Create Yourself: I’m a Free Spirit

This week, I interviewed another great friend from school about her identity as a “free spirit.” She talks about what it means to her to be a “free spirit,” how she came to identify herself as one, and what each of us can do to become one as well. She’s awesome so you should click play before you miss out!

The Day My Life Changed

Hey guys! One of my closest friends from school was required to do a video project this past week. She had to interview someone, much like what I do every Thursday. She came to me with a question and this time, I was the subject. It was very fun being on the other side of the camera. So instead of my usual interview with someone else, this week you guys get a closer peek at me–in real life! Go ahead then, click play and find out what I talked about! 

The Box and The Hole

Clear skies overhead.
My black dress dances with the wind.

 Cold, gray, rectangles
depressed into
the green grass underfoot.

Like ducklings,
we pass
L. ZIOBER
25 MAR. 1912- 9 JULY 1979
and
JARMOS
JAN
AUG. 13 1919
APR. 30 1997

And then,
GALLAGHER
LOVING
WIFE, MOTHER
AND FRIEND
PATRICIA M.
1926-1982
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
JOHN 11:25

Three leaf clovers bloom from
carved Celtic crosses
framing the name.

Concerned voices mumble.
A hand shovel plows into dirt.
Small footsteps race through aisles.

But I am still,
grip the edges of a box
small enough for only
a handful of his remains.

Uncertainly,
unsteadily
I lay him to rest
with the grandmother I never met;

cover the hole,
read his speech from
eighteen years ago
to a son he’d never get the chance to know.

Maybe they fish together now.

Red, wet-faced,
I trail behind.

Clear skies overhead.
My black dress dances with the wind.

DSCN1184

July 13, 2010

Happy Saturday everyone! Today’s post is from a piece I worked on while at my creative writing program at NYU. I waited this long to share it with you all because I wanted to post it on the anniversary of the event. This is the most important piece I’ve written so far in my short little life so I’m only going to post an excerpt. Mainly because I still want to work on it, but also because I would like to submit it to a literary magazine to be published 🙂 

AbbeyandDadProm

I see him lying there. Perfectly still under a white sheet. From afar, it looks like he could be sleeping. The beeping machine chained to him for days is finally silent. The tubes pumping life into his emaciated frame, removed. The sun’s rays cast shadows upon the harsh landscape of his face and I am surprised by how familiar he still looks. I had imagined that once he died, a magical transformation would take place and his body would be replaced by a look alike, a stand-in. But there is no mistaking. This is the body of my dad. But this is not the body of the man I want to remember.

Not the body of the man who spent summer afternoons throwing pitches for me to hit even though I missed nine out of ten times. Who held my hand when I cried about missing my mom. Who sat beside me in bed while I read aloud about the Boxcar Children.

The usual flush in his cheeks has drained. All laughter has been extinguished behind his eyes and they stare, naked and blue, at the fluorescent light on the ceiling that no one has turned on. His lips are chapped and slightly parted, waiting for a drop of water that will never drip. The white sheet does not rise.

Between my fingers, I grasp the white cotton and raise it, peering at what lies beneath. Tentatively, I wrap my fingers around his forearm where his sleeve has been rolled up. A coldness transfers from his skin to mine and courses through my body. But I do not let go.

I want to be original but instead, quickly and quietly say all the generic things that living people say to dead people. About how sorry I am that this happened and how I don’t know how I’ll go on, but I will. I tell him he is my hero. I tell him I love him.

But I want my old life back, when things could be reversed. When you made a mistake on a test and could erase it. When you got into a fight and could apologize. When your heart could break and it would heal.

Standing, I gently kiss him on the top of his cold and bare head. Three last words escape my lips and when I let go of his arm, I notice I’ve left an indentation in his skin.

1955-2010

Hello all! I haven’t forgotten my newest video project, don’t you worry, but for today I want to post one last poem. In memory of the anniversary of my dad’s passing, which is this upcoming Saturday, I wanted to repost this poem. I hope you enjoy it. (And get ready for next week’s video!)

DSCN0156

 (July 2009 at Lake George)

Every time I hear Jerry’s
voice
I think of the hours we spent
driving around
soaking the sun into our
fair
and
freckled
skin.

It seems we went
everywhere
in the Jeep.
The sun filtering into our car,
baking me,
as my eyes droop
in the ultimate serenity of it
all.

I sit beside you with my window rolled down,
the wind tangling my
brown mop
for your lack of one
as we reach 85.

Your aged hands, thick and healthy
beat the steering wheel
in rhythm to the drums,
keeping you in the song
infinitely.

