I am up late, rocking in a comfy chair nestled in the corner of my studio on the second floor above Ace Plumbing, in a futile attempt to fall asleep. To possibly get to that magical place between eyes closed and the coming of sleep. Pepper’s cage is covered, I hear him snore, his tiny night light the only glow in our darkened space. That is, except for the stars twinkling outside my window sill. Winking and blinking out a message I desperately long to decipher, but just as sleep eludes me, so does a meaningful translation.
I drank a glass of warm milk. I tried to meditate, but like the warm milk, my gentle thoughts curdle, and my legs are twitching. Fingers thrumming on the arm of the chair as I rock back and forth back and forth. Trying to settle. Easing out of my brain and counting my breaths. In, I say to myself, and Out. In and Out. Just breathe. I have a character flaw. I am impatient. I make myself nervous. Sometimes I just simply think too much. Talk too much. Feel too deeply. Chase my own tail around and around in an endless circle, until by normal standards, I should wear myself out, but not only am I more agitated, I find I am agitating those around me. Like a broken washing machine stuck on just one cycle.
When I was a young girl, my mother could soothe me, help me to unclench my fists, to feel soft inside and out, just by folding me into her embrace. A warm and comforting place to fall. One to one correspondence. My heart slowing to match her own. And as I rock, I feel her presence here beside me, and my eyelids feel heavy. If only there was someone, somewhere, who held a similar power, that magical elixir, that kind of heart, that warm embrace that leads to the sweetest of dreams...and between eyes closed and the coming of sleep...
Josephine, like each and every child born on this planet, entered this world an innocent, with a story as yet to be told. A blank page. A tabula rasa. A tiny heart beating out its unique and singular rhythm. Heart sounds tapping out a silent signal, she did not hear, but others did, thus drawn to her. Safe. Josephine’s heart tapped out a continuous steadily comforting song.
I. Am. Your. Safe. Place. To. Land.
As she grew, her heart never let her, or anyone nearby, down. For as she grew, some intricate mathematical detail on her DNA helix, a prime number, uniquely distinctly hers and hers alone, created the line and design of her embrace. Her stance as open as the arms that reached to pull you in and hold you still. Her chest, soft as a pillow filled with down, conforming to your shape, but even more importantly to your need. For her, in her arms, with her cheek against your face, in the shelter of her warm embrace, no thought of letting go, no hurry until you were ready to go. So quiet a space. Such a tender and loving place, that you could not only hear her heart beat, but unconsciously match its soothing cadence. Beat. Beat. Beat. Safe. Safe. Safe. All is well. You are loved.
Is it any wonder that as she moved into adulthood, her heart led her to not only her own children, but to tiny tots. Brick by brick, Josephine built the Little Red Schoolhouse in the heart of the Heartland. A kid sized house with kid sized windows, tiny tables and chairs. Chalk and crayons. Easels and paints. And naps in the afternoon sun while lullabies played. For each child in her care, each day began with a hug, and ended with an embrace. Safe. Her heart said you are safe here to grow. And they did. Into adults walking their children down the path, right back to the Little Red Schoolhouse, peeking in now and then, for as parents, they too, often needed to fall, if just for a moment, back into that soft familiar, embrace.
Josephine took her heart for granted. She assumed that it would always beat in sync. Maintain its steady rhythm. Even as the simple mathematics of aging, took their toll. With each passing year, a new, but not so unexpected slight nick or ache. And as so often happens, in each and every life, the nicks and aches, rise exponentially as we age. Josephine, though unique, was also uniquely human. As her body aged, as time passed on by, she was not spared the indignities of knees no longer able to bend. Nor an unfortunate piling on of illness, random, yet somehow a bit unfair for the once fair haired, rosy cheeked child, with a heart as big as the moon and as warm as the sun.
So it came as a terrifying shock, with her toes tucked into the sand on the beach, her face turned to
the sun, the warmth filling her soul, when without warning her heart broke. Her heart let her down.
Down the long scary winding road in the ambulance on the way to the ER, up in the elevator and finally
down the hall, to the cold and sterile surgical suite. The heart rending ride to the heart mending room.
The room where miracle of miracles they must stop your heart in order to start it again. Josephine
looked around the room and saw the masked faces, perhaps one a former student, but most assuredly,
once a child. And at that moment, she became the student, and with her silent nod, put her heart in
their hands. Literally.
The clock ticking, the machines beeping, the patient sleeping. Or was she? For later, much later, she would admit that during the procedure, many hours in, she found herself at the opening to a dark and threatening cavern. As she stepped in the walls darkened further and were covered with black slimy water cascading down the sides. What frightened her most, was not the darkness, but the total absence of light. Once in, no way out, at least none she could see.
Lost. Lost. Lost. Until she heard a voice.
Hold on just a bit longer. Hold on. Just a bit. Longer.
Josephine opened her eyes to see a face leaning down peering into her eyes and repeating the refrain...hold on hold on...
But memories gathered during moments of our greatest stress are often blurred by a much different reality. For there, in the surgical suite, Josephine was surrounded by Yard Yeti Women. Gertrude Golden Wattle from Australia. Sophie Shamrock from Ireland. Tessa thistle from Scotland. Rita Rosa from Ecuador and many more. Myrtle Maple Leaf from Canada. Ophelia Orange Blossom from Florida. Candace Camellia from Alabama. Dressed in their native and natural floral finery, they joined hands. One to the left and one to the right. And at the head of the bed, Eunice Everlasting reached out one hand to her left and one hand to her right, to create the healing circle of hands and hearts. It was Eunice, looking out and over the floral pompadours of the Yard Yetis beside her. It was Eunice who stood with her mouth shaped in the the perfect “o” of wonder, who actually said the words “Hold On”. But not to Josephine, more to herself, for there in the room a ring of concentric circles was forming. Outside their inner circle, another circle appeared. A Circle of Friends. Then another. A Circle Of Family. A Circle of Children. A Circle of Parents. A Circle of Caregivers. A Circle of Doctors and Nurses and Techs and Specialists. All, hand in hand, an acapella chorus singing Hold On...Hold On...Hold On...in a rhythmic steady beat as soft and soothing as a night time lullaby.
When Josephine opened her eyes once more, really wide, truly aware, the face looking back at her was her partner of half a century. So she said to him. We did it. And with each beep beep beep of her strengthening heart, one member of each circle replied, Yes. Yes. We did. It was simple truly. The love of one heart, love sent out over many many years, simply returning. For a moment, Josephine thought it was Christmas, as the room seemed to be filled with twinkling lights. Blink. Blink. Blink.
And it was. As it would always be.
Eternal lights. Night and day lights to line the path to her recovery.
So it came as a bit of a surprise, on her first day in therapy, as Josephine stepped up on the treadmill with tenuous trepidation, when the Physical Therapist commented on her countenance. For upon Josephine’s head, a tangle of jonquils, cascading gently down past her shoulders. Josephine Jonquil, Yard Yeti Extraordinaire. Of course, the PT couldn’t actually see her pompadour, for Yard Yetis are rarely seen in the tame...but she did say...oooh, I love your perfume...it reminds me of...of...
Josephine smiled as she hugged her close....
Jonquils maybe? Yes, Jonquils I think.
Then she took her first steps in a soft familiar refrain, to match the beating of her heart. Somewhere in the universe, a thousand tiny lights fluttered like butterfly wings matching the rhythm of her heart sounds.
A Safe Place To Land. A Safe Place To Land.
We are your safe place to land.
Love, the Yard Yeti Women
Chapter 23 | Chapter 25