Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kindness



Goddess bless Riot Kitty. When I woke up this morning and checked my email, I had only one new message, a comment from my blogger pal RK. If not for that one note, I would have come down with a raging case of the nobody-loves-me's. Yep, busted, I do look for outside validation, like, oh, every five minutes or so, or I start to sulk. I love Love, I do, I'm a worse love sponge than my dogs. So that's my text this morning, brethren (and sisteren!). Love.


I was sifting through my humongous collection of stuffed animals one day--they get up to mischief when I am not looking, I swear they multiply--and I found a big stuffed Scottish terrier which was a gift from a girl I knew in 1973. Her name was Sue. She was 19. I was 18. We had been to see the Woody Allen movie "The Sleeper", a futuristic farce in which there was a mechanical Scottish terrier named Rags who clanked around, saying "Hello! My name is Rags! Arf! Arf!" over and over, even as thugs were pummeling Woody Allen to bits. (not a bad idea now, I think. Ha!) Anyway, Rags just broke me up, I thought he was the most ridiculously hilarious thing I had ever seen.


Well, shortly after, Sue gave me this stuffed Scottish terrier. She had even made a little dog jacket for him, to match the one in the movie, and he wore a big card that read, "Hello! My name is Rags! Arf! Arf!" Whatcha gonna do with a gal like that? I kept Rags down all the years, though his little card fell off and he is a little scruffier than he once was. So, when I rediscovered him, I thought to myself, "I wonder what Sue would think, if she knew that I had kept dear Rags all this time?" And that led me to think of another very dear girl I knew once. Let me tell you about her. In fact, she's the entire reason for this post.


At Christmas time 1961, I was six years old. (I told Jannie Funster five, but I did the math, and I was six. Never leave a poet to be the fact checker!) In the household I grew up in, a raised eyebrow constituted an emotional outburst. And it was a male enclave. There was my Daddy and my two (much) older brothers. My mom, forgive me for saying this, but she seemed to me like a cross between Queen Elizabeth and the robot maid on The Jetsons. She was a marvel of practical efficiency, and I realized later, showed her love by fixing meals and keeping things in good order. But I didn't understand that til many years later. I just thought she didn't like me much.


So there I was in the sober brown world of my family's house in 1961. There is a picture of me, taken in the late 50s, that I love. My next oldest brother had stuck his football helmet on my head, and there I was, in a half crouch with my hands spread on my knees, laughing my head off. Well, that was me by nature, I think, and still is, loving the silly and the unexpected. But there wasn't much silly at my house. Not much soft. And I look back now and think how lonely I was.


Remember I mentioned Christmas time, 1961? And that this was a post about Love? Would I forget? Would I lie to you, snookums? No way.


My oldest brother had started at the University of Michigan (did I mention that I come from a family of achievers? Did I mention that I am a poet? lol) at the same time that I started kindergarten. That Christmas, he brought a girl home with him. To my regret, I can't remember her name now. But oh, I remember her.


In those days, I spent most of my time looking up, cos I was by far the smallest human in our house. And what I saw when I looked up was mostly in sober shades of respectable dark colors. I do remember that I liked to watch my mother get ready to go out some place with my father. Then, out would come her jewelry and all her make-up and what-have-you, all of which seemed tremendously interesting to me. But as always with my mother, there was somehow the air of a military operation to it all. Pearls? Check! Perfume? Sir, yes sir!


So when my oldest brother, Paul, brought home a smiling, light bright girl in a red dress, to me it seemed he had brought a visitor from the planet Happy. I liked her immediately and I can still remember standing next to her as she sat on our couch (I was literally not much more then "knee high"!) and just drinking in this person with all her good cheer and what I would now call feminine energy. Back then I just thought, how long will she stay? And, can I be just like her?


She must have liked little midget me, too, or maybe her heart went out to her lonesome little admirer. Anyway, she did me an act of kindness that meant more to me than she ever knew. She made me a Christmas stocking. This was not a store-bought stocking, she had made it herself. And...she had touched it, and wrapped it, and given it to me! Wow! To me that was like Sky King landing on the front lawn. Except, this Sky King, who had swept in just as unexpectedly, was a girl, and something about her spoke to my little heart and said, you can be like her some day! And more than that, she gave me a certain warmth I was starving for. Do I really need to add that I treasured that Christmas sock for years and years after? That, when I moved, the stocking came with? Until the last move, when it vanished?


I know that it got mislaid somehow, because when I found Rags, it made me think of that stocking, and I went looking for it in every box and crate in every sunlit or dusty corner of my house, and I never found it. I know I had it at my last house. I was distressed that I had lost it. In fact, I cried. Yep, I did.


I called my brother--this was shortly before I was "outed" by another family member. That is to say, when my brother would still speak to me--and asked him about that girl who came to visit so long ago. Oh, didn't I tell you? I never saw that gal again. My brother married a different girl four years later, and they are married to this day. My brother either didn't remember her at all, or pretended not to. With either of my brothers, it is very hard to tell. Life, to them, seems to be a poker game. So, that was a dead end. But my mother, bless her, remembered her. She couldn't recall her name, but she did remember her, and the Christmas visit.


