1980

 

She skips

Long-legged, my sylph, my purple fairy

Dancing down the sidewalk to the door of her school

Watching the toes of her boots as she goes.

She is dressed in warmth, for me

But for herself, she is full of color, and contradiction, and cotton

Because it does not itch.


I see her go and I see another little girl

Built the same, except she stoops a bit, already.

She exits a school bus, not the family car

(the family car was likely broken, anyway)

Enters not an elementary, but a school for all grades, K-12

Shuffling between students five and ten and thirteen and eighteen

Hopping, sometimes, perhaps, but always looking. Watching.

Wary.


I look at my child, and I feel satisfaction

Imagining all my childhood fears and terrors and sorrows, but knowing

Certain

that she will not know them

Determined

she will not know them

I look, and I think, with relief, yes, she is safe

The demons that haunted me will not find her.

They will not mock her clothes for being poor.

Older boys on the bus will not punch her in the nose

No wrinkled, harsh taskmaster will mock her penmanship

No gangs of imagined rural aristocracy will judge and mock her.

The demons that put their claws in me will not have mine

For I know them and how they work, and I have made mine safe from them.


Safe.


But even as I lean back in the driver’s seat,

my shoulders easing, my heart warming,

I see the shadows.

New shadows.

And I see that I have played myself a fool.

I have stopped the paths of the demons, yes:

Demons designed to find and wound a long-legged sylph on her family farm

Daughter of a farmer and teacher, lover of forests and cows and cats.

Demons for a smaller, narrower world

Demons, in fact, of another time.

They are demons whose heyday was 1980

And while they live still, they are all but impotent now.


Yesterday I broke my daughter’s lunchbox.

It was a present from her father and I

for no reason

A retro, quirky, enchanting sort of present which

in 1980

Would have made both of our hearts leap with joy.

We were both more upset than she at its destruction

and replaced it immediately, online,

hunting

seeking

Until it was found, and then we told her

so that she wouldn’t be sad

that we had done this.

She was grateful, and happy,

But I think we bought, and replaced the lunchbox for ourselves.


The world in 1980 was a different world.

It was a world of people who had things

and people who did not.

My husband and I did not.

We spent much of our childhood looking through glass

yearning

knowing we were judged for what we did not have.

And so, our child, in 2009, does not want

almost for anything.

And so, our child, in 2009

does not have our demons.

She has found other demons for her own.


I can, if I let go

Imagine my mother in 1980

Looking at her sylph dancing down the lane

And I see her shoulders sag in relief

Seeing the demons from 1957 swirl around me unnoticed

Obscuring her view of the ones I myself had welcomed in.

I see this, and I cry.


I would make her safe.

I would make her so safe no demon would touch her, now or ever.

I would construct for her, if I could, a world with no pain

Only light and unicorns and fairies

Its coloring skewed heavily to rainbows and shades of purple.

I would make myself a mountain to shield her

I would make myself a sky to cover her

I would make myself a forest to wrap around her

My blood a river to surround her

To keep her, forever, my happy sylph

Dancing her way into her school.


And this is why I cannot see the demons which haunt her

Those she has welcomed in

Because, like the little girl in 1980

She has also welcomed angels

To obscure her mother’s sight

And give her space and freedom

To struggle

To weep

To bleed

To despair

And to grow.


And so, as I drive away

Into the life that I have made

Crafted as I have struggled with my demons

I look back at 1980

and the little girl huddling her way down the hall

dancing through the forests of her mind

imagining her way out of the pain

And my shoulders ease again.

 

 

3 Comments on “1980

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