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.