Words Deep In…

Published in Broadside_Print Issue 5 August 2017 #NarrativeFeminism

Dear words that are deep in,

We have spent so much time together just us feeling the stories we created or witnessed or imagined. I know that we argue over sharing the stories through the written word when it’s so easy to TELL the story and the satisfaction that comes with verbally releasing it to the world is so much more immediate and DESIRABLE!

And shit… words that live deep within me… I get that you don’t want to leave. I don’t want you to leave either. What will replace you? But, honestly, y’all are too much now. I can’t hold you for much longer. I need space for my new stories. For the ones that are still shaping me, damn it. But I’m terrified to deal with the reality of me once you all are gone and on paper.

I am overwhelmed with what it is going to bring up but I am numb with you inside and I need to feel this beauty that life has offered me. I need y’all to get up on out and then I can get to all that drives me. We can do this life so much better with y’all outside of me and not taking over in here.

I have never liked sharing myself with another living being… Two pregnancies were wonderful but, by the end of both, I was ready for them and me to be separate, autonomous beings. So I need to birth or purge you, words deep within, so that I can be free. I need to stand separate from you. And when we are apart, when you live on a page rather than in my gut and my brain and my blood, we will see what we are left with…

What we may be left with is what is scary because we have always been together. We made each other for all these years.  So together we must just fucking do this. We must come apart. And then we will see what we are made of when there is only freedom left behind.

Remembering Augusts Past…

It's August. I've been writing a lot about my childhood of late and I want to share a remembrance that is pure August for me.

This is a story of crepe myrtles and my Grandpa, Bernard. Summer is always synonymous with my Grandpa, my mama's daddy, to whom I was very close all 21 years I got to have with him. As a little girl, I would spend hours with him in the back yard of the house on Brookfield Dr. I would lose myself in grand adventures, while he was working away on his pristine gardens and landscaping; overflowing with vegetables, flowers, plants, perfectly manicured hedges, and never a branch or twig on the ground… As I spent my days crossing lava rivers and traversing deep dark jungles, he spent those same days combing the yard picking up each piece of wood that had been discarded from the abundance of shady trees over head and tossing them into the old fireplace in the back of the yard, weeding the gardens, trimming the hedges, and riding for miles and miles on his lawn mower, his pipe always just so in the corner of his mouth, hat a bit off kilter, and those suspenders over checkered shirts with a pocket on the front left always with tools and a pen or pencil inside. My Grandpa.

My earliest memories of late summer were always ushered in with the blooming of the fuchsia crepe myrtles in Grandpa's yard. There was one in a flower bed in the far corner of the yard and one right by the house in a small little alcove that was my Grandma Julia's St. Francis garden. I am sure that she was the one who wanted the crepe myrtles and probably initially planted them, especially the one that grew in that small corner garden. Her bedroom window was directly above that garden and from it you could sit on their high 4 poster bed with a perfect view of the glorious blooms. But in my mind's eye of those long, idyllic, sun drenched, hot, southern, summer days of childhood,  it was Grandpa I can still see so clearly tending to to  the crepe myrtles.

I can still perfectly remember a late summer afternoon curled up on Grandma and Grandpa's bed with a copy of Charlotte's Web in hand. The window air conditioning unit running full blast, belly full from a baloney sandwich, pretzels, and a coke cola that Grandma had prepared for me after coming in from a whole morning deep in glorious summer time play in that yard. I slipped under the covers and finished the book, the first one I remember reading all by myself. As I lay there, the bright pink blooms of the crepe myrtle blearily peeked in at me through the window, as I was crying with all my heart and soul, just devastated that Charlotte had died. I was just gutted by it. That tree stood by right outside as I learned the power of a story for the first time; a story that ushered in the thousand other stories that have served as the paving stones I have tread upon my life's journey. The story that held such value to me in that memory that I named my daughter after the little girl who saved a pig, who went on to teach a beautiful lesson in friendship and sacrifice to another little girl; with huge tears in her eyes, tucked under the covers, inside her Grandma's beloved house, surrounded by her Grandpa's magical yard, in which stood a blooming fuchsia crepe myrtle, watching over her as she mourned.

