When I was a little girl I was quiet and pensive; given to staring into the eyes of adults rather than answering their questions. When I was littler still, I hid myself behind the skirt of my mother.

My mother. The prettiest, most wonderful creature. She sometimes wore a silk scarf and her dark hair made me feel silly in my yellow head. I liked to look at her, I watched up at her while she brushed her hair. It shone. She was just remarkable and I did not want anyone else at all. Everyone else was too loud or tall or bearded. She was like Elton John’s song Tiny Dancer; blue jean baby, L.A. lady, pretty-eyed, pirate smile.

One day because of a pain that was bigger than her or me, she had to go away. “I’ll come back for you.” she cried as she left. She never did. She couldn’t. She was my universe and then she was gone. That was the first time the thing I loved the most was pried out of my tight fist.

Enter step-mother. Not the evil variety, the kind variety. She wasn’t beautiful like my mother. She didn’t smell like perfume and cigarettes. She didn’t have a secret heart. She was just plain and tall and the most wonderfully kind creature you would ever want. And I hated her. At Sizzler’s I spilled my Pepsi on her lap three times on purpose. This was me telling her in my quiet way that she was nothing, that she was no one, that she could go to hell and make me happy. She cleaned my room and cooked me food and worked nights in a grocery store. She never once asked me to do or be anything at all. I plotted her demise. I began to steal. I began to throw rocks at passing cars while waiting for the school bus. I put on the combat boots my real mother got me for Christmas and purposefully made black scuff marks on the kitchen floor she just cleaned. I was cruel and, in retrospect, probably a little pathologically terrifying. I packed my things and ran away from home. She wept when they found me. I hated that she cared. It complicated my hate.

Then the months dragged on and she did not leave. They turned to years. She stayed. Then I accidentally called her “mom”. Then I did it again, less accidentally. Then it felt good and I did it all the time, just to hear myself say normal kid things like, “Mom, can I go skating on the next street with my friends.” Then I liked her almost. Then I loved her. Like a very tentative kitten that would rather scratch then be held but still sticks around for something no one knows how to provide without being blooded.

Then I went to a family member’s ranch with my little sister in Northern California for a very long summer break. The summer was nearly over when I got the call. She was leaving. She was never coming back. She couldn’t.

Then my brain broke. Then my heart broke. Then my grandmother bought me a pony. He smelled like dry grass when I buried my face into his mane. I made a friend. Then I started to learn to be human a little. Not a lot, just enough to breath in and out successfully.

I married a boy. His eyes crinkle when he laughs. He takes personal pride in making me laugh hard and loud each night before bed. We had beautiful babies together. My first two were fine and strapping. My heart started to become more flesh and less stone. Then I had a baby boy who panted for breath and nearly died again and again. His heart was a swollen mass of wrong parts and holes. The rhythm of the thing whispered the reaper’s lullaby.

This plummeted me back into the day she said, “I’ll come back for you.” This little one who my soul longed for was being torn away from mortal life daily and I heard the same old song of it. The same, same song of it. Give, take. Give, take. Give, take. This is the rhythm.

So I gave. “You want him. He is yours.” I said to the writer of my story. The writer said, “Keep him. But stop folding your fists so tightly around the ones I give. Loosen your grip a little.” So I did. I gave away all of my things and all of my friends and familiarity. I loosened my grip and watched each thing I love fall away. Then we all got into a moving van with that baby and precious few belongings and moved across the states to the only place who knew anything at all about saving his life. Turns out, keeping a loose hand worked. Years passed and he was well and strong. We came home to California and continued the cycle of receiving and losing.

Started a business. Lost our business. (Thank you Covid).

The Bearded Wonder got a shiny new job in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to leave our home in Northern California, but money seems to be just one of those necessary things that you can’t quite get around. So I began to dream of a new life for us in the place of my origins. My dad said, “Once an Angelino always an Angelino.” I began to delight in being in the place my ancestors, the Huntingtons, had built into something odd and beautiful. The thought made me feel like I almost belonged somewhere. We found one of those wonderful little Craftsmans right at the base of the San Gabriel mountains. It wasn’t far from the place where my grandfather punched a man who was picking on his little brother and carried home two of the man’s teeth in his livid knuckles. It was just a stone’s throw from the trolly system where my Great Grandfather jumped aboard holding his delivery bicycle and refused to get off till a sweet young thing named Ruth agreed to marry him. I began to think that maybe God had called me back full circle to the place where I began for some kind of mysterious thing.

Three weeks after we moved into our house and made it home, we were overrun by a parasitic invasion from the yard. Turns out, the place was crawling with parasites that have adapted to suit their biological needs with human blood. They attacked with fierce aggression. We threw almost everything away and sprayed every pesticide known to man. We saw countless doctors who were baffled by our case and finally dismissed us altogether. We had to request a work transfer. Virginia bound, we left the house of torture and hoped to be leaving our infestation. We brought them with us, in our car and in our pores.

I used to live in a charming place with a huge library of books and soft places to rest. Now my life is air mattresses, folding tables, bins for clothes. It’s been two years of this. But we are getting better. I am learning and adapting and I think I can say that I will fix this whole mess some day soon.

The point is this: Two medical crises, in which most of the medical community is ready to tell us ‘tough luck and don’t let the door hit you on the way out’, thirteen moves – three clear across the country, and the loss of the very few precious things I had managed to save through all of this is the continuation of the rhythm of my life. The beat of it was set early on. I receive, I lose. I receive, I lose. I receive, I lose. Like the way the ocean waves give a sea shell, but take a whole coastline.

And the point is this: keep a loose fist. When I ball up my bony, old hands around something that I want just so badly never to lose, I’m in trouble. Maybe I’m finding patterns where there are not, and maybe this is all just some kind of not at all funny cosmic joke of bad luck. But I don’t really believe in luck, so I don’t really believe in arbitrary suffering. I can’t. I hurts too bad to think of it that way. If I’m finding patterns and teachings in the barrage of battering waves, then let me. Because I think I’m getting stronger. I think I’m getting smarter. I think I’m getting a better idea of how uninvolved and how involved God is in this whole mess.

And, if you are reading this, you are probably part of the new bad club too, where tough things just happen and no amount of positive vibes or “I’ll pray for you”s will make the dailiness of this kind of life less daily. Welcome to the club. It sucks. But it means you get bigger brains and deeper compassion and a really good stream of profanities doing cartwheels in that new big brain. It hurts more than comfort but it means more. Somehow that shouldn’t make much sense, but it just does. The pain and the constant oof of it all all is like when the One made all of the pretty things and we broke it. It’s like when the One made himself as a pretty baby and we broke him when he was big enough to fit on a cross. It’s like, I can see almost how much that all must have hurt, because I am hurt. You see it too, maybe, because maybe you are hurt.

Keep a loose fist, friend. It’s okay to be a little mad. It’s even okay to be a whole lot mad. Just remember to tell the One that you need some kind of something to help you take the nest breath.

This is a long post on a dead medium. I’m not sorry. Why are you even reading this? Don’t you know no one blogs anymore? Maybe you are still here with me because of morbid curiosity. Maybe you’ve noticed that my writing has gotten a little darker over the years. Or maybe you just need to know that someone is in the ashes with you. Because I am. And I am praying for me and I’m praying for you. I don’t always believe my prayers but they are there anyways. And my love for the one I talk to and my love for you gets deeper and more complicated all the time.


Photo credits:  laura adai on Unsplash