Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday Night Rain

I woke this morning to the sound of pouring rain. If I'd been home I'd expected snow by now.  Snow seems appropriate, as this is the time of year where I remember someone I said goodbye one day when the snow fell hard.

Everywhere, people rush about celebrating Christmas, I try to. I really do. But I remember Christmas, so many  years ago, in labor, a young teen, giving birth to the daughter I would place up for adoption, not willing to take the easy way out when I found out I was pregnant. My choice was when I conceived her without  taking precautions, NOT after. But she was going to the best, loving parents, local folks who had been on a waiting list so long they'd given up.  Their Christmas present, my courage, their joy, my tears.

She is grown and happy, our meeting when she turned 18 as was agreed upon with her parents, if, and only if, she wished it. It was an open adoption. I moved from the State where we all lived, finding it easier to keep my promise from a distance. I'd like to say the span of years passed quickly, but the reality was more protracted. There's a line in Shakespeare's Othello that says "There are many events in the womb of time that will be delivered". Womb of time? Yes. The sweat of endurance, the agony of spreading bone. Nothing worthwhile is easy or quick, but oh, at the end, it is worth the travail of time.

But it was 18 years of silence, but for the voice in my head saying to her "be careful, promise?"

When we did meet, several things struck me, especially in that I had not seen her since birth. She looked just like me. Not just the face, the coloring, the unusual almond shaped eyes, though blue to my light green. We had the same, identical haircut, wore the same colors, were reading the same books. We ordered the same item on the menu, had the same habits, the same mannerisms, the same laugh. It was almost spooky. OK she liked Glocks and I liked Smith and Wessons, but still. Yet she is who she is, the loving heart, the talent, the drive, from the two wonderful people who raised my child, who are her Mom and Dad. Who's to say. It's both, it's neither, it's something we can only watch in wonder.

I was the rim and they're the spoke, spreading out, seeking ground, moving away, yet always close to us. We're both a part of a journey that is worth every bit of the wear, every mile. Such thoughts came to me when I was out in the field, within that quiet, questing about the scene, gathering, watching. It's harder in that often someones child or children are involved, however old they are. But underneath my gear, I felt the trace of a wallet in my back pocket, in it a well worn, tear stained photo of a beautiful, fair haired girl with blue eyes, a small snipped of something that sustained me in the silence. It's why I do what I do. It's why, when we look in to the trusting eyes of a child, we see, not ourselves, but the foretaste of responsibility, the fierce need to keep them safe, no matter what.

And so it was I reflected on such things, this day outdoors, looking up at branches shattered by forces bigger than themselves, rain falling down, branches hanging in the air as if part of the earth was thrust upward, a spectral tracing to a loss more profound than simply lost years.

Somewhere tonight families would grieve. Somewhere tonight, through no effort of mine, but a heart laid wide open, my child lays safe. I looked up at broken trees to a heaven unbroken and simply said thanks.

I didn't expect the rain today, it had not been forecast, so the sound woke me up, as I seem to be tuned to wake to anything I do not expect or recognize. I didn't want to move, laying underneath a roof of rain, thinking of home, out West, of waking in my bed in my old room, of familiar sounds around me. The warmth there with me, like rain.

The rain washes clean, but it as well leaves its mark. Marks that will not fade until further rain falls.

There is something magical about water. As children, we spent so many days in the water, at hotels on trips to California to visit my Aunt and Uncle who raised almonds on a large spread of land. Afternoons sluicing down an irrigation ditch, evenings at a hotel pool on the drive home. My Mom could never get us to come in from the water, even if a thunderstorm threatened, cumulus clouds forming mighty towers in the hot sky overhead.

I'd hear her voice call out and pop up to the surface with a shout, surging forward to lay chase again to some silvery form rushing away. My parent's watchful eye, and admonishment to come in simply a mirage in the distance, dismissed by the shimmering water. Turn, splash, dive. Diving down deep into the waters of the womb, or perhaps swimming clear of it.

It was a summer of freedom and blue skies. I'd sleep to time's carousal and wake to the laughter of God, echoing in the splash of the perfect cannon ball into the deep end. The deep end, where I'd threw myself, my reason and restraint, into the blue and simply wait for it to embrace me even as I heard someone call out a warning.

For I was a stubborn child, not about the big things, the little things. Eating those beets, coming inside, riding my bike too fast. Even now, it's still there, of only a stubborn determination to believe.

But I didn't totally ignore the warning of the waters, growing up so near to it I was taught to be wary of it. "Never turn your back on the ocean" my Mom said so many times, Never go out into the river when the spring thaws run. But water was everywhere, calling to us like a moth to flame.


