to look at the writings? Also, I'm curious about your number-name...

@sassy - thanks for visiting!! It is definitely a 'trip' to find all your old writing...

@ Julie - thanks so very much :)

@Magnus - my fellow Ghanaian - let's be blogger buddies. Hope you'll write a few more posts in English!


@Yuko - good to have found you too - thanks for the comments!


@Tamika - yes, the power of our children's smell, innocence, unconditional love is something unmatched!

jan said...

yes, it's funny how one can't see so clearly now that was not visible back then. and how lucky you are to have had that feeling of stability when everything else was else slowly fogged around you.

very poignant.

julochka said...

wow. those are some powerful memories you found in that box. makes me want to see what's lurking in my parents basement as well. tho' i don't think i ever wrote any poetry. thank odin for that. :-)

julochka said...

by the way, i'm blog crushing you in my post tomorrow. :-) thank for your patience in waiting for me to find time to come by. i don't know why i waited! :-)

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