I feel as if I have spent a lifetime saying goodbye.
So many goodbyes.
From very early childhood my life has been full of goodbye.
During those early years I did not know when it would happen, how it would happen, there would just be a shift in my world, maybe, I truly don't know. I have no memory. Pieces of a life that don't feel as if they truly exist because I cannot remember them.
But there are people, faces and hugs, touches, good and bad, those I remember. Places, places I remember. Colors and textures, and scents, so many scents I remember. Bringing flashes of memory.
I must have been about 3, standing in front of a glass door, looking out, my little sister beside me. I can still feel the warmth of her small body leaning against mine. Someone was leaving, we were, my first awareness of goodbye?
I remember summer.
The summer I turned 5. A wonderful playground of a neighborhood, nestled along a river, a special muddy tang to the air. Family living across the street, my cousin also my best friend. Children playing everywhere. Lawns overflowing with children. Magical summer evenings, with those connecting swards of green, overhung with what seem like giant Oaks, filled with the parents of those same children. Those young adults of the early sixties. The young men and women that were teens in the mid-fifties. The women emulating Jackie Kennedy, the men, looking quite Fonziesque in my mind's eye. The women all wearing shirtwaist dresses with floating skirts, or pedal pushers. All gathered in lawn chairs, gossiping and laughing, the mother's drinking lemonade, or iced tea, the father's drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, watching their children catch fireflies. The last of all that was good?
An illness, a flood, more goodbyes. We never returned there again.
The summer I turned 7. A new place, a place in the country. The air was supposed to be better for my ill mother. No people to remember, but the place, the feel of the air, the scent of new mown hay. No neighboring children, just siblings to play with, wild places to explore in the woods near by. But the laughter was gone.
The summer I turned 8. Another house, still in the country, raising goats this time, the milk was supposed to help my mother grow stronger. More scents, rich earth, dust mixed with machine oil, the feel of a warm goat teat under my fingers, but fear too, that house contained fear. More wild places to explore, only these were barns, sheds, corn cribs, grain storage rooms. Lofts and ladders, railroad tracks to follow. Wild strawberries, and saurkraut memories.
The summer I turned 9. Memories that stop making sense, a death in the family, another move, leaving behind my father. The hugs of my grandmother. A rich orange clay earth, children singing, laughing, many children again.But the fear had already been instilled, I knew I would have to say goodbye, so I lived more quietly, I didn't know how to live loudly anymore.
The summer I turned 10. An amazing adventure filled playground, a railroad trestle to cross in excited terror, a stone quarry to play king of the mountain in, a creek to catch crawdads and freeze our bare feet in. But I still lived ever more quietly. New people to learn to know, new people to have to say goodbye to.
More and more moves, onward it seems to continue to flow
Pieces of me left behind. Second grade, Third grade, Fourth grade, Fifth grade, Sixth grade, only pieces and particles. Upheaval, sickness, nightmares (not mine), never knowing, marital squabbles. Marital accord, marital discord. With four small children orbiting the periphery of their lives.
So many years of saying goodbye. Then it stopped, but too late, I had forgotten how to say hello. Eventually though, I did, but something else happened, I forgot how to say goodbye.
The summer I turned 16. I remembered again, to never forget again. Another move, and another that year. It continued into the rest of my teen years, still not truly understanding the reasons why, a continual shift in the gravity of my world. Realizing one day, my world contained no gravity of its own. I was just one of four terrestrial bodies following the pull of my parents.
Always always more and more goodbyes.
Always one person, one place that was my center, my sanity in a world that had not grown mad, but a mad world I had grownup in.
Then my center, my earth, my home was gone. Another goodbye. A final goodbye to all that was good in my world. I decided then, no more goodbyes, if it had to be, it would only be a quiet slipping away, their choice not mine, which many chose to do. Because you see, I had not learned, I had not learned that if you don't want to say goodbye, you have to remember to keep saying hello.
I was lost then, have been lost, constantly searching, constantly seeking, trying to find that center again. Now knowing, she is in me, I am my center, out of the corner of my eye, I can see the path glimmering greenly before me,
I learned goodbye, not hello, I learned how to leave quietly, not how to stay. With others in my life, when I don't understand, when I become frightened, when I think I have become too attached, when I think I have begun to need them, I seek the time to say goodbye, by slowly quietly slipping away.
Only there came a time when I couldn't say goodbye easily, I couldn't leave quietly, I couldn't just slip away to be some forgotten face, a memory, so I stayed too long.
Inside the little girl in me curls up into her protective fetal position, quietly rocking, cringing, quiet tears falling, tears of farewell. Knowing it is once again time to say goodbye,not to slip away quietly, but this time to say goodbye.
Knowing it is time. There is not enough of me to stay, no more of me to give? The receptacle is empty. There was never enough of me.
Memories lost, memories that contain goodbyes.
Tears falling, healing, quietly healing.
Memories, something to hold onto, something that is golden to treasure, to remember. Will they hold me in my goodbye?