A few days ago I was cleaning the house and came across some dusty and faded dried flowers hanging from the antique bare-wooden door that is propped up in the corner of my living room. The flowers had been preserved for reasons I can no longer recall. I do remember that I had received them from someone in an attempt to beg forgiveness for something that wasn’t kind in the ways of relationships. But why I thought to save them as a reminder? Beats me.
When I came across them in my cleaning, I asked myself: Why do you have these things in your house, collecting dust and preserving negative memories? Why are you keeping them? It didn’t take long in the deliberating. I cut the yarn that was attaching them to the door. I took the flowers and dumped them in the garbage can in the driveway — almost ceremoniously so. It felt great. I then found some other memorabilia that was conveying the same less-than-happy memories. Another trip to the garbage can. It felt good to rid my home of these things. Thursday morning came along, and I wheeled the can to the curb and said, “Good! Done! Bad memories be gone!”
I came home from work mid-afternoon that day and took the dog out for his afternoon romp. There were two neighbor boys playing up the hill. When they saw me with my dog, they came tearing down the hill to pet him. After cautioning them that this 8-pound Chihuahua-boxer mix might tear their arms off at the elbow if they bent to pet him, they started to ask me all sorts of questions . . . reminding me of what it once felt like to be 8-years-old and curious and lacking distinct social filters. Why does your dog bite? Does he bite everyone? Where do you live? What’s your dog’s name? Can we pet him how? Are you married? Is that your truck? Why is that cat following you? Is that your cat? Can we pet your cat?
I stood there and answered all questions. They looked like brothers, the younger one not having quite grown into his grin or his ears. Questions answered and curiosity satisfied, they turned to run back up the hill — the elder swinging and beating at the younger with some sort of weapon. My first thought was, That looks like fun — remembering what it was like to play rough-and-tumble with my Irish-twin brother on the physically-competitive and sometimes-painful battlefield of my Little Sisterhood.
Then I looked at the boy’s flailing weapon of choice. It was the bunch of dried flowers that I had thrown into the trash, looking somewhat less robust since the game of Chase, Beat, and Flail had ensued. The flowers had somehow avoided the tip into the garbage truck. Swish and whap. This big brother had his little brother on the run. The younger was yelling at the elder to stop — which was added fuel. More swish and whap ensued. The way I am describing the story sounds awful, but they were, in truth, having fun chasing each other around . . . and it made me laugh to see such a miserable reminder of past unfaithfulness being utilized in such a fun and hearty fashion.
I doubt that these two are going to remember the summer day when they stopped to talk to the neighbor woman about her dog, her cat, her truck, and her marital status. I don’t know if this day will live long in my memory either, but it started me a’thinking about my wonderful big brother –who now is one of my most amazing friends.
In childhood, the way we treated each other at times must have looked to be appalling. We grew up tough and recognized the importance of knowing how to take care of oneself in the face of conflict. But, as we grew older, our conflicts grew into a more collaborative and supportive state. We joined the same team. We had grown close through those years of pushing, shoving, and wrestling. We had forgotten the fighting and had grown to appreciate the loyalty that living in the trenches of childhood had created.
It’s odd because I never thought to cry, to tattle, or to demand a cease fire. None of this was an option. Tattling was taboo. It was how we learned to test each other’s mettle, and it was how we built the friendship that continues to grow in our adult years. It was how I came to understand that forgetting is a huge part of forgiving others. Because once you forget, you are done with the whole thing. It’s easy to forgive when I have forgotten. But when I am not forgetting? When I am reliving the moments that weren’t so pleasant while attempting to complete the forgiveness cycle? These are the moments that snag my flow and hold me back from becoming me and from choosing the life that I want for myself now.
So I am happy that I cannot recall the reason for the tossed-out-dried-up flowers. And I must be in a good state of forgiveness if I can get a good laugh watching that little brother howling and sprinting up the hill. I could tell that these two weren’t tattlers. Their parent or guardian wasn’t going to hear about the Dried Flower Flailing Episode.
