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Clearing a Path

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One of my earliest memories is of playing tag with neighborhood children just after we moved into the white clapboard house on Arch Street in Butler, New Jersey.

I was the “new kid” in every respect, and it quickly became obvious that if the older kids treated me unfairly, no one would stand up for me.

“Tag! You’re it!” one of the older boys would cry as he slapped my arm so hard I fell down.

“You weren’t even ‘it’!” I naively cried as I scrambled to my feet, rubbing my sore arm.

The boy was instantly in my face, so close I could see the texture of the mucus in his plugged nose and smell the mucous vapors wafting from his inflamed sinuses.

“You listen,” he growled, shaking a fist near my cheekbone, “we make the rules around here, see? If I say you’re ‘it’ then you’re ‘it’. If you don’t like the rules, you can’t play with us.”

I gulped and nodded as I blinked back tears of pain and shock, quickly deciding that I did NOT like the game of tag and that the pile of sand my father had left a few feet behind the back door looked like a far more friendly playmate.

“Where do you think you’re going?” the older boy snarked as I walked my four year-old self toward the pile of sand.

“I’m going to play with my friends over there,” I said, pointing toward the sand pile.

“What friends?” the boy challenged, dodging around me to block the path between myself and the sandy spot.

“The—the fairies,” I said quickly. ”They’re all around there, in the flowers, and—and they’re nicer to me than you are!”

“Did you hear that?” the older boy crowed to the other neighborhood kids, “she sees fairies,” he sing-songed. ”And she thinks that those lousy dandelions are flowers.”

“Get away from her, Sam,” an older girl with dark auburn hair said  ”She’s as weird as her father. Did you see him last night? He was walking up and down the street, knocking on everyone’s door and handing out booklets from some kooky cult.”

“Yeah, my dad talked to him,” Sam agreed, kicking a bit of sand at me as he stepped aside. ”He quoted a bunch of weird stuff from the Bible, too. I guess you can be excused from playing with us,” Sam said, turning back to me. ”Go and play with your imaginary friends.”

He pushed my shoulder and I sprawled out across the sand pile, eyeball level with a housefly that was crawling on a cat turd. I squealed and scrambled to my feet again, brushing off the sand and looking quickly back and forth between the group of kids and the dirty sand.

I found a grassy spot to sit in and talked to the fairies, which I knew were real. I thanked them for teaching me so much about life this time around in so few years. I’d learned, for instance, that there were many ways to clear a path,  In past lifetimes there had been times where I was able to make space for myself using the wisdom of the others who had gone before me in that world.

Even though I was only four, I knew that in this lifetime, I would have to clear a path for myself. And so that’s what I did, beginning with that day. I made friends where I could, but never tried to make myself seem more like the people around me just to fit in.

The fairies? They were far more than just a young child’s daydream. They were and are friends and guides, energetic helpers that encouraged me to remember who I am and that no one but me has the right to define me.

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