Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Grudge Tuesday

I used to throw a solstice party that rocked the mountain every June. One of the most important events at those parties was The Grudge Fire. An old pagan ritual that we adopted at the first party, the premise is simple: You burn your grudges and let go of them as a purification for the coming year. The actual process is somewhat more complicated: You would write the grudge in red ink on white paper, smear it with honey (to sweeten its passage), fold it and then toss into the fire. Then you would repeat a chant, and if you were brave enough (or pissed off enough, depending on the grudge), you would jump over the fire as it burned. We haven't done the Solstice party or The Grudge Fire since Elijah died - the timing was just too soon, too wrong. So guess what? The Grudges have been piling up. Since I believe firmly in this, I also believe that the exercise of writing it usually does a pretty good job of 'burning' it. Also, really, how can I feel the love on Thursday, if I can't bitch on Tuesday. That's my logic today, and I have had way too much coffee for you to go picking any arguments.
After Elijah died I pretty much wanted to die move away flee.So we asked everyone we knew if they knew anyone who would put us up cheap for a month in a vacation home. I had done a lot of giving in my past, but not too much asking, so I was suprised at the kindness of strangers who offered their homes in places like Orcas Island and Maui. We went to Maui for a month, the worst month of my entire life, and were generously hosted by a friend's incredibly sweet, brilliant, and witty aunt and uncle. Most of that trip is a blur to me, snippets of memories of sobbing in bed, impossibly and inappropriately beautiful sunsets, an inordinate amount of driving around (and around and around, it is an island), and tons of water immersion therapy (underwater screaming). So even the memory that has created this grudge has clearly been influenced by my stark view of life at that point. And a dash of anger.
Our hosts in Maui lived next door to his (the uncle's) brother and sister in law. We had been there over a week and had not yet met them. Their grandchildren were visiting and splashing hellos from the pool up to Supergirl, who desperately wanted to play with them. Dh suggested we get together with them, and our hosts thought it would be fun for the children as well. Another few days went by without a reply. Dh and our hosts planned a 4th of July bbq, and Dh again suggested that the brother and his family come over - and that would be a perfect time to meet the kids and let them swim together (in our hosts' pool), and again our hosts agreed.
Finally, on the morning of the 4th, Supergirl was told she would finally get to meet the kids, oh joy of joys! Later that day, before any wienies were roasted or watermelon sliced, our host embarrassedly pulled Dh aside. It seems that there was a story of substance that we needed to know about. About forty years before, the sister in law had given birth to premature twin girls. They both died within days. A horrible, indisputably sad story. The problem, it seemed, was that she (next door) knew why we were there. She knew that our one year old child had just died, and she was very concerned that I would talk about our loss. Or talk about Elijah at all. Because she did not want to have to be subjected to my pain, thus causing her pain to resurface (?). So would we mind, please, not talking at all about Elijah, his death, or why we were not home right now?
Can you just feel how uncomfortable Dh was as he had to then deliver that news to ME? I took it pretty well. I only made one or two snide remarks and then settled on feeling so sad for her that she still could not acknowledge her own loss, forty years later. I decided that would not be me. And of course I agreed to censor my conversation, for Supergirl's sake at the very least.
The kids hit it off and had a great afternoon. The mama of the grandchildren was very nice, and we also connected. She was pregnant with her third child and I know this is going to sound shocking, but the subject of pregnancies came up. At one memorable point in our conversation, I said something like, "Oh, my second pregnancy was completely different from my first!"I had slipped. But the comment did not slip by unnoticed. There was an audible pause in the conversation behind us, followed by a sigh, then they haltingly went back to their own topic. I could tell by the mama's reaction that she already knew, but by then the heat of embarrassment had crept up my neck. And the rest of the afternoon I was so nervous. And anxious. And worried that I had hurt someone's feelings.
My son had just died, 7 weeks before that, and I had to feel ashamed for saying 'the wrong thing'.

Goodbye, grudge. Don't come back.


Anonymous said...

Hot tears. Cold hearts.

I would have difficulty lifting the grudge you've mentioned here.

You are far stronger than I am! I'd have probably yelled, cursed, and stomped. And I usually don't do those things.

Love the Grudge Fire idea. :)

Anonymous said...

i miss your grudge fires. and your solstice parties. greatly.

i do have my own grudge fires. every new year's eve. start the new year with a clean slate, i say.

i remember you telling me this story last year. i'm glad you gave it up. and i like the idea of grudge tuesday. i may have to steal it.