Today I rec'd my first notice of the UCLA fall catalog for writing courses and as always I greet every new quarter with excitement and anticipation. This year, however, I am presented with a dilemma. I was told last spring that come the fall semester I should be registering for the advanced class. This makes me very nervous. In my mind advanced means really hard and if not really hard at least very good. I'm going to have to study the courses offered for a few days and then built up my courage before I register for anything that doesn't that doesn't start with the word, "Beginnners."
Here is an essay from last year. The instructor gave us a list of words and said, "Choose one of the following and write me two pages. Here are your words: blood, bed, hands, books and finally snow."
Bright shining stars filled the dark night sky to overflowing. I commented to him that I thought the sharp coldness of the air made them shine even brighter. The wind, at least for the moment, had subsided. Mounds of old winter snow lay piled high by the side of the road. New snowflakes had already begun drifting down. We both knew that the snowplows would be back by morning. Tall pine trees in the open field across from the house where I grew up glistened with shards of light cast off by the moon. Snow crunched under our feet as we walked together hand in hand, and though we did not know it, this would be our last Christmas together.
He had surprised me with a knock at the front door, a Christmas present in hand, and a request that we go for a walk. He was sixteen. I was seventeen. It was 1960 and we were in crazy, mad, teenage love. His love had been a gift to me in ways he would never know. For he had been born into a socially successful, overachieving family, and I had been born into an alcoholic home that wreaked of dysfunction. I never told him about my abusive homelife. I thought he would reject me if he knew, but that was only part of it. In truth, I had been a secretkeeper for so long that it was now woven into the fabric of who I was. The longer we dated the more rigid my secretkeeping became. On the day he became student council president, my mother and I had an argument so intense, it almost ended in physical blows. It was after the argument that I knew with a certainty I had not known before. When I left for nursing school in the fall, I would not return. I never told him. I only wanted to see myself through his eyes, and for him I wanted to be perfect.
The longer we dated, the angrier my mother became. She never loved my father; she screamed at me one day in an alcoholic haze, “Why should you have someone who loves you?!” Over time her ridicule and sarcasm escalated, and the Christmas holidays traditionally only added more fuel to her already raging anger.
When he came to the door that winter night, I knew I had ask her for permission to leave. If I didn’t ask and I went on the walk, by the time I returned home, there would’ve been no rest for me at all. And so I asked. And I waited. She was in the kitchen cooking, but could see the wrapped present in his hand. Finally, she let out a deep sigh. “Fine. Just go,” she said with a wave of her hand. Bundled up for winter, we sat on the cold cement front steps as I opened the gift that had been perfectly wrapped in royal blue paper and tied with a royal blue ribbon. I lingered over the name of the store, known for elegance and fashion, embossed in silver scroll on the corner of the box. My heart was pounding as I gently lifted the top of the box and reached inside the tissue paper. It was a scarf. A long, white, sheer silk scarf. It was delicate and feminine. A symbol of everything I thought I wasn’t and I loved it.
“Don’t you want to put it on?” He sounded tentative.
“I’m afraid I’ll ruin it.” I said, as he watched me slip it onto my head. When I started to tie it under my chin, he stopped me.
“No. No.” He laughed. “Just wrap it and let it fall on your shoulders. It’s supposed to be pretty. Not very useful, I guess.”
I did as he asked. I felt awkward. I felt loved. “Perfect.” He whispered as he took me in his arms. “It’s perfect.”
We felt the snow begin to fall as we walked down the road and heard the neighbor’s dog barking, but those things did not really exist in our world. In our world there was just the two of us, and in our world I felt safe, and loved, and beautiful.
I didn’t realize then that it was only going to be temporary, and, within a few months, it would all be over. His parents announced in early spring they would be taking him to Europe for the summer, and naturally my parents were delighted with the news. That meant I could focus full-time on earning money for my nursing education in the fall. But it would take years for it to be over. I mean, really over.
I never forgot the about scarf or the boy who gave it to me. With every move, I packed and unpacked the scarf. With every move, I wore the scarf until it became yellow and frayed with age. And with every move I would remember. I would remember that night in December when a boy came to my door with a gift in the Christmas season, and we were both in crazy, mad, teenage love.
Posted 7/26/2010 in Misc