My mother was an extremely patient woman. She knew how to hold her tongue when appropriate, and she knew when to let loose when the situation invited it. She was smart, clever, and intelligent. And she had a great sense of humor. I sometimes wonder what she must have thought as we were tumbling each other down the stairs or slaughtering each other with ice-hard snowballs.
She was a good mother in so many ways. She let us discover Truth in our own hard-headed ways of comprehending fairness and meting out justice and bequeathing mercy. I intuitively knew that had I simply asked my brother to be nicer to me, he would have been. Right then. But there was something in the way that we played and interacted — it grew our hearts to be braver and stronger. I think that my mum, having gone through tough times in her childhood, knew this. There was not going to be any coddling in situations that demanded us to use our brains and hearts to figure out the solution on our own.
It is an odd feeling to recall Mother Love. It is visceral and hits you in all the right places. And in all the painful places. As an adult now, I wanted so much more for my mother. I wanted her to experience more calm, more zen-like moments in her days. She was an intensely creative and musical soul who worked too hard raising a brood of fiercely independent children. We didn’t demand much from our parents, but we had a large presence as a result of this. It was as if Life had tapped a part of her creativity and circumvented it into an elusive place. It made me sad then, and it still does a little bit now.
And those dried flowers from the garbage can? They gave me a bonus by linking me to a memory of a time when my brother and I were four- and five-years old. We put our heads and hearts together in order to give my mum a Mother’s Day gift. We were without financial resource, so we got creative. We agreed that my brother would sing my mum one of her favorite songs — “My Wild Irish Rose” — all while holding to his heart a plastic pink carnation from the “bouquet” she kept on her dresser.
After he sang, I was going to be a floating romantic magical bubble while singing “Tiny Bubbles” — my costume being my mum’s voluminous and starched white “can-can” half-slip. During rehearsal, we critiqued and coached each other. He sang. I bubbled around. We were ready.
Show time. My mum laughed and clapped. My brother looked so sweet and earnest. His sincerity being hard to believe — what with me having just recently been assisted/pushed/rolled (It all happened so quickly) down the steps in my beautiful Bubble before the show started. I was scolded for ruining my mum’s starch job on the can-can. And my act was hopelessly ruined — my brilliant costume being my main mojo. But the show must go on. And it did.
I remember the look on my brother’s face as he sang, and I now wish that I would have taken even a moment to see the look on my mum’s face. If I did, I can’t remember it. And this makes me the teency-est bit sad. I can only imagine how proud she must have been of his creative gift of song. I makes me happy to think that the musician and artist within her must have felt “seen” that day — which is a very beautiful thing to experience in life. It makes for a bittersweet surge inside my heart remembering this day.
My bruises from my Tumble of Terror eventually healed. And I forgave my brother for rolling me down the steps and destroying any future hopes of performing on Broadway. It makes me laugh out loud now to think of how it must have looked. My scuffed-up Buster Browns — hand-me downs from him– poking out of all of that lace and crinoline — me howling all the way — terrified and wondering if this is how it felt to travel to heaven.
But I haven’t forgotten. And I am so glad. I love my brother for singing to her that day. For looking so earnest. For trying to have a good singing voice. For remembering all of the lyrics. For reminding me that not all that is forgiven needs be forgotten. For him growing into such a good friend.
My mum always used to say, “Light hands make for light work.” I love her for saying this. I have been blessed with many light and healing hands in my current experiences that help to grow me into a new state of Remembering. My brother helps me to remember the good things that have helped me to grow. And grow some more.
Dried flowers. Plastic carnations. An Irish song for our mum. Forgiveness. Forgetting. Remembering. Rewriting the script. Leaving things in a really good place. Moving on. Releasing my memories from the snags in the flow of things. Valuing Experiences not for what they were but for what they are now in a new context. Remembering and celebrating in a new time of life. A different context of Light and Love and Loyalty. Lightness in Laughter. And Trust and Truth.