Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter—someone new?
Someone better—maybe YOU!
AJ found The Giving Tree on our book shelf and read the title from the spine, curiously.
“The Giviiiing Treeee?”
“It is my favorite book, of big and small. Will you read it to me?”
He did, curiously.
I wasn’t awake and trying to be Yoda. I was tired. My spine should be broken by now, from other things. Fortunately, my faith and trust in myself and my character have carried me. But I was tired. Infusion tomorrow. I was not trying to teach. This was not a moment, until it was.
It was organic. It was Whole Foods with all the money in the world.
How many people get their favorite book read to them from one of their favorite people ever made?
I was able to sneak things in so maybe, someday he’d understand the layers of love and giving and taking until someone leaves you a stripped, naked stump.
“Mommy he seems selfish. I don’t know why the tree kept giving all his stuff to the boy.”
Well, when love is true, the simple act of giving is a gift to YOU, the giver spares no expense. It has no mirror. That is what God meant. That is the point.
That is love.
It isn’t love if it doesn’t take a pounding over TIME. Time is as cruel as love, I’m sure. There are no happy endings even when you win with love because of TIME. The ending, making it there (you two multiplied), will have to be enough. The finish line is the end of a full life. Unless you believe in other worlds, which Mama and Papa do (we are eternally tied to you and sister little guy), the ending can seem mean. Most of my friends don't believe in eternity or anything after this. What's everyone sprinting for then? Are they racing to their deaths? I'm good. I'll just take a seat and rest and while. Smell some some roses. Try talking about this to a child. Try being being Moses. He seemed to take things well.
So then I read Casey at the Bat while he acted it out. He was McFlynn. He was Casey. He struck out. But my son saw something in what I do (I play with words for a living) and it was like for the very first time in seven years, he looked up at me and asked, "Whatcha doing? How do you do that? Can you buy me a journal Mama?"
He asked for a pen, said he wanted to write a poem.
“Can I write with you?” I asked.
This was surreal to me. Kids don’t typically shut off electronics for a pen and journal. That’s a battle in itself. I used to teach Language Arts. Getting a child to WANT to write is the hardest thing in the world to do. Getting them to do it well, to practice, without a parent's help seems impossible. Teaching was the hardest thing I ever did. And yet, oh how I miss each and every kid. When they write me, when they get in trouble even now as adults, the call me. I'm here. I left my classroom when MS took my legs, but I didn't. I just walked with them into another room called "real life". I won't leave.
“Yeah, cool!" he said.
I told him I would do this on Saturdays with my writing group sometimes. I told him sometimes it was so hard for me to share aloud, I’d pull my hat down low so I couldn’t see anyone. My voice would shake at first, my voice would shake in rhythm to my hands. Until I heard their applause. That was the day I politely took it off and put it on the table, no longer scared to show them my eyes and my mouth, the spout where these words poured out and onto them. Exposed.
This one guy took it and wore it so that he could "write like me" when the next prompt came. It was a silly, kind joke. To me it was everything. Like letting out a breath I’d been holding my entire life. It was serious. And so was this.
AJ didn’t care about sharing, though. He was cocky and ready.
“What do we write about?” I asked him. He answered like he had this planned for days, “I will write my name…and you continue from there. Go!"
SO I sat. And I wrote, next to my son on a beautiful day after a shitty week. A day I will never forget, not even when I’m gone. This came out of me. It didn't occur to me to find a hat,
I will write my name
I will write it in caps, HUGE and PROUD
I will sing each letter like silk
A beautiful voice, floating, then lifting
Gently, but proud.
I will let my name speak of me.
Before I ever walk through the door
I will be righteous in my actions my child, to be sure
It’s the proudest thing you ever wore.
Wear our name well my child.
Let it bring you joy, let it compass your way through the wild
Do good deeds my son, and raise good men, good women
Then pass on our good name with them…
And pray, they do it all again.
He clapped for me and said he liked it. He didn't really look at me though, he was tweaking his poem.
This week especially, but this month in general, I have let people bash my name. Lie. Abuse my name and I refuse to respond and tell on them, the truth, because anyone who knows me knows my character. That should speak louder than anything I have to say. If someone knows me chooses to believe the petty perspective of someone so far away, shame on them. My head and my name are held high. My heart is free. The hostage, my spine. Always. Doesn’t matter, I am free on faith. That's my get out of jail card ...I am FREE on FAITH. God knows what I do, when and how well.
It does bother me that they (one) speak against my name. It’s not fair. But sometimes that is how life works. You’ve gotta shine like a solar flare, in a healthy way; let them know your love and pride and hard work are still there and that everything else…you don’t care about. Persevere. Keep your head down, focus. But smile in the biggest of ways.
It’s interesting how everyone seems to think they know everything about everyone else when, in fact, we know so little of ourselves. I heard this in some song on Coffeehouse Radio on the way to work and was like YES! To have a stranger report who I am to a person who KNOWS me, and have that person believe them and persecute me verbally over and over again, is a damn shame. But I feel no shame on my part.
I just don’t want to lose my name. That prompt that my little guy gave me, how did he know this was so heavy on my heart?
I have worked a lifetime at making it mean something good and sturdy, as has my husband. That said, I can’t protect it. People can whisper what they want to the boss who isn’t there to see, and she can believe them. They can perceive as they sit from miles away, from one a skewed angle, and talk and people believe them. You can’t stop people from receiving others perceptions. I will never stoop to that level and report people for what they do or don’t do when the boss isn’t around. It is none of my business. My business is my work and learning and perfecting, and my name. Only time and action can restore it. But to the one person who matters, I think He’d say I’m doing okay.
So, that my son would choose this as a prompt today, was so timely. I am proud of my name. It is the name I chose, the life I chose and also, where I came from. AJ carries them both. His middle name is my maiden name. The latter, his father’s, and his father’s (a man I loved deeply). I am proud of where I came from, we came from, and I am proud of where we are. We’re like the happy ending of Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car.
When I am gone, I pray he takes it and runs in the purest of ways. A life of wrongs, righted. Of stars and love written on scraps of paper he loses and finds later, at just the right time. Of passion so deep he barely notices his arthritic bones and blistered feet. I pray those are the moments he remembers me. That is where you will find your father and me, my son. Always remember your name, especially when you are persecuted and falsely blamed. It is none of your business what others think of you, the gossip they whisper that gets bigger and bigger.
Focus on your name and how you carry it. Keep it good. Focus on your work and drown out the noise. Pass it on. Pray. Do it with God’s joy. You’ll be a wonderful man, a great writer, because I know firsthand, you were the BESTEST boy.
Here’s AJ’s Poem. He stood up proudly and read it to me. I was overjoyed:
I will write my name…
I write my name in script.
I will write my name in cheerios.
I will write my name with sticks in the mud.
I will write my name on cardboard.
I will write my name in shaving cream.
I write my name when playing the cloud game.
When we drive to the beach and dream.
~AJ Utitus(March 19, 2017)
I am proud of you my son. You blew me away. I know who will write, who will draw when I am gone. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep moving…on. And please know, I will never be “gone”.