It’s something I got from you,
you know.
To find beauty in sound.
To find beauty in what others considered
small things.
Because really,
they were all we truly needed.

And each other.
And that remains.

When the dancing bears
pass me by
I think of our adventure to get tickets
to a concert I was too young to see.
Your strong, tough, large hand
enveloping my tiny one
that was so untouched by the world
you wanted to keep it that way,
protecting it
and me
as you held tight.

One swift movement
and I could easily be in your arms
against your warm
chest
with your heart thumping loudly into my ear
away from anything too scary
for my innocent
blue eyes.

I was able to see then
that smiling,
enjoying other peoples company,
and wearing long flowy skirts with anklets that
made music when you walked
were what
it all seemed to be about.
A simple truth
I easily understood,
standing less than five feet tall.

And that remains.

Glancing at my bookcase,
always resting
is the giant red book you gave me
from when you graduated college
as your way to encourage me to get there too.
Barely able to see my face in the bathroom mirror,
it was too big to handle
with too many words I did not know
and could not pronounce
even if I tried,
and only lately
is it manageable.

A book found in every home,
but special
because
it is worn
and it was
your gift to me.

I see many new additions;
all familiar
and
some I know that are older
than me.
When I take them down
-always gentle-
I rustle through the pages
looking for a place to crawl
into,
where you’re just awaiting
my company.

And sometimes
when I find your
scribble
here
and
there it reminds me of
myself
and
how we are
truly
one of a kind.

And that remains.

When I sink into the couch
and watch the History Channel
you take the remote and change it anyways.
When I’m sick with a fever
you still check in to make sure
I’m not really faking it.
When I get a good grade
you’re still all ears
forever replying, “Not bad.”
When I wake in the middle of the night
from the worst
nightmare a person
could ever have
you’re there to put me back to bed.
When I’m on the train
doing homework
you sit down next to me
so no one else will.
And when I feel alone I just think back to
Jerry’s voice
and all the years we
had
knowing that they remain.

Even if all that remains now are remains.

Happy Father’s Day!

Hi everyone! Just wanted to wish all the fathers and father-like figures a Happy Father’s Day today! I especially want to thank my own grandfather for helping raise me and for always keeping me laughing. And a special wish for my father, wherever he may be–I hope he knows how much I love him, how I think of him every day and am grateful for even the short amount of time we had together. I love you.

Dad and Abigail13

Both my dad and grandpa together! And that wild child is me 🙂

Happy Birthday Dad

I’m reblogging this piece again because today is my dad’s birthday. I wrote this poem for him four years ago for his 54th birthday. Today he would’ve been 58.

Abigail and Dad Birthday

As a kid you weren’t always there for me
but you came when I needed you to be.
A move would never come easy to us
but we muddled though it all with small fuss.
You were finally there for everything
from summer, to fall, through winter and spring.
And even now that things have changed so much
I’ll always be there for a hand to touch.
I guess I know the place where I feel best
and that’s next to you, where I’m truly blessed.
When we’re in the car with music playing,
song after song, our arrival delaying,
the sun shining brightly on our faces,
trees pass by, seeing so many places.
No words are spoken but we’re both content
knowing where we’re going and where we went.
We’re a team, always and forever, Dad.
Everything will be okay, don’t be sad.
Together we’ll get through it all I know
because we’re a team, forever we’ll grow.

The Best Summer Day

whitepond

You are only eleven years old. Waking up early, you rub your palms against your eyes and squint against the sun streaming through the spaces between your venetian blinds. As you roll over in bed, you already feel the humidity in the air, the stickiness on your skin. Slowly, you sit up and swing your legs to meet the floor and stand up, reaching to the ceiling attempting to wake your body up.

You slowly make your way down the narrow and steep stairs of your old house to find your dad, already awake and dressed, sitting in the living room hunched over his tackle box intricately working on his fishing lures. Without disturbing him, you pour yourself a glass of orange juice and sit down on the couch and watch as he works intently. He wishes you a good morning but you don’t talk much as his attention is focused elsewhere and you are still half asleep. After finishing your glass of juice, you climb upstairs to get ready for the day.

In the bathroom, you splash cool water on your face to awaken your senses. You slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and tie your tangled brown hair into a ponytail to keep your neck cool. And despite the air being blown into your room from the fans in the windows, the room is still stifling.

