Listening To: Drive All Night by needtobreathe
Line Obsession: "There was nothing ordinary about that mirror. And if you were the perceptive sort -- which of course you are -- you would have known it immediately. But if you weren't, you might look in the mirror and think I did not know that mole was so enormous or Why is my face festering? Or My goodness, I had no idea I was so evil looking. For the mirror took beautiful things and made them ugly, and it took ugly things and made them hideous. It was the most marvelous mischief indeed." - from Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press, 2011, p.70)
Anniversaries are such strange little time-keepers. They mark wonderful moments - birthdays and special "firsts" and holidays and weddings. They mark the saddest days too: the good-bye days. The seventeenth holds a very particular good-bye memory for me.
On the morning of November 17th, 2004. I woke up to the most gorgeous sunrise I have ever seen. My old house was surrounded by dense woods, so the sunrise was usually visible through the trees. I forgot to close my shades the night before, so the sunrise had crept into my room too, so bright against the backs of my eyelids. Brighter against the window when I blinked awake (When I woke up, it looked like someone had spilled sunlight over the glass). Even my quilt looked like it was stitched out of sunbeams. It was a glory-day sunrise.
The outside world looked glittery under frost. The air against my window was icy: the kind that burns your lungs when you breathe in deep. The kind that holds all your words in banners of breath, way-high-up in the air. That was a strange morning; bone-cold, but comforting too. I remember my first thoughts very distinctly:
This is the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen. And then:
I can't explain how I knew, but I did. Or my heart knew, I guess. My heart knew she was gone as soon as I opened my eyes. Within a few more breaths, the phone rang, confirming what I already knew to be true.
She was gone.
But this sunrise ...
November 17th will always mark a good-bye day. And a glory-day, too.
My grandmother passed away seven years ago today. So even though November brings me much happiness in the form of Starbucks holiday drinks, knee boots, and red leaves ... the seventeenth is always a bittersweet day. Sweet because there are so many billions of amazing memories I have with her. Sad because, of course, I miss her crazy-bad. This day will always feel like scratching a scab off my heart. I'm sure you know exactly what that's like. You've probably experienced a loss that cut much deeper than mine.
There's a short section in Paperdoll that I wrote about my granny, and I thought it might be sweet to share it with you today.
And I thought giving away a copy of the book might be a fun way to celebrate all the ways she poured into my life.
I think this is a good season for a giveaway. I know lots of you super-sweet college peeps are entering the season of Finals and Projects and Papers and Various Other Forms of Stink. It is a proven fact that ripping open a small box containing a pink book (and various other pink oddities ...) makes finals time far more exciting. (We'll do another giveaway next month, too! 'Tis the season for pink.)
Fun Note: This passage that you are reading will look just slightly different when you read it in Paperdoll. I'm using my original piece here, but this essay (as it was in the beginning) was edited when it got all bookified (another paragraph was threaded into it and some of it was moved around ... still the same piece though). (Same room; just a different furniture arrangement. You savvy?)
If you are interested in winning a copy of Paperdoll, I'll tell you how at the end of this post.
Thanks for reading : )
... from Chapter 10, Paper Violets:
I thought of her today when I walked into the grocery store because I saw a bouquet of the reddest roses I have ever seen. They were a true, vibrant, unforgettable red, like the perfect shade of lipstick. Like a little red dress that hugs your curves but doesn't make you look fat. The petals felt like velvet paper, and when I touched them, I remembered the last conversation I had with her before she passed away.
I sat on the edge of her hospital bed holding a bunch of paper flowers; tangible proof of a season in my life underscored by confusion, frustration and panic attacks. I told a friend of mine that I was fairly certain I was going crazy. She told me I should take up painting. Painters can get away with crazy, she said. So late at night, when I couldn't sleep, I listened to James Taylor and smashed together pinks, reds, yellows, and blues on a paper plate. Then I loaded that paint onto a brush and watched it bloom into flowers on a canvas, on paper, on plastic cups, and on Mason Jars. I painted anything I could hold.
I took a fistful of paper flowers with me when I visited her. I thought I might as well show Granny my new hobby, because she'd always adored my artsy endeavors.
But when I actually spilled my paper flowers out of my pocket and onto her hospital bed, I felt like a flower-painting moron. Granny assured me they were lovely.
She traced her finger around the paper petals while she asked me how I was doing.
"Great." I lied.
And I kept on lying. I told her that I was so happy and so excited about my future and that I was brimming with great stories and beautiful words. None of that was true, of course. I was painting flowers at 2AM and having strange, breathless moments when I was around crowds of people. I was afraid of shadows and of being alone. Sometimes I cried through my prayers. Sometimes I didn't pray at all. The job I'd dreamed about didn't happen, and the guy did not work out, and I couldn't write anything. It was as if all the words in the world had shriveled up and blown out of my imagination.
And I knew I was about to lose her. I was having an awful time wrapping my my mind around goodbye.
I stopped talking. My lip trembled. "Things aren't working out like I thought they would," I managed to whisper. I felt selfish as soon as the words left my mouth. That moment of clarity was a gift; I knew it could be our last conversation and I'd gone and ruined it, talking about my stupid problems.
But Granny didn't mind.
