Thursday, June 05, 2008


I used to have two sets of twin sheets. A set of white ones with dark green stripes, and a set with pink flowers.

My younger sister had given me both. I valued them. I preferred the pink flowery set. I made my bed with them in the room I had to myself for three years, a single bed up against the wall and in the corner almost underneath the window. I lived there for three years. Opened Christmas presents with my mother there. Decorated it with Christmas lights. Wrote there at the small yellow desk I found in the corridor. Covered the windows with plastic in the winter and opened them in summer so I could hear the school bus/shuttle roll in three times an hour to stop at the small bus stop just a few yards away where the teenagers hung out late into the evening, making too much noise for me who wanted to fall asleep early so I could wake up before dawn.

“Which set of sheets did you prefer?” my sister asked me years later. “The pink ones,” I said. “She laughed with surprise. “I thought for sure you’d like the pin-stripe ones.”

I have a few 100% cotton sheets now, picked up here and there, never bought. They’ve taught me that neither the pink sheets nor the green striped ones were full cotton. They were 50/50. I assumed at the time that they were cotton. Could not imagine my sister giving me anything less.

I wrote a card to my mother on Saturday. It took me less than a minute to write. It was a flowery card that a charity had sent me in the mail in the hopes that I would make a donation. It had lines for you to write on inside, like the lines on that green paper we used to write on in third grade, copying the letters from above the blackboard.

It was a note I’d been hovering over in my mind for a few weeks. I picked up the pen deliberately. I had finally made up my mind.

I told my mother that I needed a six-month break. Not to worry. To call Fred if anything big came up. Said too that I realized this would be a strain for her. Said I appreciated her support.

Sealed the envelope and stamped it and wondered if I would think of something important that had to be added, but I didn’t.

And it went.

And there are moments, waves that wash over me when I think how could I, but many many more moments when I feel like I have opened the door to a room I have been longing to enter for along time and never thought I was allowed – a field more than a room, an outdoor place with a lot of sky.

When I was nine I asked to go to boarding school. I didn’t make a formal request. I mentioned it in the wistful way I mentioned any number of things I wanted, but didn’t expect to get. Going to boarding school was too big to actually get.

But I went to boarding school. At the time I thought I was getting my wish. Now I know it was a magnificent coincidence. I would have gone that year to boarding school even if I’d never longed to.

Even then I was trying to get into the room or the field where I wasn’t allowed to go. I stayed in that school for three years. I liked it there. And then betrayal hit and I wanted to go home and my mother said yes of course, I could come home. She didn’t ask what had happened and I would not have told her.

Home. I did not want to be there, but I knew no other place to go. A dark shadow closed over me and hung there for years.

I never liked living with my mother. But right now that’s not the point. She could be a living saint and I would still write the card.

On the drive home this evening I see a bank of grass by the road covered in dense red flowers. I slow down to look at them more closely. I don’t know their name. “Indian paintbrush” I hear in my mind, a flower’s name that my mother taught me. I think of digging some up to bring home and plant here. That’s what my mother would have done. She did that a lot when I was little and I never knew why she wanted to do those things that no one else I knew did. But today I want the same thing, and I think as I pick up speed again, of the things I got from her, but that’s not what this is about. This is about having a turn in the field.

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