Written with my Thursday night writing group with the prompts: don’t go there, quiet enough to hear your own heart beat, everybody knows your name, startling, witch, had to make it across the street, from there I was sent to another small room, hung up when she heard my voice, dismiss, okay kids time for bed, she needed to do this to avoid retreating, a little out of my wheelhouse, notice what you notice, once in a lifetime, Candace
“Okay, kids, time for bed,” my father announced, but I knew this would not sit well with my older sister Candace. It was the top of the 11th inning, and she had a crush on the Giants’ closer, so I knew she would not want to miss the rest of the televised game. “Geez, Dad,” she whined, “for once in your lifetime, cut us a little slack.”
He sat up in his recliner to give us girls the evil eye as we sprawled on the couch munching popcorn and peanut M&M’s, and I admit it, I caved. I bolted up and made for the stairs. “Don’t go there,” Candace wailed at me, but I didn’t care. I’d been reading a Nancy Drew mystery since the third inning anyway. I’d tucked the little yellow book under my sweater. I could read it with a flashlight in bed as well as I could here in front of the black and white screen.
But Candace tapped my foot as I made my exit and gave me a doleful look. She wanted me to back her, but I wasn’t ready. Later I would understand the small moments of defiance that prepare you for the bigger battles. She needed to do this, to avoid retreating, she needed to stand up to his rigid order, the straight lines, the schedules, the curfews, the classifications. But I wasn’t ready. I tried to tell her this at the time, but she dismissed my inarticulate excuses. Later she would call me weak and submissive, sometimes she even hung up the phone when she’d hear my voice. “I don’t know how you’re ever going to even make it across the street alone,” she told me once during a particularly bitter exchange. She was wrong about that, but I knew she wouldn’t believe me.
I remember that night, sitting in the dark at the top of the stairs, watching her fight with our father. Their voices were loud and sarcastic. What was the point? No one could hear the ball game. Then my mother slid silently down the hall to perch beside me. She’d been taking a bubble bath and she smelled of lavender. After a few minutes I turned to her. “Aren’t you going to go down and stop them?” I asked.
She shrugged. “That’s a little out of my wheel house,” she said. “Out of yours too.” We continued to watch.
“Stay so quiet that you can hear your own heart beat,” she whispered as if in a chant. “And then notice what you notice.” She paused. “C’mon.” She stood and we both headed off to bed.
Over the years I have dreamed of small beautiful rooms. I am led from room to room by an invisible guide to find each one decorated with technicolor silks and velvets, looking out on gardens filled with gardenias, and fountains spewing turquoise water. Always I wake feeling my mother’s presence, as if this was a place she had prepared especially for me.
In our small town, everyone knew my mother’s name. I heard them whispering about her at school and in the grocery store. They said she was a witch. I don’t know if that’s true, I really don’t. But I am. Sorry if that startles you, but it’s true: I’m a witch. I came by it easily, naturally. I didn’t have to fight any man to attain my power. I paid attention and the magic found me.
Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash