Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Transitions: Nearly Forgotten Life

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Between the kindergarten/first grade building and the building that held the upper grades at Hazelwood Elementary, the school had constructed a walkway.  A metal awning that ran over a concrete sidewalk. . . this way, none of the classes had to get wet on their way between buildings.  The odd thing about this walk was that it took a 90 degree turn in the middle, a design feature that compensated for the fact that the doors to each building were offset from each other.  images

I have no earthly idea why I remember this space so vividly. I’m also not sure why, every time I think of it, that lie of a nursery rhyme about “sticks and stones” comes to mind.  But it does. I can see my little self taking that bend in the sidewalk and thinking about that rhyme.  Even then, knowing it was not true.

***

The stairs went down beside the church parking lot, just three or four of them into the darkness of the basement.  Mary and I didn’t play down there. We spent our hours up in her attic bedroom with pieces of paper for school out on the balcony that connected her room to her brother’s.

But it’s these basement stairs that rise into my mind – the green and white awning over them, the murkiness of that dark alcove in the manse where Mary lived with her parents – my pastor and his wife, the odd association I have between my mom’s piano and that space, as if the piano had been stored there and somehow – miraculous given its size and the relative narrowness of the door – come out of there and into our living room.

***

I have memories of the rooms in these places, too – Mrs. Painter reading Where the Red Fern Grows to us as we sat at her feet in our 5th grade classroom, Mary and I watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve  in her tiny family room when we were 12 or 13, “Enough from the peanut gallery” coming from Mrs. Feitcher’s mouth in our elementary music class as we tortured the universe with our recorders.  These are memories I can actively recall.

But it’s these transitional spaces, the images so sharp I could be placed blindfolded there today and walk safely through them, hands in pockets, it’s these that come unbidden, like the gift of snow in late March – unexpected, perhaps unwanted, but beautiful all the same.

We speak of transitions in writing as the things that get us from one important thing to the next, the things that tie the ideas together. “First.” “Then” “After” “Finally” Words we almost don’t read.

Maybe it’s the way we stitch these ideas together that matters. Or the way that we don’t.

So much memory tied to spaces that seemed only important in that they took me somewhere else.  So much tangled living in the in-between.

***

At the other end of Hazelwood Elementary, a dark space connected two more buildings, Several concrete stairs up from the drive at the back where I caught the bus after school.  A turn and then exactly 13 steps – I counted them at every passing – up to the cafeteria, where I threw away my expensive bionator while my parents were in China.

On these steps, maybe the 6 or 7th one, Benny handed me the first and only note I ever received like this.  “Do you like me? Check yes or no.”  It still makes my heart skip to think someone wrote ME that note. . .  and handed it to me in the quiet of that stair between.

What do you make of the transitions in your life? In your writing?

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Author: Andi

I'm a writer, teacher, and editor who is currently working on a book about the slaves who lived and worked on the farm where I now live. I blog daily at http://www.andilit.com I have three cats - Oscar, Emily and Charlotte - who have taken to living on the farm quite well - bird-, frog-, and butterfly-hunters all.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve often wondered why certain, seemingly inconsequential memories stay with us while others fade away. Maybe the stick around because they do signal some sort of transition as you’ve written about here.
    Enjoyed walking down your memory lane today.
    Blessings!
    Martha Orlando recently posted…How Many Hats Do You Wear?My Profile

  2. In the past, transitions have tripped me up quite a bit, but I’m learning to push through them. I recently was several years of transition and have found solace in finding the “new” normal. I realize how much I crave being “settled.” I think most of us have those yearnings, which make the transitions hard.

    I love your writing. Your is one post I read each time if I can. Keep it up.
    Brenda L. Yoderr recently posted…March Madness and MVP’s: It’s All in the AssistsMy Profile

    • Transitions are so hard, and most of fear change on some level, so the transitional parts of change we fear, too. But we grow, we change . . . maybe the key is to not fear? I’m not sure.

      And thanks for your kind words about my blog, Brenda.

  3. The seeming straightforwardness of your ending questions is deceiving, for me. The subjects of your essays straddle the categories into which I have sorted my memories. They require me to pull out my intellectual toolbox to re think and re examine events of my past. Explaining my history in ways that are responsive to your questions fails to convey something important to me. Adequate answers take far too long. Let me try to craft a response of appropriate length.

    My first thoughts of transitions in my life are about pain. We moved when I was eight, and I got an ulcer. My dad took a year sabbatical abroad when I was in tenth grade, and I was kicked out of the best rock band in my old high school and had no friends in my new one. I only received one letter from my classmates that year. When my children were born, they had significant medical issues. Let me spare you the rest of the details. Transitions hurt. Usually, they hurt badly.

    • Transitions are hard, and yet, I think they are places of growth. . . and growing hurts, too. . . . but still, I wouldn’t want to not grow, I guess. Thanks for reading, Lee. And I’m sorry for all the pain.

  4. I love your heart, Andi. I don’t read other people’s blogs regularly, but yours always inspires me to slow down, to be still, and to look and to listen. Thank you for that.

    God bless you,

    Ken

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