Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Season of Eights

In my mind's eye, it is snowing.  The ground is crisp, hard beneath my 19 year-old feet and my nose is cold.  The trees are bare and dusted white and it seems a very long way from the car to the door.

In reality, it's warm for December.  Even by south Georgia standards.  My feet are bare on the deck and I'm watching the leaves drift into the yard while my coffee cools and I try to get a handle on the number of years passed.  Twenty seven.  More than half my life.   For twenty seven years I've been her mother.

This year has been a hard one, full of dread and endings and uncertainty as I've rolled the number 7 over and over in my head.  Seven years since she died.  Seven year itch.  Seven years and all the skin on my body that knew her touch is gone.  Seven years of watching my hair curl while it greys and knowing I look like a person she never saw.    Seven years and surprised to know how deeply I can still hurt.

This year has been a good one, too.  And that's been the most surprising thing of all.  Beginning to look forward and to move forward and beginning to know that life still  holds surprises and gifts.  Welcoming new beginnings, fresh starts, and finding love in the eyes of an old friend.  As I move into the season of eights -  eighth birthday with no cake, eighth Solstice with no dancing, eighth Christmas with no shrieks of laughter -  I am reminded that eight was her favorite number.   And I can still hear her voice, excited and sweet and forever convinced that the best of things was just about to happen:

 "If you turn Eight on its side, Maija, it turns into infinity.  Eight is magic in a way that Seven can never be.  Eight can last forever. "

Today, there will definitely be cake.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back in The 'Boro

On Thursday afternoon, I took the not-too-long but winding road from Savannah to Statesboro, home of Georgia Southern University and My Girl's home for the last nine months of her life.   The occasion was the Fourth Annual Harbuck Memorial Scholarship reading and reception.   I am always a wreck the week before this event, tightly coiled and ready to jump out of my skin.  And it's always a lot of angst for mostly naught; the night is always wonderful and this year was no exception.   More of my family were able to come this year than ever before, and it was sweet to share the front row with my mom and my sisters, my sister-in-law and my nephew, and my best friend.

For those of you who were not able to be there, here's the welcome speech I gave and a snapshot of the incredible talent that surrounded us.

First, I want to thank you all for being here tonight.   Eric, Laura, and Emma, thank you for all of your efforts in bringing this year's award to fruition.  Each year when I hear the nominees read I am grateful I am not the one who's left to choose among them.   So, thank you, for doing that hard work.  Thank you, too, Tina, for not running the other way when I accosted you on a sidewalk in downtown Savannah last fall and for generously, and without hesitation,  agreeing to be our judge this year.  It's been a pleasure getting to know  you and I am looking forward to your reading tomorrow night.
This has become the most meaningful night of my year.    I am grateful every day for the continued connection to Georgia Southern and to the Department of Writing & Linguistics this scholarship brings, but this night...this is my celebration; my opportunity to honor what really was the distilled essence of my daughter's life: her love of the written word.  She was an insatiable reader and she was a fierce and fearless writer; she pushed boundaries - both on and off the page - and challenged everyone around her to be the bravest, most outrageous  version of themselves they could imagine.   
She had big dreams and solid plans.   She had a laser-sharp vision of the world as she thought it should be and an unwavering confidence in the power of language to shape that world.  To make it a reality.   And, this night - in the company of so many young people who love words in that same way and who recognize the power of language to transform  - is a gift I will never stop appreciating.
Chris, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to hearing your new work.   I was particularly pleased to hear you were this year's winner.  As I am sure you're aware, this small mountain of books from writers & readers across the country now belongs to you.   Each one represents someone who not only loved my girl and her work, but who believes in you and yours.  We all wish you - and all of this year's nominees -  the best and will be expecting powerful, life-shaping, world-changing  words from each of you in years to come.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Confession

There are still many moments (probably more than I should admit to) when I catch myself thinking "Oh, she's going to love this..." right before I remember I cannot call her. I can talk to her (and I do, probably also more than I should admit) but I really cannot describe how sad it is not to be able to share everyday things with my girl.

So, I am going to occasionally foist them on you throw them out into the blogosphere instead. First up is Thanksgiving Related News She Would Have Loved: I found a Pilgrim in our family tree. An honest-to-goodness Mayflower-Compact-Signing Pilgrim (two really, if you count his Excommunicated-from-the-Church-of-England Separatist Pilgrim Wife, which we do).

Really, this would have tickled her funny bone and made her extremely proud, all at the same time. Straight-laced Puritans! Rebellious Roots! Seventeen generations from the Mayflower to My Girl. Fun Stuff.

Brittany Alaina Harbuck
14th Great Granddaughter of James Chilton, Signer of the Mayflower Compact

[Note: There are now an estimated 30 million Mayflower Descendants wandering the globe. We regret we cannot invite all of them to dinner.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fragments & Flowers

Occasionally, I stumble on a quote that really resonates. Today it was this one:

“There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive. In between is living.”

From Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen

I like it. Also, these:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remembering Kandy

The night I met Kandy Sims she earned a permanent place in my heart. I didn't expect and I wouldn't have bet on it, but it happened.

