Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Boulder at the End of the Street

When I was a little girl, children played outside most of the day.  We walked to school through snowdrifts and rain.  We traveled in packs like wolf cubs roaming throughout the neighborhood.  And while this was a time before cell phones, texting, and surveillance cameras, an even more powerful communication system was set on alert, an unofficial pact among neighbors that held us accountable and responsible for our actions.  The backup system was generated by the ever-present tattling prevalent among multiple siblings.  There were no secrets back then.

As a middle child, I was never alone, one brother older, another right under me, and my baby brother safe at home with my grandmother who resided with us.  The neighborhood kids all had traveling routes through the backyards of our block, sometimes even on our bikes, knowing the weak links in the fences and where the mean dogs waited in the shadows. 

There was an enormous rock at the end of our street, a boulder that I can clearly remember climbing and falling off, sometimes imagining riding a horse or scaling a mountain, depending on what I was pretending at the time with my brothers or friends.  It was huge. My schoolgirl knees were continually scraped. When I was not even ten years old, my family moved from that yellow brick house, but the memory of that rock grew legendary in my thoughts.

As an adult, I finally had the opportunity to visit the old neighborhood again.  Our block looked so plain as if the color had been drained from an old photograph. The mammoth arch of elm trees had been felled by Dutch elm disease decades ago.  The small brick and clapboard houses had aged and were filled with strangers.  It felt like the stories of my childhood had been evicted.  I did not see even one kid playing on the sidewalk.

And the boulder?  Where was it?  I drove past twice before I realized that what I remembered as massive and insurmountable was only a colossal figment of my imagination.  It appeared ridiculous.  I was enamored by a rock not even two feet high.  That was what I was scared of?

How many big rocks in my past do I hold onto
                 and keep tripping over
 -- fears
           and wounds
    and bitter words --
 that have no power over me
                       any more?
           And lies that never really did? 
They are
             only paper tissue phantoms,
        leftover childhood ghosts banished,
              and deflated by letting them go
                                        and moving on.
God redeems our past.
God restores our vision.
And a scar is not the sign of a wound
                  but the evidence of healing.

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