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Tried

October 13, 2009

We tried.

Yesterday we filled boxes. We sorted clothes, old pictures, and a ridiculous number of books. Often, when it came to books, we sorted the same title–different copies–multiple times. Nothing like forgetting that you already have three copies of that book in your hand and instead remembering that you’ve been wanting to read it for a couple years.

We were packing my mom’s house… the house that holds all of our memories. We moved to this house a little after I turned five. My baby brother wasn’t even walking.

I remember the day we looked at it. Walking down the hall behind my parents, I noticed the walls in the room that would likely become mine. They were blue. A light blue, but seemed to get darker closer to the ceiling. The current owners had a little boy, younger than me, and for some baffling reason, had positioned two twin beds in that bedroom. I was a cynical child and thought it ridiculous that one preschooler would need two beds. I also wondered if a little girl would be able to fall asleep in a room painted blue.

But when I woke up in that room yesterday morning, I tried not to remember the blue walls or the Beauty and the Beast bed or the Fisher Price kitchen or the American Girl dolls. I tried to will my thoughts away from the perimeter of the room, where throughout my teens I tacked almost one hundred drying roses and mums and tulips to the popcorn ceiling.

I tried.

My brother had to pack that room yesterday. Being the bigger of the two spaces, he’d moved himself in after I got married.  He’s been at college recently, home sporadically–only long enough to toss clothes across chairs, movies on the desk, scatter sheet music the nightstand. This was his last day at home before our mom moves.

It’s a necessary move. A good move. While the timing wasn’t exactly expected, the idea has been solidifying for months. It is time… for more reasons than I can list or you can fathom. We’re looking forward to the clear horizon this move brings for our mom. I’m not trying to self-convince when I say it’s a Very Good Thing.

But our mom is moving… from our childhood home… to a place across the country… .

It’s hard to not be upset with the person who forced all of us into this place of raw emotion. Especially when that person is too steeped in his own sin to pay attention to what he’s done to those left behind.

But raw emotions don’t get the job done. They don’t make it through a day of packing, when there aren’t very many more days in which TO pack. So I pushed those raw fragments down. Down deep. As far as they would go.

At least… I tried.

I didn’t cry when we opened the photo albums.

I laughed when we pulled out old toys.

My breath caught and my eyes spilled when my brother and I opened a small box of our favorite old VHS tapes. It seemed trivial… these were just movies… but he and I knew why they threatened to unlock the door holding down those emotions. He put his arms around me and I drew in my breath slowly.

“Tears are allowed today,” my mom whispered. But I knew she was keeping the same door closed. She looked away, biting her upper lip and taking in a few quick inhales without letting them back out.

I didn’t want to cry. I’ve had enough experience with it this past year to know that sometimes tears are healing, but sometimes they just add to the pain. Another hassle in the midst of what has to be done anyway. I didn’t want to feel it.

My eyes remained dry when I entered Zach’s room–my old room–and helped him pack. We’re as opposite as ever when it comes to organization, and we laughed. He’s grown, a man, and still doesn’t get far in that room without some direction from his bossiness-prone sister. Some things…

I pushed harder against that locked door as evening grew closer, realizing the emotions were beginning to push back. I hoped my firm will was the stronger opponent.

I smiled when we pulled the lid off a small box filled with my grandma’s handwork projects, knitting needles, needlepoint patterns. I grabbed tightly the thought of how livid she’d be with her son if she were still alive, wrestling the valid, true notion to the ground. We pulled out a ball of twilight blue yarn and the half-finished crochet piece attached. My mom handed it to me and suggested I finish it, work it into another project. A bit of Grandma… Grandma and all her projects. I set it near my purse and grinned at how alike she and I are.

John wrapped me in a hug when, later, I stopped and leaned across the ironing board, head on my arms. I remembered the feeling of an ugly cry and pushed against the locked door a little harder.

When Zach loaded up his little green car and drove away… away from the house, back to school… I thought my will was going to lose. I blinked. Hard. Again, and again. And again.

I was trying.

Denial. I knew it. But I wondered why on earth people speak so much evil of such a helpful tool. I’d almost made it through the day.

John finished packing the trailer hitched to our truck and closed the sliding door. Boxes, old toys to sell, the couch to go to our house, wall decorations, my mom’s grandma’s hutch. We have another trip or two back to the house before the move, but this was most of what we needed to take our direction.

Hugs around, “Call me when you make it home”, truck doors slamming shut, and we were off. We drove down that street I grew up on and I closed my eyes against the old familiar landmarks. The desert lots where we built forts, the mysterious house on the hill, the steep street we’d ride our bikes down without using brakes. I tried not to picture them.

I was trying.

And I’d made it. The hard part was over. Now it was all about wrapping things up, being excited for the next step in the moving process, the road trip, the new apartment. I’d made it. My mind filled with happy visions of the weeks ahead and the people involved and the fun we’d have.

We drove down, out of the desert hills and I started talking to John about nothing and everything. I pulled out that ball of my grandma’s twilight blue yarn and the hook while we talked about driving and bike riding and the kids, unrolling the half-finished crocheted piece to see how long it was. I hadn’t found a pattern in the box and wondered what I’d do with this, an unfinished bunch of stitches I may or may not be able to identify. I was talking to John and examining the twists of the strands, a bit overwhelmed at the idea of finishing the project, looking closely in the dim light.

I stopped mid-sentence.

Pulled the yarn project against my face.

It smelled like her.

It smelled like her.

Not like dust or fabric softener or the ten years spent packed in the garage. But like her. Like her house, her sheets, her towels, her couch pillows… a mixture of Oil of Olay, Chanel No. 5 and cooking spices.

The door had come unlocked.

I pushed that yarn as close to my nose as I could manage. I thought of my brother, of my cousins. I wanted to stuff this in a bag and let them all smell it. My aunts, my mom. They’d want to wrap themselves in the long piece of crocheted work… a hug, ten years overdue.

I thought of my dad. I wondered if he’d care.

Raindrops began splashing on the windshield as John drove through the night, his hand reaching across to rest on my knee, gently, comforting. The rain was light, then a little harder, then light again, forming tiny rivulets on the edges of the windows. Mimicking my tears.

I sat cross-legged in the front seat, not moving most of the two hour drive home except to unroll and roll again the knotted and looped yarn, searching for a new spot in which to bury my face. The twilight blue strands were wet with salty tears.

But it wasn’t an ugly cry. It wasn’t the breaking forth of the depths I’d worked so hard to keep back. It was quiet, calm… and then it was over.

Thirty minutes from home, I spread the piece across my knees. I ran my fingers along the pattern, realizing how simple it was. Three double crochets, chain three, three double crochets, seven double crochets… simple. Repetitive. All I would have to do to finish would be to pick up the hook and yarn and continue.

It looked so complicated. It held so many memories, so many emotions. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it.

So I just picked up the yarn and the hook and worked the next stitch. And the next. And the next.

I thought about when we painted the blue walls in my bedroom. When we packed up the Beauty and the Beast bedspread and layed out the beautiful green and pink and yellow comforter in its place. I remembered pulling down the roses and mums from my ceiling and taking them to my new married home in a box. I thought of the day Zach put his furniture in my old room, replacing the pink and green with his orange and silver and black.  My mind glanced back at his graduation a few months ago.

I remembered our family, as was. I thought of our family, as is.

Life looks so complicated. A twisted and knotted mess. No pattern, no sense to make of it.

But the repetition… it saves me. The simplicity.

Three double crochet… change comes as surely as the seasons.

Chain three… we’ve made it every other time.

Three double crochet… our Jesus is real.

Seven double crochet… He’s carried us through every storm and change.

Three more double crochet… emotions are real… and okay.

Chain three… denial is a defence mechanism.

Last three double crochet… but healing comes with feeling.

Join with slip stitch… weakness becomes strength in my God.

Chain three… change will come again, and again, and again.

Turn, repeat… and my Jesus will be as faithful then… as He has been in the pastas He is right now.

And so I pick up the yarn, the hook. And just keep going.

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35 Comments »

  1. Heather says:

    What kind of comment does one leave at the finish of something like this. I’m sure I don’t know…heart wrenching and absolutely beautiful…

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

  2. Sarah says:

    Aw Ash, that is sad and beautiful and horrible and wonderful. It’s amazing the pain and yet relief that can come with change. It brought me to tears. It is amazing what our God can bring us through isn’t it? Praying for you all…

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

  3. Sara Jean says:

    the tears won’t stop

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:14 pm

  4. julie fink says:

    crying this week with you . . . for you . . . for all of you.

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

  5. Tried says:

    [...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWe tried. Yesterday we filled boxes. We sorted clothes, old pictures, and a ridiculous number of books. Often, when it came to books, we sorted the same title–different copies–multiple times. Nothing like forgetting that you already have three copies of that book in your hand and instead remembering that you’ve been wanting to read it for a couple years. We were packing my mom’s house… the house that holds all of our memories. We moved to this house a little after I turned five. My baby br [...]

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  6. Len says:

    Great expressive writing. Touched.

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

  7. Elizabeth in Alaska says:

    ::Hugs:: my dear friend…

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

  8. Christian @ Modobject at Home says:

    This is the most beautiful, brutally honest post you’ve ever written. I’m speechless… and my tears flow with yours.

    October 13th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

  9. Tried | Pink Sheet Blog says:

    [...] Link: Tried [...]