It was the fall of 2007, and the freshman dorms had just opened at SCAD. Kandy and her husband, Mike, had spent the day moving their son into his home-away-from-home. The Sims are a musical family, so after the unpacking was finished and the teenager made it clear he didn't need them to hang around, Kandy and Mike headed for River Street to check out the local acts. Chance brought them into the Bayou where Dave was on stage. I wish I could remember how we started talking, but I don't. Bars are crowded and loud and I am used to fielding questions about Dave (I'm With The Band), handing out business cards, and occasionally booking gigs while he's playing. I do remember that we hadn't been talking long when I asked what brought them to Savannah.

You know where this is going, right? She told me about her kid and then, because it's what moms do, she asked about mine. Did I have them, how old...and I told her, in that oddly-tensed way, 'I have a daughter. She died about year and half ago in a motorcycle accident.'

And, for the first time in that year and half, someone new - someone who hadn't known me Before and who never knew my girl - stepped towards me instead of taking that oh so perceptible half-step back. In a moment where most people murmur and move away, she chose to stay. I never forgot it.

We ended up hanging out with Kandy and Mike that whole night and saw them several more times over the years when they'd come from Atlanta to Savannah to visit their son. We saw them in Atlanta, too, catching Mike's show when we were visiting family there.

Kandy and Mike's son graduated from SCAD yesterday, but she wasn't here to see it. Kandy died in April and I will always miss her. Her particular kindness - because that's what it was, truly, a kindness - remains a rare thing and Kandy's initial reaction has become the yardstick by which all new people are measured. Not many people have passed that test.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And...We're Back!

If you read this blog, chances are you know me fairly well. It will not surprise you to know my family often describes me as 'mouthy.' I prefer 'outspoken' or 'opinionated'; 'firm in her convictions' is a personal favorite and I'll even cop readily to 'righteously indignant' but, perspective matters too and sometimes I AM mouthy. As a child, I was a back-talker, even if the highly charged atmosphere in my home meant that back-talk was always under my breath and most often into a pillow. As an adult, I stopped muttering and whispering and found my voice. There's not much silence in my corner of the world.

And, since Britt's death and the subsequent loss of filters that comes, frankly, from having little left to lose, it's only gotten, well, louder. I say what I think. What I believe is not a mystery. No one ever has to wonder where I stand on an issue, large or small. This isn't always easy to live with, I know, and I appreciate each and every one of you who's hung in there. Because, I do believe it matters. It's important to know yourself and what you stand for. And it's important to stand and be counted, especially if what you are standing up for might make a difference in the lives of others.

Facebook, for all its silly games and sometimes endless repetitions of dinner menus also offers a space to make a stand, to spread the word. I often link to articles I read that move or anger me; post news updates that cheer or horrify me; and, yes, call people out when they post something that sticks in my craw, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, or just leaves me thinking 'What?! Really?!' I had one of those "are you kidding me?" moments yesterday. Through my dear friend Renee, I've become FB friends with Connie Schultz. [For those of you who are not familiar with her work, Connie is, among other things, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, an author, a political activist and, because it's an important part of this story, also the wife of Senator Sherrod Brown. I am a long-time admirer of the Writer and the Senator, both.] On Thursday evening, Connie posted this picture on her page:

On Friday morning, I was a little shocked to see it there. I clicked to see what she had to say and, well, the next part of this story is Connie's to tell, so in her words - with her permission - this is what happened next:

"Yesterday, I posted this photo and shared an exchange I had with a stranger who doubted that I could have an Eagle Scout in our home. (Sherrod and both of his brothers are Eagle Scouts.) This bumper sticker was meant to communicate my pride in my husband, and illustrate that conservatives have no monopoly on public service.

Today, Debi Carey Harbuck posted a comment that took me aback: "Connie, I have to tell you this disappoints me. Not your witty come-back to Guy #1, who clearly has an attitude problem, but you and the Senator, both, actively and publicly supporting (proudly!) an organization that openly discriminates against gays in the name of 'god' and 'faith.'"


I assured Debi that Sherrod and I have been in the trenches for decades on behalf of our LGBT friends and family members, but she pushed back: "I most certainly do respect your activism, and as the mother and step-mother of LGBTs, I have to respectfully disagree with this one choice. In places where institutionalized discrimination is entrenched, your support, and the Senator's, serves to legitimize and makes it harder for those who are excluded to make their case. There are many fine organizations (which I know you also support) that do good work for fatherless children without standing beneath an umbrella of hate and fear. I don't believe the discriminatory policies of the BSA will change until not-gay Americans serve notice that it just won't be tolerated and withdraw their support."

Debi is right.

I removed the bumper sticker this morning. Not everyone here will agree with this decision, and, as always, I welcome the discussion. I'm still very proud of Sherrod's childhood accomplishment, but the message matters. I am grateful to Debi for her honesty, and her advocacy

So. Today I am adding 'advocate' to my list of self-descriptors. And, I am going to keep on being a mouthy advocate for what I think is right. Because it matters. And because people are listening.