• My Words

    From Fool to Forgiveness

    When she dies, I’m going to write a story about her. I made the threat a million times. I’d write it as a work of fiction to cover my ass, but it really doesn’t matter either way. If I were to write the drama, half-truths, and all out lies that followed along in my life with Ilene, most people would think I was writing some ill-conceived Housewives of Insert City Here, without the table flipping. If I’d given her an opportunity though, Ilene could have provided a bit of furniture flipping.

    She was a fairy tale when I was young. A dark-haired pixie with a bright streak of mischief that dripped off her like flecks of our craft glitter. She was laughter and giggles, which are not the same thing, and she was acceptance. As long as you were one of the little ones, you only saw the sparkly side. She used me for an audience and in turn I did the same, copying my little kid poetry onto construction paper held together with brass chads and heart stickers, signed with a promise to add more as I wrote them, and colorful blank pages at the end to ensure I could.

    That wasn’t the book I needed to write though. I wouldn’t have had to wait for her to die to just tell another story of another sweet grandmother. Nope. I needed to write about what happened when the magic wore off. I needed to write about the truth of aging out of her affection? No, not the right word. Aging out of her protection? Closer. I needed to write about growing up enough to see behind the curtain, to be included in her lies that others called stories. I wanted to write about a granddaughter betrayed.

    When I sat down to write my fictionalized version of Ilene, to purge myself of the sooty taste left when the magic wears off, my heart wouldn’t let me. I started the book. I finished the book. Her character was abducted by aliens, as she was. Her character has a mishap with a stand mixer, as she did. Her character tells the lies that others allow to live next to the truths, as we all did. But when I wrote the imaginary me living in the new story, I had grown enough to realize the dark magic behind the chaos that was Ilene had a source, and that She that is Me on those pages finds a way to forgive.

  • My Words

    Magical Places

    I don’t know who first showed me my magical place, but I know I was quite young. It’s a free place, open at all hours, with a vast amount of space and a never-ending collection of friends to bring along. I could get there on my grandma’s lap or with my brother and my mom through the living room. Under a blanket with a flashlight got me there as I grew.

    My grandmother introduced me to a little boy there with a purple crayon, a round face, and no hair. He invited me to join him on his journey and I followed, giddy at the chance for adventure. We sailed on his boat across rippling purple waves and landed on shore for a picnic. We shared pie with a moose and a porcupine. We wandered the city until we were lost and then found again, making our way back safely to his room, completing his quest to find the moon.

    Later I made my way back to that magical place and I traveled with my mom, my younger brother, and a young Brit named James. He’d lost his parents and was left with two Aunties who only cared about what he was worth, but he found his escape inside a giant peach, and rolled it out across the dirt. Safe inside the fuzzy fruit, we met his friends – a ladybug, a glow worm, and a friendly spider – and with a bit of magic, James and his crew got that peach to fly, and we were in on that journey too.

    Then A girl named Alice led me through a looking glass with a tardy rabbit and a hatter who was mad. We stumbled upon some crazy snacks that made us grow and shrunk us back. There was something new at every turn in her magical Wonderland, but as she shouts, “Off with her head!” we run from the Red Queen as fast as we can. We met a quizzical caterpillar and a snarky cat, and they’re all still there every time I go back.

    Photo of me sharing my magical place with my brother and cousin, circa 1984