May 28, 2009

Remember being afraid of movie theaters? My kids don't like them. I remember that feeling.

I was standing upstairs in the stacks of the library beside the railroad tracks, last week, when a train rattled by. Gently, barely, it shook the whole building and it lasted a good long while. Maybe a minute or two? I stood there staring at the books. I heard the train. I felt the building shudder ever so slightly. And all the books I could see tilted at once. I shook my head against the feeling of the shaking floor and mentally righted the books. Then they tilted again. It was a dance: tremble, tilt, shake, tremble, tilt, shake until the train was gone and my vertigo passed. It left me weak kneed and a bit pale, but fine.

I was at the epicenter of the '89 earthquake in California. And this Shaking Building Vertigo is a hang over. I don't imagine it will ever go away. But that's ok. I have quirky scars. And I have a pretty firm handle on my fears at this point in my life. But I remember how chaos felt as a child, and the fear it inspired. I saw chaos in movie theaters, deep ends, long piers, formal rooms, auditoriums, and grim adults. I was afraid of all of them. Rightly so, for the most part. And I am finally learning --finally learning-- not to push my kids through their fears too fast. They are little, they are probably rightly afraid, and achingly soon they will be big.

In the mean time, poetry is an excellent tool for working with fear. The children enrolled at the Gault School in Santa Cruz were encouraged to write poetry about their fear after the '89 earth quake. To this day, their sweet dear true little voices still move me. Here are some of my favorites. It is really hard to pick a few. I'd like to retype every one of them:

During the earthquake I felt like the world was against me. No one to turn to. Then I saw the people I love the most, my Mom, my Dad, and sister. I ran and hugged them tight under the doorjamb. I wasn't afraid any more. I was happy to have my family with me! When it was over we ran (fast) outside. It was a good feeling to know my family was with me. It doesn't scare me to hear about other people's problems if I can help. ~Peggy Card grade 3


Outside and in
I feel and look the same.
It hurts to think our family
has been torn.

Our best friends
are our prized
possessions now.

I find myself scared,
then happy.
It is like a story, sad,
then adventure,
and then a happy ending.

It is all behind me now.
And I'm back to normal,
but sometimes in my dreams,
I still hear the crying of my little brother,
the screams of our best friend
whose mother died.

Then my alarm goes off.
Was it just a dream,
or not, or not, or not? ~David Speidel grade 5


I can pull together
inside of me,
even if people
don't think I can,
I can do it,
I can. ~Crystal Lash grade 3


The Cooper House is dead.
It is flat. They have knocked it down.
They are not making a pavilion of it.
They are going to build again
in one year. I feel sad.
The old Cooper House is the first
favorite place when I was little. ~Jeremy Gibson grade 2

See? Aren't they beautiful? An interesting side note about that quake: My sister was with me in California the day before the quake. We drove into San Fransisco. I said, "Let's cross that bridge over there." My sister refused. It was so weird. She was unmovable. "I will not cross that bridge. It has bad vibes." So we went and got our noses pierced on the docks, instead. Later, back in Santa Cruz for dinner I said, "Hey, I've always wanted to eat at The Cooper House. You are here with me, let's go eat there." She said, "No, I will not eat there. It has bad vibes." Do you see what a freak she is? Can you imagine my indignation? But she would not be swayed. We ate some other place, entirely forgettable, and she flew home the next morning, back to Santa Fe. I went off to work in Santa Cruz and the quake hit. People died, on that bridge and in The Cooper House.

Sometimes, our fears are quite smart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

K...I love it when you are profound. It makes me think. You always write about trusting ourselves. And our children. There is ALWAYS a reason isn't there? Like with your sister. Like with our kids. Why don't we trust that voice more? In ourselves? In each other? Respect.
Remember your words.