After Grandma died way too early… After my own immediate family broke apart into tiny pieces of shrapnel imbedded in every part of us… After we came to live with Grandpa, who opened that safety of his home to us full time, I remember the crepe myrtles most as his trees. Grandpa's trees. Later in my twenties, after grandma and grandpa were both gone and, I hope, reunited once again, their bedroom belonged to me for a time. I would sit at grandma's vanity that was by that window with the crepe myrtle blooming and just watch it dancing in the summer breeze. It was a constant source of beauty throughout my life.

And so all these many years later even though the house on Brookfield was sold and I don't get to see that particular crepe myrtle anymore, the spirit of those trees resides in them all. I have shared the story of grandpa's crepe myrtle with my girls and now every August as we drive here and there, they shout every few minutes, "It's a Grandpa tree!" and Grandpa lives on in my girls' minds' eye as the very source of comfort that he helped create for me in my childhood. What an enchanted full circle that is, don't you think?

Dead of Night…

By Sonia Fernandez LeBlanc

 

My grandfather and uncle were killed together in a car accident. Every bone of my grandfather’s body was broken. The back of my uncle’s head was severed. It’s one of those stories you hear as a child that never leaves you. Even if you heard it and you didn’t know the people involved, you would still remember it.

So when the phone rang in the dead of that cold December night, 29 years ago, I can still close my eyes now at 40 years of age and return to my 11 year old self. I can sink back into that cozy old four poster antique feather bed with the rocking horse comforter that I adored, and with all my history between that moment and now, I can pinpoint the moment when trouble crept its way into our lovely little family and the unraveling began.

We all know that a phone call in the middle of the night is either a wrong number or something terrible. When it woke me, I waited and listened to hear if my parents would go back to sleep. But their light came on down the hall and didn’t turn back off. Then came murmuring and movement from their room. When it was clear that they were very much awake, I left the warm comfort of that bed and crept down the hall to discover my father packing a suitcase. I crawled into their bed and between calls to more family and booking travel plans for my father, I learned that my grandfather, my Papa Rufino, and my Uncle Anibal, my father’s older brother and only sibling, were dead. And when my grandmother, my dear Mama Lina, was told, she had a heart attack and a mild stroke at the news. So my father was leaving for the Dominican Republic, his birthplace and family home, on the first early flight to deal with the tragedy that had befallen the members of his immediate family.

Before this moment, my life was a beautiful steady flowing stream. Loving parents, a very connected and involved extended family, the cutest 2 year old baby sister, a good school, lots of friends, and my most beloved ice skating, where I spent most of my waking time outside of school. This was thanks to my parents who made tremendous sacrifices to ensure I could skate before school and after, which if I never had to leave the rink would have been even better but this was a close second. We had a good thing going! And it all ended with that ringing phone. It all ended with a flat-bed truck parked along the downslope of a hill on a deserted two lane winding road between the capital city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and my family’s 6,000 acre cattle ranch about an hour’s drive into el campo.

It’s very rare that my Papa Rufino ever left his beloved ranch, while my Mama Lina was always eager to spend time in the capital whenever she could. She loved to be around her friends and family as much as her husband loved to be around his cows. The evening of the accident, all the family and friends of my uncle and grandparents had converged in Santo Domingo to celebrate a festive occasion; the second wedding of Uncle Anibal. There was a big party to kick off the wedding festivities and I have no doubt that my uncle, who was the life of every party, had no intentions of traveling that evening. But his father was stubborn and after the party ended wanted to return to the ranch. So my uncle obliged and they hopped in Anibal’s small truck and set off on a trip they had been making for 40 plus years. Just ahead of them by 30 minutes or so, another truck driver made his way along that dark, bumpy, winding road and made a choice to park his flat-bed truck along the side of that road, Carretera Sanchez, and go visit someone in a little village off the beaten path. But he didn’t actually get off the road entirely and the bed of his truck jutted out a bit into the lane. To top it off, he had parked on the down slope of a hill. So when my uncle and grandfather crested that hill in the pitch black that is el campo in the dead of night, they never even saw their fate. It’s estimated that they were going 60mph or more when they struck. The truck smashed up under the back of the flat bed and lodged there. We don’t know how long before the driver returned but by this time he was drunk enough that he didn’t even notice that he was dragging my grandfather and uncle for at least 10 miles to the nearest town of San Cristobal. As he entered the town someone stopped him, as they recognized the truck and who it belonged to, as my family was very well known and respected in the region.

