And here you thought all the stories about Gran were over, didn’t you? Tsk tsk tsk…
I could spend my whole life writing about that woman and only scratch the surface of all her layers. Some stories are longer, some shorter, some soft and sweet, some deep and melancholy, but each with a lesson, each with some learning. And most, sooner or later, involve a little too much processed sugar to be called “healthy.” We all have our vices.
Years ago on that big old front porch, I can remember Gran talking about calling one’s heart home. We’d practice yodeling, whistling, clapping our hands – any good ideas we could come up with that we thought might work. Granted, at the time, I really didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but the seed was planted. It wasn’t until many years later, as I sorted through the boxes that held the last of her earthly memories, that I realized just how significant this story was for Gran – what all that yodeling was really about.
There, wrapped in a delicately embroidered cotton handkerchief in the bottom of a dusty old cardboard box, was an envelope. Sealed with a splash of maroon wax and an intricately flourished “M”, the address was barely legible – ink faded, lost in the colorings of age and a tea stain or two. “To My Heart” the front read, and my own heart skipped a beat at those words. I’d found enough of those envelopes by now to know that whatever was coming was no small thing, and would most likely wind up on yet another page – this one.
Taking a deep breath for whatever lesson was on its way, I slit the top, careful not to disturb the seal, and drew the single sheet from its resting place. Gran’s beautiful old-fashioned script always took my breath away, but the words I read did much more than that.
I want to start this out like every other letter I’ve ever written: ‘Hi. How are you? I am fine.’ But I can’t do that. I’m not going to cheapen this moment by filling it with empty words that only hide the truth – the convenient lies we often tell each other to maintain the little agreements we’ve shaped our lives around. So I’ll begin again:
You may not remember me. We haven’t spoken in a very long time. We used to know each other well, but that was long ago. Today we’re more like strangers, and even though part of me realizes how very much I’ve missed you, wants to grab you and wrap you in a huge familiar hug, another part of me feels peculiar, talking to you like this. It feels rather presumptuous, after the way I’ve treated you.
Yes, I know how badly I’ve treated you. I know how badly I’ve allowed you to be treated, standing by idly, like a mother watching her own child being abused. Part of me wants to strike out at those abusers, to throw a spotlight on their behaviors, shame shame. And yet, deep down, I know that, more often than not, I allowed those behaviors – me, your sole protector and guardian. No, not in the very beginning, and I won’t accept that weight, even if you’d like me to. But in the end, it was mostly me.
And so I’m writing this letter to ask your forgiveness, and to ask you to come home. Wherever you are, please come home, each bit and piece and part of you that’s been left behind where it fell, like forgotten wounded soldiers on what felt, at the time, like a battlefield.
I don’t blame you for not wanting to come back. For not trusting me anymore. I didn’t trust myself for a long time either. But I’ve made a lot of changes in my life, some outside, and even more inside, and I’m slowly learning to trust myself again, to know who I am, to trust what I know. To trust that my heart was right all along, even with all those wounds. And I want you back. Please. For me. For us, for whatever good we ever had together, that can be even more beautiful than we ever imagined.
I can’t make up for wasted years, but I can make you the promise that if you’ll come back, I will do my very best to take care of you the way you deserve, the way neither one of us knew was even possible. No, I’m not perfect now, but can we grow and learn together? I love you. I need you. You made me brave, and strong, and loving, and open. I’m tired of being half tin man, half cowardly lion, half love and no guts. I need you now more than ever, for your courage to show TRUE love – to others, yes, but also to myself. Please give me another chance. Please come home.
My door is always open, and the Light is always on. And if you’re stuck somewhere, and you can’t get away, try to send out a little flicker if you can, or just hunker down if you can’t, and I’ll come and find you, wherever you are. I promise.
With all the love I can offer – the little bit you left behind…
There the letter ended, in a straggling line of ink blotches that looked suspiciously like teardrops. No date this time, not even a signature, as if drawing this letter to a close was more than she could handle.
My own tears fell among those stains, because I knew what Gran was talking about. In all these years, I’d learned a bit about hearts myself, how pieces of them get lost, stuck, torn apart, embedded with scars and shrapnel and so many things that make it hard for us to remember what our hearts – inside – really look like. How they feel, and where they can lead us.
I don’t know about you – I’m probably only speaking for myself – but I know that many years ago, when I discovered that a good part of my own heart had disappeared somewhere along the way, I made the decision to spray what was left with a no-stick coating, like a modern day knight of the round table. You see, I learned to cook in the age of Teflon. No cast iron skillets for me.
And in those early years I found out that when I started cooking with gas, metaphorically speaking, more often than not, things got burned, layers got stuck, and whatever I was “preparing” often fell apart when I tried to slide it onto my plate. And so I applied the latest cure-all convenience: No-stick spray.
Nothing could stick to me: Not joy, not pain, not love, not sorrow. Sure, they got thrown my way, and they’d glom on for a second, but then they’d slide right off and I’d go on my way, safe behind my preservative-loaded shield. What I didn’t realize was that all that spray was actually not very good for me. In fact, it was poisoning my system from the outside in. Don’t believe me? Google the ingredients and see for yourself.
So now, years down the road, when I read Gran’s letter, I knew what she meant. I’ve been working on scrapping off all those toxic layers for quite a while now. Drawing those poisons out, I’m finally down to what was left behind. Kinda soggy, and a little smelly, trapped in there with no room to breathe, you know – nothing goes in or out. Not a very romantic sight, I can tell ya that. But we’re there: Me and that hole. And now it’s time to call my own heart home.
Lucky for me, I’ve had plenty of yodeling practice. So if you’ll excuse me – and maybe even if you won’t – I’ve got a call to make. See ya.
From Gran’s Big Book of Short Stories, (C)2011 Mary Batson, FrontPorchRambles. All rights reserved, especially the one to keep on singing.
Photos courtesy of The Patchwork Heart, an extra special FrontPorchRambles workshop & 21-day transformational process.