Shortly after all of that, I was venting to a girlfriend about it all. I said, what a schmuck my brother is! That girl was such a gem, and he doesn't even remember her! Goodness knows what she was even doing with Mr. Sobersides anyway, but it just offends me that he forgot all about someone so special. Well, my friend gave me that look. You know the one, the look your female friends give when they know you better than you know yourself, and are about to clue you in, between sips of coffee. Now, my friend has a rather spiritual view of the world and the things that happen in it. And she said to me, "Maybe she wasn't there for him. Maybe she was there for you."


That "girl" would be 66 years old now, wherever she is. I hope she has led a truly blessed life. She blessed me. Hello! My name is Shay! Arf! Arf! And once, at Christmas time many years ago, someone was kind to me. And I never forgot.

____________

18 comments:

Kristin H. said...

Shay, that is beautiful. And I think we grew up in the same house albeit in a parallel universe or something. All the way down to the pearls and precision makeup. I used to sit on the toilet seat and gaze upon my mother as she smacked on the cosmetics for date night with my date. I remember my much older brothers (4 of them) bringing home the girls and I would snuggle up to them on the couch wanting to braid their long hair and admire their colorful clothes. Things were pretty brown in my house too, save for the ocassional splash of avocado green that seem to be so popular back then.

That stocking may still show up some day. Or maybe the girlfriend has passed away and she's back as a ghost and wants to take a look at the stocking and has moved it somewhere. It could happen.

((love))

K said...

It's a lovely post.

It is amazing how such small things and brief times with people can have a huge affect.

I also like the idea of planet Happy. I could use a little vacation there.

vicariousrising said...

Beautiful post. Kindness matters.

CDB said...

This is so sweet. I love that you went and looked for the stocking that she made. What an amazing memory.

I was intrigued by your comment on K's blog just above mine, and popped in to say hi. I,too, am a big fan of validation.

Mama Zen said...

I agree with the girlfriend. She was definitely there for you, not your brother.

Fireblossom said...

Thank you, ladies, for taking time to this. Your comments mean a lot to me.

Kristin H. said...

"Date with my date????" I need to start proofing my own comments. Date with my DAD.

Fireblossom said...

Kristin!

Koo koo ka choo, Mrs. Robinson! I admit I did a double take on that, but figured out what you must have meant. ;-)

Pouty Lips said...

This is amazing! I wish that everyone in the world could realize the simplest truth - that the little, or big, kindness you do today may be the one act that truly inspires someone. I mean - look at you now! The maestro, writing straight from your own dreams, and philosophizing about life by writing about what it would feel like to be a bathtub or a cup of coffee, or a succubus. I think writing poetry is your way of wearing red and painstakingly stitching a handmade stocking for us all. Yep.

Fireblossom said...

WOW, Pouty, I love what you said! I never thought of it that way. That makes me smile! Thanks! My day began and finished with just wonderful comments from Kristin and from you, and all the lovely ones in between. Until today i had told this story to very few people. I'm glad now that I put it on my blog. :-)

T said...

What a beautiful post. Darn, real life is getting in the way with my blog time, I'm always running late:(

It is the small things that matter. I wrote a blog awhile back about what happened to kindness. The littlest, simplest things can be huge and make a big impact on someone else. People just don't take the time to realize that.

Keep up with this wonderful poetry and writing, you are a great inspiration.

Scarlet said...

Amazing how we never forget those that helped shape us as kids. This 66-yr old girl has a name and I wish you could find her again.

Jannie Funster said...

Breakin' my heart here, Shay.

I am cursious.

As you know?

Ho wmay times have you moved since that sock was made for you?

And I'd be very very surprised if you do not know the exact amswer to this, as I know each exact place I have ever lived, which has been 9, 10 if you include Jim's Mom's house in NS, which so far has been more of a stopping place.

Fireblossom said...

That tends to happen, T, and I think it is rude of real life to do that! Thanks as always for your very kind words, my friend. :-)

Jannie, the sock stayed safe at my Mom's house in my younger days, but moved with me three times and perhaps a fourth, depending on whether it is tucked away someplace here. I sure hope so.

Scarlet, I confess that I hope she somehow reads this and recognizes herself. She meant an awful lot to me.

Riot Kitty said...

Awww!

Riot Kitty said...

PS I also have a collection of stuffed animals so big it is socially irresponsible. See, I knew you were cool :)

Shadow said...

not only a poet, but a wonderful storyteller too. with a message that touched my heart. and i think your girlfriend was right, she was there for you...

Fireblossom said...

Woohoo, RK! Great minds think alike!

Thanks, Shadow. It meant a lot to me when my friend said that (aren't gf's neat?) and I believe it's true.