Thursday, August 12, 2010

cleaning house

Firstly--hopefully Google will resolve their issue--the one that stole my slideshow---------over there----►

I have finally finished that novel. Naturally, many more await, but I have struck a deal with myself. I am going to clean out the upstairs hall closet before I can start another book. I started today, by going through bins and boxes loaded with files, tax returns, greeting cards, a few pictures, programs from various music and theater performances. One thing I came across, was a set of files that were sent to St. Monica School, when Melissa was transferring in. She lived with her dad from age seven to almost thirteen. Then she came to live with me. It was a bold move for a sensitive child, one that underscored her bravery, clarity of sight, and desperation. Anyway, here is a writing piece that was included in the files. She was in second grade. It was the first full year that her dad and I were separated after thirteen years. 

at the top were these instructions-

If you made a birthday basket for someone special, who would it be, and what would you put in it?
Here's what she wrote.

I'm Melissa.
This is a basket for Megann.
I put  in babie because Megann is a baby siter  she loveie babyies very much.
She wants to go back home because we have baby
She lives in Michagin.
Meg love me to.

on the back is this-

she love cats
and she love mackup

Well, the parts about babysitting, cats and makeup are spot on. Meghann loves babies now, I am not sure she was always quite the baby-a-holic that I am, but certainly she loved her younger siblings and was a tremendous help to me in caring for them.

The rest is not so easy. Because I know the situation Melissa was writing this from was one I can hardly bring myself to visit with any real focus on its realities. And her innocence and vulnerability shine through that piece with brilliance. Perhaps she meant to write, Meghann loves me, too. Maybe. But it tears at the fibers of my heart just the same.

Melissa has fought her way from that time to this.  She was an unconventional person, a creative writer from the time she could hold a pencil and copy her story books into notebooks. (before she could read what she was writing.) The school records confirm this. They also confirm some other not so happy things, that are painful to look over. But let me never look away from the undesirable things so that I can in some way enter into them and take away some of the pain. Even if it is just to acknowledge my many failures and to celebrate her many victories.


 I think it only fitting to have today's humorous spot feature Melissa. Well, it is humorous in retrospect.

As a small child, Melissa had delectable blond curls. She had the face of a cherub; Full cheeks, round eyes,  button nose, rosebud lips. When she was a toddler, her trademark hairdo was a top of the head ponytail we called the waterfall. When she reached the age of about five, one day I gave her hair a trim. (I was the hair dresser in residence for the whole family, God help them. I got better as the years wore on. I still do the guys). She looked quite lovely, I put extra effort and time onto styling her hair; she had even grown past the waterfall. The afternoon passed quietly, and dinner, then it was time to go somewhere , I forget exactly, but we only really ever went to a bible study group, or to the store, so I think it was the former. I remember getting ready and for some reason it mattered a bit what we collectively looked like.
I glimpsed Melissa and couldn't place what was wrong. I got her and turned her around, only to see the much fussed and labored-over haircut was now missing most of the top on one side. I really can't remember what I said. I think I either shouted or was stunned into silence. Either way, the kids knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I knew that she had gone and cut more of it herself, but I sort of remember saying, " if you were going to do this, did you have to cut off the front?"  I think I tried to even it out some, but short of giving her a look that would only work for say ,a prison setting, or a hat, it was going to have to grow in.

I should add here that Melissa was not trusted with scissors for some time after that.

A few days or a week later, I  was cleaning up and reached under a chair in the living room. I pulled out one of Melissa's slippers, Ernie or Bert I think...and inside the slipper was.....a pretty wad of blonde curls.

I guess my theory holds water, that children are born with their personalities and no matter how much they grow up, some characteristics never get left behind. If you notice in the picture of Melissa now, she keeps her hair short and straight. She didn't like her curls back then, and she doesn't like them now. When my scanner gets fixed, I will post a picture of the curly/waterfall Melissa. She still is my cherub; cut, straightened and grown up.


  1. Enjoy your visit with your brother. And thank you for sharing these snippets of your family. It's like looking at each individual patch of a beautiful and intricately embroidered quilt!

  2. "But let me never look away from the undesirable things so that I can in some way enter into them and take away some of the pain. Even if it is just to acknowledge my many failures and to celebrate her many victories"

    Amen to that. Your words are so prolific and beautifully written. It's like music without the sound...