a waking moment

March 31, 2005

It was another session of summer camp—this time at Church camp. The session was marked by feelings of separateness, though I must say that is not particularly unusual for my childhood memories. I generally, at least after moving to the U.S., felt different from my peers, and uncomfortable in social settings with them. Now I would like to say that I did not care, that I was somehow self-assured enough to not be concerned with such trivial things as “popularity.”
But of course, for a child, there is nothing that matters so much as that. And so I did care—I cared desperately. So much so that there were days when I burst into tears on the way home from school, at the simple question from Mom about how my day was. Looking back, I suspect that I forced much of my insecurity upon myself, overanalyzing situations in such a way as to imagine classmates looking down upon me. They more likely simply did not give me much thought—the silent girl joining class in the middle of the year, whose mothers whispered about the “poor family, poor children . . .”
And so, this summer, I was at Church camp surrounded by good children who came from respectable families and wore nice clothes and memorized their verses for Sunday School each week . . . And I felt different. And I cared.
One night I fell asleep in a troubled, fitful manner, half-listening to the loud, uneven air bursts of the cabin fan. Normally I liked sleeping to the sound of a fan—to the pleasant even flow that kept out the silence of night. But this one bothered me. It troubled me, in fact. And, waking in the wee morning hours, I realized just how much. I was wide awake and frantic. Crying. And then sobbing. The whirring fan was no longer just that. It had become the death-sounds of my father. Intensely real to me at that moment was the imagined reality that Daddy had died gasping for breath, in loud, haltingly uneven breaths. The fan motor grew increasingly louder to my ears, and I was seeing Daddy sitting there in the car, gasping, with no one able to help.
Finally, I woke up my counselor with my sobs. She came to my bedside and talked me out of my panic, taking me outside into the cool summer night as soon as she had managed to make some sense out of my wailing “Daddy! . . . no! . . .can’t breathe . . . the noise . . .”
The next morning things were normal again. Life was normal, inasmuch as it ever is. But I knew I had had one of my moments, one of the snippets of time that would stay locked in my memory, hidden away. Until it had to come out in words. And why did it? Why does anything have to be put to words, written out?
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God . . .

There is of course a power in the speaking of something. A making real. A healing. A moving on. And so we speak the words, and write the stories, and sing the songs.
And live.

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