I wish Sandra Cisneros had written a piece entitled Thirty, but she didn’t. She wrote Eleven instead.
“What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven,you’re also ten, and nine, and eight,and seven, and six, and five, and four,and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are – underneath the year that makes you eleven. Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe somedays you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.”
I love opening the year with this. I can read it a million times, and the “One day when you’re all grown up” line never fails to choke me up.
Today I had to cry like I was three. Sobbed, actually. (By the way, what’s too much for a blog? Could this be too much? Perhaps. But– I’m quite certain my favorite authors said a bit too much in their writing, too, so I’m alright with this. I think.)
Atlanta is my pit stop between Northern California and Home. Atlanta is where my father lives in his beautiful house with his beautiful wife on the corner of a beautiful street.
I called my dad Papa until I was 15. I can’t remember if I got too old or embarrassed..or maybe it was him, but. . . the name got lost along with a few other things. I love my father. He’s kind, generous, beautiful, and smart –one of the most wonderful humans I know. And I miss him. The single dad who’d drive me to the closest park where we’d swing until dark and sing Little Drummer Boy in the middle of Summer. The man who’d hold me and read in the perfect volumed whisper and tell me how everything was made. The man who’d play U2 and Phil Collins and The Beach Boys while we both sang (badly) along on our 2 hour long car rides between his house and my mom’s.
I don’t remember exactly when he went away. It was gradual. The way a sunset is still with you, but not.. and then not at all. That’s how it was with my Papa.
I lasted 15 minutes before the desire for home and family and the tension of non- belonging made me cry like I was three. I’m just not sure how the me that is ME fits with the him that is now HIM.
How is it that I felt so at rest and at home in Berkeley with brand new, week-old friends? And here, I drown in self-awareness, each step quiet and careful. (It’s not normal to peek around corners in your house, I presume?) I don’t belong in their too quiet house in a story that has written too many pages without me.
Sometimes, I want to fit, but I’m not sure how. I know how to be the little girl in the car or on the swing set or in his arms, but I’m not sure how to be right now. I can jump back into my story without her with ease…and sometimes, that happens… But most of the time, right now, I jump in and feel lonely.
So here I sit, in three year old tears, on a too hard bed with too fluffy pillows surrounded by pictures of people I don’t know. I squint desperately to see myself… remembering me, in MY story, and hope to ride this wave until I’m really Home. Home, where I will no doubt write again, from my just right bed with my just right pillows that smell like my mom. I will be surrounded by pictures of love and moments I remember and, maybe one day, I’ll figure out how to do this. I know the truth. Life is like age. I can’t ignore parts just because they aren’t the present.
“Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion, or the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each one inside the next one.”
My life is not just one side of my family or one half of a childhood or one house I love. I am all of it and it is part of me. Each part inside the next one. One day I will have to figure this out. And I will. I will figure out how to love her. And him. And I’ll remember that he is still there, underneath the layers that make him my dad.
Maybe when I’m thirty.
(excerpt from Eleven, Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros)