Next time you find me laying around, know that I am not of this place, not native born or grown. I've been transformed, transmuted, transplanted. Before you look around to cast blame, know that the hands that formed me, from unnatural materials, had good intentions - to conquer, tame and cultivate this native land, this land on which you found me, discarded like a tumbleweed, on a windless day.
We drove through Portland once, in a van-car-RV crossover, striped orange and brown for the decade. "Daddy? Do you remember that trip?" I picked up the phone to say, just the other day, before remembering, as I less and less often need to, he will not be there to answer.
This is probably why I never wrote a book. My thoughts are circular, and makes sense to me when they come out of my head but not always when I read them back to myself. Time morphs and bends and touches itself in odd places, sparking a memory, a whisper of a thought, a feeling.
I am home, again. And yet I am here. In Eugene, Oregon. Since August, I've been exploring and reflecting on family: how do we make it? How do we form it? How do we cultivate it? How do we let it take it's own shape, even when we see so clearly, what we think it should be? At the same time, I've been falling in love. Not like the first time (or the second or the third,) this love is grounded in so much that we share: faith, family, fun. He has made me laugh from [before] day one, when he was just an image and a personal manifesto in an app. He continues to make me laugh, to remind me that humor is very often the cure for parental angst. We are dating, learning to co-parent, and falling in love. It is a tall order.
When I think of love, I have always thought of longing. During a recent binge-watching of "Modern Love" on Amazon Prime, I found the words that best explained what I am now just coming to learn is true for me: all three of my "great" loves were "untried and untested." We/I never got past the longing - longing for family, longing for commitment, longing for things to be more. I didn't know that love doesn't feel like longing; though longing often is mistaken for love. So that simple phrase, "untired and untested" has now become the best way to describe what, if I was a forty-nine year old man would be called, "un-marriageable" but instead, since I am a forty-nine year old woman is merely called "sad."
There are probably a million psychological explanations for why I never got married. I will confess to only one: I never want to get divorced. And since there are no assurances of that, I have steered clear of commitment, by dating men who didn't make Us a priority. I have steered clear of commitment that might possibly fail (aka marriage) by only entering into relationships that were already doomed to do so; each one lasting no more than four years.
The home of my childhood was only my home for four years. Yet, it is the home of my memory; the vision I return to when I think of bikes and forts and long summer days. As if those days were endless, as if that time was a lifetime rather than a mere 48 months. "Take a right at the nut factory," Daddy would always say, when giving someone directions, "then drive up the hill." The joke was on them. It was a real nut factory, not the Camarillo State Hospital (now a luxurious spa retreat) which was down the hill and on the other side of the freeway, from our built-from-speck house on two and a half acres.
A cul-de-sac stopped the street from falling into an orchard of decades old avocado trees. Before the end of the street, the Pomeroy's driveway sloped up, a promise of coasting fun we never ceased to take advantage of, no mind that it deposited us right into the aforementioned street - oncoming cars be damned. The immediate neighbor to our right's weeds bore delicious, juicy black fruit, snacks at all hours of play. They even had a donkey, which I never tired of trying to watch, through the bramble and the thistle, while he ate his afternoon lunch.
Our pedigreed silky terrier named Curly Oliver Kenton would return with us at the end of the day, covered in mud, leaves and the stench of some animal he'd tried to fend off; acting for all the world, like the terrier he was, and not at all like the pedigree that the paper suggested. We came to call him Poochy because Great-Grandmother Tina wouldn't call him anything else. Which is why I was okay naming my second born (by three minutes) Kenton after the beloved family dog, since we never called him by that name. Poochy went the way many family dogs do when the parents have tired of their care; he went to live on a farm, on the east coast; (for real, I will believe nothing else.)
Broken horizon. Silver ribbon of water. Pacific Ocean, out there, far from the house, yet seen. House settled atop a mound of dirt, never, in four years, landscaped. Spanish-style stucco, state-of-the-art-kitchen (a blender in the counter, the first of the very large microwave ovens,) seventies dark wood accents throughout, wide landscape preferring windows, draped with yellow faux-velvet lines, facing west into the setting sun. They say a house that faces west is a sunset house, a house of endings, a house of goodbyes. A truth known by this house; the ending of a marriage, the vanishing of a family.
Western facing houses
Holding long goodbyes inside
Stare off at oceans
Oregon is what Southern California looked like fifty years ago. Perhaps that is why I found myself here, in search of the home I've always known. Even after we left the home of my childhood with all the goodbyes and endings, I found ways to anchor myself there, in that dry, artificially green covered land. Always when I crest the hill, crossing from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita Valley, going 70 mph, because it is Southern California and when in Rome ( you know ) always I see him first. The flat stony forehead sloping down into a jutting nose. A face in profile, one grassy border forming the lidded eye, another the bottom of the square chin, sloping downwards to become a neck, which as you get closer seems less like a sleeping giant and more like a mountain silhouetting the sky. A mountain that still protects my parent's home, which anchored me many a night of my teens, laying there, dreaming of a childhood home for my future.
That place, that dry, artificially green covered land, became, with each passing year, less and less home and more and more memory. So that by the time I arrived in Oregon, the dimness of it fading over too many years for me to fully unfold and realize. I was home. Here. In this place.
It is not unlike having found love, backwards, after the goodbyes and the endings, the beginnings and the intentionally chasing after a vision of childhood, a memory of family that I was insistent upon making all on my own. And this year, 2019, is a kind of goodbye to that, but in the most positive, hopeful way possible. By falling in love, I am saying goodbye to a commitment I made to myself - to parent on my own - in order to make space for something that has been my heroine's quest since I was nine - family. Now my boys' origin story will have two beginnings, both intentional and both full of love: the solitary chase and the four of us blending.
The curve of his lips, like soft cushions of grass tucked between two solid rocks, curl when he smiles. His eyes, blue, on a cloudless day. The line of his lips crack of laughter from long-ago dreams. This man, this family, we are making, this love we are trying and testing; this place that feels like home.
Joy, like a rainbow,
Dances, leaps, lands
Baptism rushes through this solitary moment,
Flying down, not far away
Joy, like her own rainbow,
Feeds on the day, as it floods,
This quiet moment
-Post, Oregon, Summer 2019
"1619: 400 years ago, a ship arrived in Virginia, bearing human cargo. The arrival of 20 and odd enslaved Africans in 1619 has been called the beginnings of U.S. Slavery. This 400th anniversary of the Africans’ arrival in what is now the USA is being observed this year. . . a tribute to perseverance and resilience." (E.R. Shipp, Special to USA TODAY, Feb. 8, 2019)
I've been thinking a lot about this history. My history. My sense of identity as a black American has grown exponentially with my exposure to black history, culture, and an increased awareness of a shared sense of place. As I have been exploring these ideas and my reflections on family, I cannot help but center a sense of belonging. Side by side is this idea of a personal brand (Dr. Bryant Marks ) which has been inflicted upon me simply because of the color of my skin; it is a blessing and a burden. The blessing: it anchors me in a community who share this history, giving me a place to land, when suffering because of said personal brand threatens (or simply does) weigh me down.
They usually look like ordinary rocks -
The porter on the train;
The housekeeper in the uniform;
The girl at the school-door, book in hand, longing to be let inside.
Places they come from vary, though
They maintain a certain, specific identity within,
Shaped and formed by percolating
Through porous, gleaming [white] rock.
The various colors are from different minerals,
Found in soil and rock,
Water having moved through and around.
Born of circumstance and geography
Four hundred years
transforming, against their will,
Emerging crystallized gems.
Not to be mistaken for a geode, a rock with a hollow in it,
These are a geological wonder
Intricate patterns and colors,
Formed within rhyolitic volcanic ash,
I'm Kimberly. Single mother by choice. Now also wife. Holder of space. Maker of place. Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mitch. These are my thoughts, reflections, ideas and random observations about raising twin sons.
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