"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else." – Gloria Steinem
My dad was a brilliant man. I use the past tense form intentionally. He is still alive and has his moments but sadly, age and alcohol abuse have killed many brain cells. He is not so bright these days. He repeats himself. He is easily confused.
When I was a child, he played word games with me for hours on end. Scrabble and Boggle were our favorites.
The clackety-clack of the boggle box still rings in my ears. I can feel the cheap vinyl of our kitchen table chairs sticking to my thighs on those many hot summer nights we played. Sometimes my younger sister would play. My brother might try. I don’t think my mother ever played. It was usually me and my Dad. It was our thing.
Words came easily to me. They seemed to rise off the page, the letters seem to assemble themselves. It is still that way. My oldest son is continually shocked at how quickly I can solve word games, puzzles and scrambles. I cannot explain it. That is just the way my mind works. I SEE words where others don’t.
I love letters. Fonts. Words. Synonyms. Antonyms. Homonyms.
In the third grade, all I wanted for Christmas was a thesaurus. My mother did not even know what that was. She figured it out though and I got it. It was Rogets of course. It had a green paper back cover. I still see it under the Christmas tree. I adored it. I read it for hours.
Yes. Go ahead, spell G-E-E-K. I don’t mind.
Tonight, as my youngest son and I watched “Akeelah and the Bee” I burst into tears.
Who does that? How many people burst into tears watching a children’s movie about a spelling bee?
Well, I did.
At first I thought the tears were due to my empathizing with Akeelah being made fun of for being intelligent. I remember those days. Those days of being a freak, left out, made fun of, and hated by the other kids simply because I was more intelligent. Like Akeelah, the school wanted to have me skip a grade. My parents refused. I wasn’t well socialized with my own peer group. I was too much of a loner. They were afraid I would not fit in if I skipped a grade. Shame. They had no idea I did not fit in the grade I was in. Yes, Akeelah, I understand.
As the movie wore on, I realized it wasn’t empathy that made me cry. It was grief and mourning.
Being reminded of my younger days, my student years, my intelligence, and more reminded me of the girl I was then. The girl I was supposed to be….before I got pregnant with my daughter.
I am very aware that I grieve continually for two parts of myself. First, I was supposed to be in my second semester at Franklin Pierce in the winter of 1986. Instead, I was interred in a maternity home. No dormitory lifestyle for me. No boys. No parties. No professors. It was work and pregnancy and being monitored and missing my boyfriend and crying and trying to pretend I was okay.
I wasn’t then and I am still not okay.
Before I lost my daughter, my mother hood, I lost myself. I lost a life I was “supposed” to have. I don’t think about that life much. Least I try not to. Whats the point? I cannot go back. I cannot change it. Clearly, while I thought that was to be my life, I was wrong.
But you know, I still grieve it. I still find myself envious of those that were able to complete that college experience at the time and in the manner they were “supposed to”. Sure, I went to school after I lost my daughter. I even went to a similar college to where I was originally “supposed to” go. I still studied English and Creative writing.
But it wasn’t quite the same. And even though I have had an okay life, and a good career, I still feel this missing piece. This loss of something. Like the 18 year old not pregnant me is still waiting, bags in hand, hoping someone will come along and drive her to New Hampshire. She wants to register for those English classes, walk in the woods of New Hampshire, discuss literature and theology with other brainy kids who like to spell.
Perhaps I should visit. Maybe I will be able to put her to rest. Maybe if I bring her to the campus she will feel as though the cycle is somehow complete. Maybe I will bring a friend with me.
Maybe I will bring my travel Scrabble.