She reached over and rested her hand over mine and smiled at me. When my eyes locked on hers, I didn't see any fear, only the confidence and grace I'd come to know so well.
"Everything works out for you," she said. Her voice was authoritative and steady. "You're going to have to trust God in this. Keep moving ahead. He's always taken good care of you. He will always take good care of you. Hang on tight and watch and see."
I rested my hand over hers. Her hand had wrinkles and bumps, but her skin felt as soft as rose petals, dozens and dozens of them. I thought about all the flowers and babies she'd held in her lifetime, about the dough she'd kneaded and the green beans she'd snapped and the hands she'd held in fierce, unrefined prayers that rattled the skies. Granny had never been content watching life go by; she took hold of her days. She'd wrung out every minute of her life.
I thought about how strange the two of us looked then. I was supposed to be young and idealistic with my whole life ahead of me. I was supposed to be confident. Excited. In my prime. But I was only terrified. Gran was just inches away from eternity. She should have been scared, but she looked so peaceful in that moment, so confident that the God who carried her this far would carry her home.
"Love you," was all I whispered back, as a single, cold tear rushed down my face.
"Love you more," she said as she squeezed my hand tightly in hers.
That was our last conversation, the last stolen moment of mental alertness she ever shared with me. I'm grateful this part of our story together ended with "I love you," with her hand in mine and paper flowers scattered on the sheet between us. Life is dying, too, and, in that, truly living. I can't let the fear of a broken heart keep me from living. I can't let the fear of rejection keep me from living. I can't let FEAR keep me from living every moment to its fullest; until the day I dance - or walk - or limp - that last glorious mile home.
... I want to come to that end, and that beginning, and remember the richness of life I held in my lifetime. I want to have all my memories scattered around me like paper flowers in my lap. I want to have a thousand pictures running through my mind of the people I love and the people who loved me. And I want to hold all that love like confetti in my hands and toss it in the air when I cross the finish line home. (♥)
Still with me? :)
Gran was a gift; and I'm grateful that I got to spend so much time with her. I wrote about the end-part of her life today, but I need to write about some more fun memories I have. Because if you're picturing a sweet little mild-mannered Granny ... you have the wrong mental picture. Gran was a force. She was extremely smart and loud and fun. She loved poetry (when I was little, and asked her to tell me stories, she would quote "Anabel Lee" from memory). She loved soft-serve vanilla ice cream. She loved Jesus. She loved The Young and the Restless.
She would have loved this blog. She would have thought you people were the cutest things ever. : ) And I'm positive you would have thought she was the coolest. Her personality was more enigmatic than any other person I've ever encountered. People came alive when she was around; they smiled when she smiled, laughed when she laughed, became more confident when she was close to them. Hers was a special brand of magic.
Gran didn't get to read Paperdoll; but I 'm quite certain she would have bought, and distributed, copies to every person she'd ever met. Like, I can so easily picture her at her weekly doctor's appointment passing a copy around the waiting room. Gran was PR before PR was cool.
I've been thinking so much lately about how she would love the new writing too, even though it is very different from what I've done before.
Maybe ironically (... or maybe not ironically at all), this seventeenth marks a really sweet time as far as my writing is concerned. My heart is full (and cautiously hopeful) and, today, I really am excited. I don't paint flowers at midnight anymore; but I'm usually up that late, planning. Hoping. Writing. (James Taylor still helps me out ;) These stories are blooming things, and I know Gran would go wild over them. She would savor every word. She would smile proudly and say, simply: "It's about *darn* time." I wish I could tell her that she was right all along. But I have a feeling she knows.
This November 17th, I'm grateful for people I love, for stories to tell, for music, and for the glory-day sunrise that whispered a beginning to me seven years ago when I was surrounded by endings.
If you'd like to win a copy of Paperdoll, simply scoot on down to the comments and tell me something you love about your grandparent(s) (or someone who has been like a grandparent to you - someone a bit older who has mentored along, maybe?). Maybe share something they taught you or share a favorite memory. Maybe you've never even met your grandparents; but there's a picture you've seen or a story you've heard that made an impact on you. I'm excited to read what you have to say! :) (And I hope you'll share even if you've already read Paperdoll. Just let me know if you don't want your name tossed in the entry.)
Next Wednesday at 8AM (... ish), I'll use the random number generator to pick a winner.
In addition to a copy of Paperdoll, I'm also sending a bookmark (they're fancy and new). This is The Rogue Accountant illustrating the joy-inducing capabilities of the bookmarks:
And! Some super-stinking cute buttons:
I ordered the buttons and bookmarks for an event that I spoke at; just some fun free-stuffs for the girls who attended. But the buttons didn't get there in time (dagnabit!). So I've enjoyed finding creative uses for them. (My dad wears one on his cap. How fun is he?) By which I mean: mostly, I've had fun sneaking through my friends' houses and sticking buttons on their jackets, bags, backpacks, hats, scarves and shoes, and etc. I can hardly wait to start attaching them to Christmas trees. ; )
I'll most likely throw in another pink surprise too. It might be pink M&M's. Or it might be a pink statue of a wiener dog. You'll just have to take your chances.
I hope you're surrounded by new beginnings and good memories; that this seventeenth is the sweetest for you. Take hold of this day.