Thursday, August 19, 2010

It’s My Heart You’re Taking As You Go

When I was about eleven years old, my grandparents had a garage sale. Somehow I ended up there and somehow I ended up the proprietor of my very own card table and in possession of a silver money box packed with singles and loose change. While my grandmother was selling dusty crystal and no-longer-loved knick-knacks, I was selling boxes of brand new Made in China digital clocks and pen watches. Who doesn’t love a pen with a digital clock imbedded in it? It was the 80s, after all. I think there were also phones, the kind with cords and clock radios attached to them. The assorted electronic goods came from my very own garage, some sort of surplus from my dad’s import business. I was raking in the dough, which I was most likely going to promptly deposit into my savings account, because even way back that I was a good pleasure delayer.

What stands out from this otherwise lackluster memory is a random comment from a random woman. She was browsing my wares while I stood proudly and importantly behind my table with my grandmother next to me. Random woman looks up at me and then turns to my grandmother and (speaking as if I wasn’t there) said “My, my, someday that one is going to be a heartbreaker.” She might have clucked too, but I don’t trust my memory.

To this day, I do not understand what that woman saw or why she said that. Maybe it is something she says to people to make them feel good about themselves, though that is kind of creepy, considering my age. Or maybe it is something that neighborly people say to their neighbor’s not super cute grandchildren. Because there was nothing about my appearance that would suggest “heartbreaker.” Nothing. I had buck-ish teeth with a giant space between the front two. I was in that awkward space of not thin and not fat, but “husky.” I bit my nails to the quick and I was probably wearing glasses, and since it was probably sunny, I was probably squinting in a not flattering way, with my mouth open and nose scrunched, like a rapid dog baring its teeth. Yes, I just compared myself to a rabid dog. And my sense of style at that age was very, very undeveloped. Very. And let’s remember that I was standing behind a table stacked with leftover electronics, which did nothing to enhance not-very-cool status.

The things we remember. This always stuck in my head. Something about how she said it, like it was a compliment, like it was a good thing that maybe some day I would break some hearts. We all need goals, I guess, but that one hadn’t popped up on my radar. I get that it is an expression and I get that I shouldn’t take it so literally but I did. It stuck out, probably because it was so absurd.

The thing is, I don’t think hearts break. And I don’t think I broke any. I may have trampled a few in my stampede of figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life, but I am fairly certain no one is crouching in a dark corner, clawing at their face, screaming my name. Hearts, I think, get carved up and stolen. Janice Joplin had it right with that whole take a piece of my heart song. Broken things can be fixed, but little pieces can’t be replaced. A little piece of my heart disappeared when my niece and nephew left for China. I know it sounds so dramatic, but it’s true. I love those little people for who they are and I love that they are mine and I especially loved that they were near me. I am trying to figure out how this new dynamic will work. I spoke with them last night and it was great to hear their voices. To hear their little stories about finding a gecko and the mundane happenings in their day. It occurred to me that this story may even have an ironic twist: We may perhaps speak more and see each other more than we would if we still lived a few miles apart. Only time will tell, but I am working on manifesting that. Thank god for the internet and the postal system and digital cameras. So I will make the calls and send the emails and craft the Halloween cards and demand the pictures and hope for the best.

Pictured above, my brother (I blacked out his face....) and nephew shopping at the Chinese version of Costco. My sister in law said that people stare at them wherever they go, and follow them around. You can see that here, with all of the store workers clustered around them. It made me laugh. Also pictured, their new skyline.


K J and the kids said...

Why did you black out your bro's face ?
That's funny that the white boy is drawing all kinds of attention. American's are in China. Why is his presence so weird ?

I can see through the awkward stage in some people. I can see the "in a few years" you'll grow in to those teeth. Maybe she could too. If Maddie looks anything like you did when you were were DARLING. And even if you didn't look like her....I'm sure you were still darling. even if you were only told by a few random people in your life.

I'm so glad that your family arrived safely and that you have been able to keep in touch.

Louise said...

I have a niece who, last year, moved 9 hours away from me. It was very upsetting to me as she was moving to a country that didn't speak English etc. She is 11 years old (10 when she moved) and I am closer to her now that ever. Interactions have gone from an everyday thing to a special thing.

I send her a package every month - Back-to-School, Halloween, Just Because, Christmas, Happy New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Just Because, Her Birthday, School is Out, and then two summer packages. I spend $10-$15 and send things like a card, tween magazine, books, and always some candy from home. She loves them and say that they make her month. I send a picture of the package just before I mail it and then she Skypes me everyday to tell me if it has (or hasn't) arrived.

I think that there is a chance she will move back to Canada in another year and my fingers are crossed! But regardless, while I really want her to come home, her relationship with me has only strengthened and we (grandparents, uncle,aunts, and cousins) are all counting down until she can fly by herself.

The internet has truly made the world smaller and, as tough as it is right now, you will find that you are never far from their thoughts and they will never be far from yours.

Hang in there. It does get better.

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gypsygrrl said...

wow. i love the way your brain thinks ~ the hearts being carved up/stolen imagery is stunning, and really i think more realistic than the *break/broken* thing... i need to talk to you more about this...

i am soooo digging your bro's shirt in that pic ~ my backyard, Fell's Point :)

your niece and nephew will not forget you and the relationship will flourish in a defferent but equally great way because of the distance... get them into writing Real Handwritten Letters to your girls (and you, too) its a lost art and its nice to have tangible things to hold and re-read when you miss them. and keep up with the digital media too!

your heart-carved friend