To escape the heat, you carefully descend the dangerous flight of stairs once more and pour yourself a bowl of Kix cereal and sit at the kitchen table, watching the beads of condensation roll down your second glass of orange juice. You put your dishes in the sink when you’re finished and peer into the living room only to find your dad in the same position as before, concentrating hard on the small pieces of fishing bait. Returning to your room, you leave the lights off, hoping to keep the room from heating up any more and lay on your bed reading the newest Harry Potter.

By mid-morning, the radio turns on downstairs to signify that your dad has finally relocated. You turn your TV on and watch the Animal Planet for a little while until your dad makes his way up the stairs to ask if you want to practice softball outside despite the heat. You happily agree–still completely unaware of your lack of talent for softball–and collect your mitt, bat, and softballs and bound outside into your backyard, which feels as if it goes on for miles. Your dad follows behind you with water bottles and sunscreen, which he forces you to slather on before throwing a single pitch.

Standing in front of the garden you had both planted, you swing relentlessly, hitting one out of every ten pitches—if that. But no matter how awful you are, you don’t realize it then because all your dad does is give you advice on how to improve your stance and how to swing in a straight line. Instead of listening to his advice however, all you can manage to do is imitate the baseball player’s you watch on TV and wiggle your butt while the pitch is thrown and spit before you get ready to swing. And even though you totally stink, you know your dad is having just as much fun laughing at your jokes.

After spending the afternoon in the blazing sun, you both finally return inside for lunch. Your dad makes you a grilled cheese sandwich that he nearly burns as you pour yourself a glass of apple juice and grab a can of Coca-Cola for him and put both on the coffee table in the living room. You put the baseball game on and when he brings your sandwich inside he sits down beside you, cracks open the can of Coke and sips it as you ask him to explain what an RBI is for the three hundredth time.

Once you finish eating, your dad suggests you go to White Pond, the perfect swimming spot for a day like today. You race to your room and slip into a bathing suit, grab a towel, and rush down the stairs, only careful enough not to slide all the way down. Squirting sunscreen on your hands, you rub it in all different directions on your milk white skin while you wait for your dad to come down the stairs. Finally, you load the car with boogie boards and hop in, rolling your window down and sticking your head outside to feel the breeze. Your dad’s hands beat the steering wheel in rhythm to “Scarlet Begonias” * as the music is carried along the wind. You drive along the highway, the late afternoon sun warming your skin and slowly, your eyelids begin to droop.

The next time you open them, you’ve arrived at the Pond, quickly shake off your grogginess, and rush to the waters edge. You lay your towel on the grass and with your dad’s help, inch your way into the water on the stone wall that leads into its depths. It’s slippery and without water shoes, one false move and it could all be over. But in his cut off jean shorts, he holds your hands to help you in and once you’re safely in the water, he swims past you and encourages you to follow. Not a very good swimmer, you decide to stay closer to shore and sit on the stone wall, watching him swim all the way out to the middle of the Pond where he finds a giant rock to stand on. He waves to you and you both laugh. You float in the water, staying close to the stone wall, in case you get tired and need a rest, and finally feel relief from the summer sun. You watch the tiny minnows swim past your toes and splash around to watch them take off in different directions.

After what feels like hours, your dad returns to your side and helps you out of the water, holding on to your pruney fingertips. You race back to the car and decide to get Italian take-out from your favorite restaurant for dinner. As you drive down the highway once more, the late afternoon sun and warm breeze dry the hairs around your forehead and make your skin feel brand new.

You return home with your Italian dishes to sit at the coffee table once more and he puts on The Beatle’s movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” You eat until you’re just about to explode when your dad suggests making malted milk shakes. You excitedly agree and when he goes into the kitchen thunder rumbles the house. Frightened, you abandon the movie and race to the kitchen to watch as he puts ice cream into the blender. You hear the rain begin to patter on the roof and pour down the gutters. The thunder booms outside and you almost jump out of your seat. But your dad turns the blender on and suddenly, the sound of thunder is masked and you have nothing to be afraid of anymore.

Returning to the living room with your shakes, you stretch out on the couch and after only two sips, your eyes flutter closed and you are asleep. The next time you open them, you’re in bed as your dad places a kiss on your forehead and leaves your bedroom as quietly as possible, not realizing you’ve woken up.

“Hey dad?”

He turns in the doorway of your bedroom, his silhouette tall and lanky.

“Thanks for the best day.”

Even in the dim light from the hallway, you can see a smile spread across his face as he replies, “I love you Abigail. Sweet Dreams. Sleep Tight.”

Finally, the humidity has lifted and a cool breeze drifts into your room as sleep overcomes you in one swift gesture.

*For those of you that would like to hear “Scarlet Begonias”, here it is!