This is What You Should Know About Me

Let me see if I can bring you to present-day me enough so that you'll get a sense of where my story begins, as in... who I am right now, in this moment.

1983

If my life flashed before my eyes

It would start with

A brown book with baby pictures

1984

Toddling out of a trailer in Morrisonville

Chasing a beagle

Playing in a kiddie pool

Country sounds of peepers and sparrows

Dad working nights

A prison guard

To make ends meet

Mom in the kitchen or sitting in the grass

Long hair, clapping hands, singing, laughing

Freely

Steely Dan, Elton John, and James Taylor

Singing lullabies

From Dad's guitar

Making fried eggs with

Judge Wapner

And me

Jumping on the bed

Rolling

In a brown fleece tiger blanket that is too warm

And towels for curtains

Dad moves us to Ogdensburg

Better job

Security in corrections

1987

Sister

Blessed with laughter and tiny hands and feet

That press back against mine

With a strength

That almost tears the fabric of her playpen

"She'll be a dancer," they say

They are right but also

The strongest woman I will ever know

A business owner

A wife and mom

Who hands me coffee

In a mug that says, "But first, coffee!"

And holds my head in her hands

On Saturday

As I cry because life is too much

She will raise three strong women

"They will be dancers," they say

1989

Boys are bad

They are your friends

And they laugh and play like the girls but

They sneak around

And try to see you

The older one tells me what to do

And I don't know

That I can say no

In the back bedroom

1990

Best friends and banana seats

Aleesha makes me try new things

Wonderful adventure things

Even though I am scared

I climb trees and fences

I climb onto my bike

With no training wheels

I camp, I fish, and I swim

I am far from home and so

I cry myself to sleep

In a pink sleeping bag

Until Aleesha wakes me up and says

"Let's go to the beach!"

1992

We move to a bigger house

We can have a dog

She is brown and named Coco

She never yells or bites

She never makes me do things

She just is

Love and soft fur and a blanket to cry on

A friend to run with

In the big field by the big bridge

That I will later cross

On bigger adventures

When she is long gone


The bigger house is yellow

With a sun-porch

Which is the most beautiful word

For where you play

And share silly secrets

And build houses out of blocks

And take care of baby dolls

Who will someday be

Real babies babbling

While we laugh about funny memories

On the sun-porch


In the summer, Danielle visits

Cousin, sister, friend

She knows more about boys than I do

She shares secrets

Delicately

She protects me

From knowing too much

We swim at night

And stay at camp to read books

We play cards and laugh

Until it hurts

She is silly, practical, my rock

Little do I know

She will always bring

A cool breeze

Even on the nights

When it's too hot to breathe

Like in the attic bedroom

At camp

1999

The sun-porch is also for waiting

For pizza and party guests

For boys who are late

For the one boy who says

I think it's time to say

Goodbye

I won't kill myself

But I'll pray for death

And drown myself

In music that makes me feel

Home like

The White Album

And my friends will lift me

In laughter and sometimes

Just silent road trips

With Krista who

Is never afraid

To be crazy

She will listen to me talk

About my separation

And how lost I am

As we drive

On Saturday

Over the big bridge

2001

Vermont welcomes me

To make art my career

It is safe

And I find comfort in friends

And one boy

Who doesn't like me at first

But we kiss

And he thinks that

Maybe this will work

Because it is easy

On the front porch

Of East House

2005

Planning is overwhelming

And so we decide to

Make it easy

And we find a church

And a dress

And the people we love

Gather in one week

In a chapel from the 1800s

In Vermont

I am happy

Except for this one space

In my heart

Where something seems

Too easy and unfeeling

2012

Little feet kick

From inside me

So much it wakes me

"She'll be a dancer," they say

And they say so many other things

Like sleep when she sleeps

But I can't

Because

What if she dies

Like the first baby

I hang on

To her tiny hand

I am so far from home

But then Summer comes

And I wake up and tell her,

"Let's go to the beach!"

2018

We meet by chance in Vermont

He is from home

There are shooting stars

And four-leaf clovers

And the Two of Cups

He tells me I am stuck

Unhappy

He might be crazy

But my heart is sleeping

He is couch surfing

In wrinkled clothes

Going places

And storming

Into town

With rough hands

And mood swings

He is never easy

He is yelling and feeling

And passion and muse

The only thing we fight about is what we are

And so we kiss

To find out

I am unsure

2019

This is the first time

My intuition speaks

And I so carefully listen

To every quickened heartbeat

To every slowed breath

To know

I cannot be saved

From hurt

But I can

Weave it into

A story

And it is this that

Kickstarts

My sleeping heart

"I'll be a dancer," I say

Gretchen PearlComment