Story

Pink Threads

Remember the game Telephone? Someone starts with a quirky sentence and whispers the story to the person sitting next to them. Then that person, who likely messed up a word or two, whispers their recollection to the person sitting next to them, and on and on it goes until at the end, some new configuration of a previously silly sentence holds loose, small connections to how you began.

You giggle and shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Wait a minute? What did we start with exactly?” And what did she say that got us here?

I’ve been thinking of the messages I’m getting on womanhood, on mothering, on expectations of my complex and powerful sex and wondering, “What exactly, did I start with?”

My grandmother was born at home weeks premature. They wrapped her in cotton batting and covered her in olive oil, laying her to sleep in a shoe box.  She was that tiny. Her resilience came on day one, and day two, and day three as she grew proving the odds wrong. I come from small but feisty stock.

Jump seventy years ahead and join me as I sat with my two girl cousins as late teenagers. Young women, as they say.  Also present at the outdoor table are my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother who filled in my story as their relationships stitched together foundations for my formative years.

Stich-stich-stich- went the pink thread.

In unbalanced iron chairs my cousins and I rolled our eyes as we were told, we did not, like Grandma wished, inherit her bone structure, but rather my grandfather’s stocky German bones. We may have her strong spirit, but I got my grandfather’s thicker wrists.

And as we bounced along through time and I spent time with my now aging grandmother she’s started telling me stories. Of nights with martinis at fancy office parties, or the horrific boss who chased her around a desk. The things I watched on Mad Men were her life. I stand on tiny shoulders and work with the knowledge that when sexual harassment shows up at work, I can bravely do something about it. She raised four kids, made hundreds of hamburgers, worked, and always said, “You can pay the doctor or you can pay the grocer” so fresh vegetables were on the table every night.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread

And as we jump again and I’m standing on the cold clay tiles of our kitchen floor in the house where I lived until I was thirteen. I can hear myself groaning as the summer sun danced through the front window. “Gazpacho salad again?” I’d whine. Vegetables – fresh and seasoned – were present on my plate.

“Eat up” my mom would say as her working contributions to our household turned into nourishment for my growing body. I’d take a bite and with each crunch of cucumber ingest my grandmother’s values at the table.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

As a young girl I had so many evenings around a kitchen table with people who loved me. My mom took the best of her mother’s lessons and imparted them in me. How to make a pie crust is important. As is the presence of formal dishes and fancy settings at a holiday affair.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

Time jump again and I’m 24 years old, registering for wedding gifts. “No china?!” my mom proclaimed loudly in the very public restaurant we were sitting in.

“No.” I stubbornly said, “We don’t have room for china. And I’ll just inherit a bunch of plates later.” Our voices escalated to the point where our concerned waitress came over and asked if we were ok.

We toned it down.

Time jump again and I learned at the age of 27 that you don’t inherit china when your dad dies. Instead, you witness a weeping mother with hunched shoulders sitting next to the Christmas tree. It was the first round of holidays without him and I wished I had some fancier fucking plates.

I put out some cheese, cut up some pears, and put them on the only piece of Tiffany’s anything gifted to me as an engagement present. The platter would have to do. Then our sink broke leaving Mom and my husband washing dishes in our bath tub by hand because, as I’ve been told, real men know how to help out with dishes in whatever room they may need to be washed.

Stich-stich-stich went the pink thread.

This past weekend, at nine o’ clock pm, my mom kissed me on the cheek and said, “You must be tired. You planned two Mother’s Days this year.” Her statement caught me off guard and then I nodded.

I did. Yes, I did. Because my mother taught me to show people they matter. Showing up is important. Taking care of others is vital and making them feel special is an added bonus I’ve taken on. Nurturing comes easy to me because my mom nurtured me so very well. And I’m rather exhausted. For the family work of connection and celebration has now fallen to me.

Stich-stich-stich goes the pink thread.

And at the age of thirty, as everyone keeps asking me about children and babies and my aging ovaries I simmer and switch between maybe and no way, not yet. How does one know they are ready to become a mother? My grandmother didn’t have the choice to control all those blessings like I do. Many states now are trying to take that choice away.

So I pause and I jump back through time and I wonder:

Grandma – What sentence did you start with in our game of telephone? We’ve taken your words and your dreams and your vision and kept the stitches going, sewing new stories in our own ways.

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I’m thankful for the pink threads connecting us all as we continue to love each other, no matter what words jumble up the sentences of where we started.

Mother’s Day weekend just passed and I’m thankful for beautiful and brave choice my grandma made to be a mother. For my own mom who knows the power of magic in thoughtful gifts and just the right words to bring comfort to my fears. I’m thankful for my mother-in-law who shaped my husband and accepted me with open arms at her table. These women. These stories. These sentences. Beautiful things that leave me here, stitching together sentences for you.

 

 

“Always,” said Snape.

I just got done watching the last Harry Potter movie. We spread out part one and two over the weekend and I sit here, on my big blue couch, letting big waves of sad wash all over me.

Pulse. Wave. Sad. Pulse. Wave. Breath. Sad.

My dad loved those books.

When Harry Potter was eleven, I was eleven. Those stories a staple in my childhood and my adolescence.

Rewind six hours today and I’m standing, for the first time, in the oddest bookstore in town. In a small closet my ankle boots anchor me in front of a tall set of shelves. Big, wooden ones tucked away from the other rows of scattered books. On one shelf, at eye level, sit stacks and stacks of the series. Copies of all seven stories are accounted for. Five or six of each part of the grand story.

Piles of red books with gold lettering on worn spines. They’re all there. The first one – purple spine. The Chamber of Secrets. And on the shelf below piles of blue spines with the same gold lettering. The Half Blood Prince. And the green spine. And the orange. All the stories there. On shelves.

Reminding me of pages once loved and frantic flipping of paper to figure out what would happen next to our epic heroes.

Whoosh.

I’m eighteen years old.

Dad driving me to the midnight showing of the newest film after my senior appreciation dinner. I was wearing a blue hoodie and my Varsity tennis sweatpants. I sat with friends against the wall in the theater, feeling on top of the world. Invincible. I had accomplished so much.

Woosh.

It’s summer vacation and the two of us are sitting in a small cabin, each holding a copy of The Deathly Hallows across from each other, racing to read faster. Both in flannel pajamas. Staying up too late, drinking cocoa out of blue speckled metal mugs.

We always bought two copies when the new books were released because we couldn’t wait for our own turn. We had to read together. Who could get through the cliffhanger faster? He usually won. And the next morning we’d sit on the tiny wooden porch in the sun, debriefing the story, gasping at who the last casualty was to fall to he-who-shall-not-be-named.

Memories in story as we flipped page together. That gangly Harry Potter and his heroic crew weaving his fictional life with mine. With Dad’s.

That’s what good books do – they become an inseparable part of your story.

Woosh.

And tonight, I miss him. And I miss Harry. And the beautiful gold lettering. And those worn, well-loved spines.

Now the books just sit beautifully, in stacks, on shelves in used-book stores and studies that he no longer enters.

snape

But both of their stories linger in my heart and my fingers and my memories. Touch the spines, finger the gold letters, breath.

Pulse. Wave. Breath. Sad.

In other news, I had fun writing this guest post for More Native Than the Natives. I like living in Colorado and am proud to be from this beautiful state. It ain’t all bad folks. Feel the wave. Breathe. Move again in the morning.