So many summer swimming holes, and soon, wheels to take us there. One summer, some parents out of town, I defied orders to stay home with my big brother and jumped into the back of a car to go to the river to swim, to erase the sticky hot chains of being a teen with a curfew. The warm air was like a balm, fireflies flirting with twilight, the wind rippling my hair along with the summer pines, the sound almost that of silence. I looked up, hoping to see a thunderstorm erupt, unknown power in the atmosphere that would only be washed away with the rain. Water cleansing the earth.

It was a small hatchback type car, with two doors and a small back seat. We're at a local swimming hole for teens, the car parked on an embankment pointed towards the water. My Dad was out of town, I'd been forbidden to do anything other than school and extra curricular school activities until he returned. But I didn't listen. It was innocent, no alcohol, just some kids, inner tubes and some water, but still, I wasn't to come down here without him knowing where I was at.

My friends are up front playing with the radio, forgetting to put the car in park. I'm alone in the back, trying to get out of my shorts and T- shirt as my swim suit is on underneath, ready to hit the water as soon as we are out. My head is down and I have no sensation of movement. All I remember is an abrupt "bump bump bump" pushing me forward into the seat. And the car is down that brief, sharp embankment into the water.

They say when you think you are going to die your life flashes before your eyes. Not true, all you see is water, and even before it touches your body your movement is slowed as if running a nightmare's marathon through it. My friends were out before the hood was completely underwater. The water hisses at the windshield like a really pissed off cat, and I pull away out of instinct, anxious to protect my limbs. I was in the back, trapped by the seat. I either get over and out, or I drown, it's as simple as that. The windows were down, an escape, even if it provides a way for the water to say hello sooner. I clamber over the seats, get into the front and move towards the window as the water pushes me away. One of my friends grabs my arm to help pull me up and out and then accidentally lets go of me, as I head, vulnerable as a leaf, downstream.


There is no real chance that I'd drown at this point. The water is not that cold or particularly deep, the current is manageable. I'm a strong swimmer. But trying telling that to the fear. Pull, I tell my arms. My arms obey, and I break through the current and head towards shore, the vain instants of solid ground underfoot, touching me and then receding again, leaving me to flounder. But the water is not all that deep, nor all that swift, and the shore is within reach. We gather there, staring, stunned, other motorists around, as water drips through my eyes like tears. The car is submerged. No one is hurt. It hit me then, not how close we came, not that the little Pinto at the bottom of the river probably won't buff out. What hit me was - "I'm going to be grounded for a YEAR".

It was only a month, and for that I am grateful, but a lesson was learned, even if I still wouldn't eat my beets. Take no chances with the cold, precious waters. The river is wider than you think.

On the mantle at home are some photos. In my mind's eye tonight, I see the photo of my Mom, so many years gone, and someone else I will always miss. I  think back to all the things I was warned about. Don't swim for an hour after you eat. Don't stay in the water during a thunderstorm. Be wary of the river that looks so cool and inviting for that is the one in which you will drown.

Thunder rumbles as I stay silent, still hearing her voice in my head, and responding in kind. "I'll be careful Mom, promise".   Drops fall from the sky, salty, dense, leaving wet trails down my cheeks. The water rushes down, affirmation, promise, the healing power of cleansing rain. 

8 comments:

Will said...

I think it was Garth Brooks who had a line in one of his songs "grounded 'til you're dead", in reference to a wayward girl.

Sure hope you're working on a book (or three). Writing talent like yours shouldn't be kept under a basket, so to speak.

og said...

I am a born and bred flatlander. With me it was heights, not water. I climbed everything high I could find, trees, buildings, antenna. I simply could not get far enough up.

In my first year at the steel mill my acrophilia caught up with me and i fell. I shook it off and a year later fell again, this time almost to my death.

I don't do heights anymore, and I'm ok with that. I'm glad I learned the lesson not at the expense of my life.

Duke said...

Brigid, your story about your daughter is heartwarming, that you gave a gift of life to a family. This is really what Christmas is about.

Old NFO said...

Beautifully expressed, thanks!

Borepatch said...

It's raining as I read this, which makes the mood you weave even more vivid.

But late night posts with me are always a sign of life speaking in its Outdoors Voice. Give a call if it is.

fast richard said...

Your writing always touches me. As the father of a daughter this one stirred some warm, but complicated feelings.

Lois Evensen said...

A beautiful tribute.

Mick said...

What can I say byt "Thank you, Brigid"? Once again you've put into words so many complex ideas, yet in such a short space. Again, thanks.