    October 13th, 2009 at 6:34 pm

  10. LeAnna says:

    Oh, girl…Our Jesus is real, and He is faithful. {Hugs}

    October 13th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

  11. mishel says:

    I love you Ash…

    Love,
    Mom

    October 13th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

  12. Shari says:

    no words–just a broken heart for all of you–praying for you all. i am sorry i have no better words.

    October 13th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

  13. Jen says:

    Hugs, sweet girl.

    October 13th, 2009 at 9:34 pm

  14. jAne says:

    There aren’t words …

    Bless you,
    jAne at tickleberry farm

    October 13th, 2009 at 9:42 pm

  15. April says:

    tears in my eyes…

    this reminds me of where I was three years ago…and though it wasn’t for the same reasons, I think the emotions are similar…

    October 13th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

  16. Christine S. says:

    Oh Ashleigh, that post was…. I don’t know how to describe it. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, inspiring and depressing, all at once. Thank you for sharing your heart. May God bless you especially during this time.

    October 13th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

  17. Tweets that mention Heart & Home » Tried -- Topsy.com says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Helen Pickard, Ashleigh. Ashleigh said: Tried… and failed. And it was good. http://bit.ly/bWTjZ [...]

    October 14th, 2009 at 3:24 am

  18. christine.I says:

    Hi Ashley,
    words cannot express but my thoughts and prayers are with you. May The almighty continue to prove himself forever faithful during this time.

    October 14th, 2009 at 4:13 am

  19. Linds says:

    Simply beautiful, Ashleigh. The way you have given voice to the rawness of your feelings at this horrendously emotional time for you all is simply beautiful. I am continuing to pray for you and your family.

    October 14th, 2009 at 7:54 am

  20. Karen says:

    Beautiful post. I don’t know what else to say than that.

    October 14th, 2009 at 8:30 am

  21. Amy says:

    Simply beautiful…

    October 14th, 2009 at 9:06 am

  22. Christine says:

    Aaaack with the weeping and the sniffling at my desk at work while I eat lunch. But no matter…that was priceless and so beautifully written. The sensory memory of smell is so powerful and you captured it so perfectly. Said a little prayer for your family. It’s good to know that the next chapter is one so full of hope.

    October 14th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

  23. Kathy says:

    Beautiful. Sniffing at my desk too.

    October 14th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

  24. Jenny says:

    Oh Ashleigh, I don’t know you in real life but this is the second time you’ve had me crying like a baby! (The first was watching the video you made when your hubby came home). Thank you for such a beautiful, thoughtful post.

    October 14th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  25. Gretchen Acheson says:

    Wow. This was a real tear-jerker.

    Have you noticed, though, that as a writer, you not only have to cry about something to deal with the emotions of it, but then you have to write about it (and sometimes about the tears), too? It’s like a two-step process.

    Continuing to pray for you and your mom and the rest of the family… HUGS

    October 14th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

  26. Monique M. says:

    This is so beautiful Ashleigh…you have such a way with putting your thoughts and feelings into words. This brought tears to my eyes as I was reading it and remembering some stuff myself as a friend on the outside. I could just see everything you wrote as if I was there. I love you guys so much. You and your family are continually in my prayers.

    October 14th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

  27. Nicole says:

    I don’t know what to say. I shared a lot of those memories; I know so many of those places. I cannot fathom your family not living there anymore. And . . .

    I’m crying with you.

    I know there is life after tears. I know that change comes, and God will use it for good. But that process is not easy. Praying for you and your mom and Zach. Praying this road trip will be the start of a new chapter of wonderful, happy memories for all of you. Love you, dearest.

    October 14th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

  28. Jaclynn says:

    :hugs: to you and yours. I don’t know what to say, but do know that tears are often part of the healing process and so is writing…
    May your mom’s cross country trip be a safe and uneventful one.

    October 15th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  29. Samantha R says:

    Tears streaming down my face… one can’t help but cry after reading this….
    May God continue to bring healing to you all. May your Mom’s journey be beautiful, may she have a safe trip.
    “and my Jesus will be as faithful then… as He has been in the past… as He is right now. ”
    Amen, amen, amen!!
    Praying for you all.
    *hugs*
    Samantha

    October 15th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

  30. Kathy says:

    Painfully beautiful.

    My prayers are with you and your family.

    October 15th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

  31. Hannah C. says:

    This entry has me holding the door shut against my emotions. Not just because of how heart-wrenchingly beautiful this post is, but because of growing up. And what is happening with my family right now – similar, and drastically different from, what your family is and has gone through.

    This line especially touched me: “Life looks so complicated. A twisted and knotted mess. No pattern, no sense to make of it.”

    October 17th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

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