I thrive in the season of Easter. I can smell it coming in March but I sometimes get whiffs in February. It’s that familiar scent of damp earth. It’s a time when spring fairies come out and breathe the clean in my laundry whipping on the clothesline. The Spring line air smells different than the Winter line air and I love them both.
I, like the women before me, put laundered clothes on the line to dry all year-round. Yes, freezing fingers at times and traipsing in boots through snow with a laundry basket on my bundled hip. There’s a ritual, you see. And, I have favorite clothespins that my fingers reach for in the clothespin bag that is made of seersucker and looks like a tiny dress. It is a newer one of my mother’s.
Easter was when Grammy bought me a new pair of shoes. They were black patent leather and tied with grosgrain ribbon. When we all got out of the car and started walking into church, I stepped out and walked along stiff legged. That was when Grammy looked down and asked me, Honey, why are you walking like that? I told her it was because I didn’t want to ruin my new shoes, to “bend them and put lines in them”. She thought that was the sweetest thing and she reassured me; it was okay. They’ll be fine, honey. Grammy is a big reason I love Easter.
Oh, yes, and the houses were thick with the smell of Easter Lilies. We didn’t have cats.
Another lifetime ago, in a spring not long after Easter, I started a new job. The woman who was in the office was mid age, old enough to be my mother. She scared the shit out of me. She met me with narrowed eyes and a defiant smirk of suspicion. In turn, I, like so many women before me, chose a well-worn approach. I kept my head down and my tits out of the way. And I paid attention and I listened.
I hadn’t been at my job very long when she began openly telling me stories about her husband who had died within the year. He was a brute of an alcoholic who beat her often. These were stories and words spoken between her teeth. Seethed really. Black eyes were what she said she often sported for all to see. Everyone knew, she said. Still, there was a business to run and a family to raise. She was his right hand and the reason they were able to keep going until he died and she was free to sell the business.
A listening space
She stayed on after the business was sold and ran the front desk and phone. She was bold and brazen and wasn’t about to take shit from anyone. Had his passing released her voice? She talked and I listened. And not knowing her previously, and I didn’t ask any questions, that’s what I assumed.
But she treated me fairly and even though she didn’t show me warmth, it seemed she was grateful for my undisturbed listening.
Down in the bottom where your demons fly
Down in the bottom of the eastern sky
Down in the bottom where your lifeline shows
Down in the bottom where nobody goes
Down at the bottom of your mystery
Down in the bottom of the wine dark sea ~ Walter Becker
Relating to another
I grew up in a violent environment. So, when she snarled out the details of her volatile marriage, as if it were a badge of honor, I could relate. She did what she had to do to survive and raise her family. And raise them well is just what she did. And she remarried. And she relearned how to smile without baring her teeth. Badass stuff.
The need for reminders
The word ‘empathy’ is at the center of a lot of articles, books and lectures and for good reason. The reminders are necessary. It can be really hard to put yourself in another’s shoes. Wounds can be deep, deep, in the dungeon deep. To enter that space with another can be an uncomfortable rub on your own unhealed places.
But to put just one foot in the circle with another brings such rewards. Because it just might be that it’s in that circle where you find the prize in the Cracker Jack box. It’s well worth the pain experienced. Go ahead, keep one foot out as an anchor for you both!
As the story goes
The story goes, my Grammy’s first husband, a grandfather I never knew, was a violent man. It has been told, one day she picked up a cast iron frying pan, raised it in the air toward him and told him if he raised a hand to her one more time, she’d kill him. That’s how the story goes, although I never heard her voice speak those words.
A new chapter
To say it out loud, to speak and declare your woundedness to another, means you chance the risk of breaking wide open. The fear is you might stay open and not close up again. And, you had been safe, tightly closed up. It is the fear that nothing will ever be the same again because it won’t and you know it. In the process, you know you will have to exhale. And you’ve been holding your breath for a long, long time.
All the words will be said and you’ll be looking at the next chapter. And that is Spring.