When my father received the call, it was not only to relay the devastating news of death and his mother falling ill from shock, but there was an added urgency to 1. come bury his father and brother that day (the island heat and the fact that embalming is not practiced on the island means burials happen fast there) 2. determine steps for his mother’s care, and 3. take over the day to day operations of a working dairy ranch in a country he had not lived in since he was a child of age 11, when he was sent to boarding school in the states. That meant my mama was left to handle shutting down our life here; my father’s small business, our home, ice skating… The life they had built here in Nashville was forfeited for loyalty to one’s family in crisis.

We moved to the Dominican Republic a few months later and it was one of the best parts of my life; to live abroad at such a pivotal age; go to an international school with kids from across the globe; spend my weekends and summers at our wonderful ranch; and develop deep lasting friendships with my father’s family, especially my Mama Lina, who I remained very close with into my adulthood as she lived to be 92. Although I had all these wonderful experiences that shaped who I am today, it took a toll on my father. When he left early that cold dreadful morning headed to the airport to bury his father and brother, nurse his mother back to perfect health, and attempt to run and then sell the land that sustained his family for over 50 years, I never saw him whole again. An inward madness, that had been lurking in his genes and building up from his previous hardships of life, broke free inside my father. This latest burden that befell him and his family was his undoing. Not even his lovely family, my wonderful mama, baby sister or me, not even me… could save him from the darkness.

After the ranch was sold four long years later, he was free to return to the states and pick back up where we left off. But he disappeared and we never really saw him again. He abandoned me, my sister and my mother and he never spoke to or saw his own mother again. With this final blow, she lost everyone in her immediate family that she loved dearly too. Her three granddaughters, me, my sister, and my older cousin, Sarita, the daughter of uncle Anibal, were all that remained of the family she and Papa Rufino created.

The slow disintegration of our family from the moment that fateful phone call pulled me from my dreams to when my father chose to walk away from us is the biggest reason why I am never taken by surprise by anything in life. I always expect trouble, the worst scenario at all times. Because I have lived the worst scenario and made it out on the other side better for the journey. So if I expect the worst all the while believing that I can handle getting through it no matter the outcome, then if things go well, I can be pleasantly surprised and never have any disappointment for expectations not met. This has served me well and will continue to for as long as trouble lies in wait, which it tends to do in the dead of night when you least expect it.

Battle…

Lots of people are fighting a life or death battle… Sometimes it looks like a stereotypical courageous act that we historically appreciate. But most of the time, people are courageous for walking into a war zone right here at home to be themselves or love who they love or even choosing to live when their subconscious is telling them they aren’t worthy. So be gentle and practice grace even when you may not understand or agree. And when you see others condemning and casting judgement, especially when it’s in the name of values that you also represent and hold dear, be a warrior for humanity and rise up to all things (policies, systems, churches, and individuals) that corrupt human dignity. And if you are in the midst of these battles, remember that you are a Revolution and we need your fire here on earth. Do not extinguish it. Burn like the Star-Stuff that you are.

To the Revolutions. All definitions apply.

Why Revolutions?

Why Revolutions?

Because I am One. So are You. We are Revolutions.

Every single moment that We

Live… Love… Hate… Fear… Hope… Despair… Console… Fail… Rise…

We are Revolutions.

As Individuals… As Celestial Bodies… As Souls… As Families… Communities… Nations…  As an Inhabitant of a Planet… As a Spec of the Universe…

Revolutions. Me. You. Us. Whether united or against.

Our stories, our revolutions, are threaded into the fabric of life; the Stories to come, the stories before, and in all times and spaces between.

Root Down. Rise up.

To The Revolutions. All definitions apply.

Let’s Go.