This is my first attempt at one of the literary terms (albeit not a sample I would pass on to students) but also, conveniently, it responds to this prompt from The Daily Post. It’s also a journal entry and a way for me to start to unravel some of this week’s events.
I’ve been stuck inside my head for most of the day. It’s one of those days when all I want to do is sleep, tuck my head and knees together and bury myself in a pillow, curled far away from the world. I can’t sleep, though, and I have to put a good face on it because Free leaves tomorrow night for a week with her dad, and even though he hasn’t taken her in almost two weeks, even though I’m feeling so desperate for my own space, for the space just to put down my head and sleep, to not be accountable to anyone but myself, I need to keep it together for her for one more night and one more day. Because if I am short with her or let her see any part of what I’m feeling (whether it’s the parts that are about her or the parts that aren’t), if I’m not patient enough, she will leave me feeling I want her to go, and then when I come up for air later, missing her desperately and wanting her close to me, it will feel even worse than it feels now. So I must keep it together for her and for me, so I will be able to ride those tiny waves of grief that will inevitably come knowing I sent her off with a smile on both of our faces.
Sometimes I don’t think this blended family business is really possible. Even though it went well, the time with us and them together at the lake, it is always a strain too, and it hurts that it strains, that we can’t yet relax fully or be real the way families can. I want it too much, and it hurts that Newman wanted a day alone with them, that he was eager for me to go, even though he tried not to show it. I know it’s not me entirely; it’s my baby girl that is too demanding even though I know she’s trying so hard not to be and is being so good, so sweet. I remind him that for years he engaged his own children fully when they were at this stage, and I know it’s not the same when it’s not your kid, but I want so much for him to want this with me. He and I push and pull gently at each other, pulling back when we see we’ve gone too far. We are better now at talking it out, but the negotiations continue. He is upset with Free when she is cranky with me; I am bothered by teenagers not helping their dad with dishes. We are both desperate to hide these feelings from the children. He wants to make sure his kids get their space and time; I want to make sure my child is included. We go back and forth, taking turns pleasing them, pleasing each other, pleasing ourselves. Even when it goes well, we end up exhausted. It will get better, we say, and it already has. But it takes time, and no-one I know is walking this trail with me. I want to parent with someone, but I have made my choices, and this is the space where I live and love; this is the sun and shade I find myself in.
Sometimes I feel like I am a tiny white thread, too short to double and knot at the end to make me stronger; I am too old and weak, too likely to fray or twist. I feel myself being threaded through this patchwork of personalities, trying to sew them together, willing myself to stretch farther and longer and hold myself taut and invisible if it will make the quilt hold, if it will bring to life a new sequence of colorful patterns, a new collection of cloths, torn and textured differently but equally beautiful, equally bright–a quilt that can’t help but see and celebrate itself. And so I work myself through and around; I gather seams and seek out corners, working my way deeper or reaching out to try to connect the pieces the best I can. But sometimes, like today, I know I am not invisible, that I cannot erase myself or disappear in order to make this patchwork a possibility. So I will retreat, when I can. I want to let one end of myself slip out of the eye of the needle, unnoticed, and slide away to a space where I am again just a thin white thread, curled and coiled neatly on a smooth spool.
My mama is tired. She said so herself, with that voice she uses when I am to really listen, the one with the warning in it. When she’s like this, she might hug me or scare me, and she is warning me that the choice is mine. I don’t like it when she scares me, when her voice goes hard and her eyes land on me in that way–or worse, when they go away from me and I can’t bring them back. I’m tired too, and I don’t want to be here in the store, but I know we have to get waffles for breakfast because she says we have no food at home. We have lots of food, really, but no waffles, and she is hugging me now and telling me that I can get the french toast sticks if I want, even though they’re full of crap. That’s what she said, and her eyes were smiling when she said it, and I know now she won’t blow her top this time. She laughed when I told her not to blow her top and asked me where I’d learned that, and I don’t remember, but sometimes I say things I’ve said before, and it’s new because she is hearing it for the first time. I like it when she laughs and when she breathes with me to calm me down, and sometimes I breathe with her too.
I sleep with a lambie; it’s from a real sheep and it’s soft and tickly when I hold it in my hands. I like to rub my fingers on the wool and snuggle into its fluffy parts. When my dad and mom got divorced, my mom bought me a new one so I wouldn’t have to keep packing one in my backpack all the time and bring it to school so I’d have it each night. My mom says I first slept on lambie when I was very small, still sleeping in bed between her and dad and on lambie so that when I moved into the crib, I’d have my mama’s smell close to help me sleep. Now I have my new one at Mom’s and my old one at Dad’s. I like it when I get to sleep with my mama like tonight when Newman is away. I don’t like it that she doesn’t sleep with me on the other nights, but she says that is the way it is, and at least I have my lambie for then. I showed my lambie to Newman’s kids; I like them and like it when they play with me. They like to read, and Mom reminds me not to ask too much, but I only ask a little and they sometimes want to play. The girls are nice and like my gymnastics and hold my hand. Newman teaches me things, like how to fish and skateboard, and he hugs me when we say goodbye. M. hasn’t touched me yet, but he’s nice too, and when I walked down the path to the dock yesterday and brought his favorite chips to him where he was reading in the boat, he was happy and walked back to the beach with me. I always have fun at the lake house.
Today when I asked, Mom said yes, honey, I do love your dad, and I hope one day it will be easier for us to hang out together, and she told me again it was ok to be sad about her not being with him. Sometimes when I ask about it, she gets quiet and sad, and I know she wants me to stop asking. And sometimes, like today, she talks about it and tries to explain, even though I don’t understand. She says it didn’t work, that they didn’t make each-other happy, that it’s better that they’re apart. It’s not better for me, I tell her, and she listens and holds me close and kisses me and reminds me that I have a mom and dad who love me, that now I have Newman too, but when I ask if he’s like a dad they both say no, I have a dad already, but then they say yes, Newman is kind of like family too.
Tonight when I sleep with Mom, I will hold out my lambie for her to feel and put it next to me so she can snuggle it too. When Dad called to remind me he’ll see me tomorrow, I reminded him to pack my lambie for our vacation. Even though it’s older and thinner from all the times it got washed when I was a baby, I love the lambie at Dad’s just the same as the one at Mom’s. I always like to have lambie with me when I go somewhere. As long as I have my lambie, it’s easy for me to have quiet time and to find sleep.