I used to participate in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop…when I was blogging regularly. I still read the emails that let me know about the prompts ahead of time and one caught my eye this week.
“Write about someone who made your childhood bearable.”
Now I had a good childhood, a very good childhood. I had parents who loved me, I went to good schools and had 2 acres of woods to play in. I was lucky. To read those lines and if you met me, you’d think that I didn’t need anyone to make my childhood ‘bearable’…but I did.
I was never comfortable in my own skin. I always fell awkward, not the awkward that comes with regular adolescence. It was more than that, I never felt like I belonged where I was. I still don’t a lot of the time. In school I felt like my joining things was always forced and uncomfortable. Outside of school I didn’t feel shy just, always out of place. There was only once place in the world where I didn’t feel out of place, East Dennis on Cape Cod.
Now if you have read my blog before you may know that I have always described the place that my family goes on the Cape as the place where my soul dwells. I may have also spoken about the home we’ve stayed for those glorious days. We’ve rented the home from the same family for 30 years. It has become a part of me and my time at the Cape. The home and the Cape are woven together, I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. It is truly a home, not a rental house.
When I was younger, my Mom would have the kids write thank you notes to the woman who owned the home and we’d leave them for her. I think it was the only thank you note I ever enjoyed writing. As much as I think she knew how important the Cape was to me from those notes, I know she probably never realized that she really saved me in a lot of ways.
The awkwardness and out of place feelings really got bigger as I got bigger, though you would not have known it if you’d seen the 10 year old running along the jetty rocks, seemingly without fear. When I was in sixth grade, I broke a picture with glass. I thought about using that glass to cut myself. I was at a point where I felt I could not win, school was unbearable, my sister constantly taunted me, not only did I have the usual ‘out of place’ feeling but on top of that I was getting all the normal adolescent fears. I remember I was in my school uniform, it was probably February or March. The thought that stopped me was, “I’ll miss the Cape if I do that. If I’m not here.” It was a turning point for me and although I would always struggle with depression, when things got to their worst in my mind, I would always think about that time I would have at the Cape if I just stuck it out. I’d count days and hours and tick them off in my head. I knew at 11 years old that if I could just make it to July or August I would be able to go and refuel myself in a way. I still, to this day, think that way.
As I got older, I started to form an idea about why I always feel so out of place. I think it is because piece of me dwells in that home in East Dennis. There was a woman who made it possible for me to find the place where my soul fully lives, if only for a week a year. She saved me many, many times and she never even knew it. She helped me understand what it was like to live completely and fully, if only for a little bit at a time. I am ‘in place’ there.
I found out yesterday as I was contemplating the prompt I mentioned in the first paragraph that the woman who owned the home died about two weeks ago, she was 96 years old. I hope she knew the joy she brought to that little girl who wrote her those thank you notes. Maybe that’s all she should know. The dark side of it isn’t as important.
Rest in Peace – HBS.