Friday, July 01, 2005

All Alone In The World

I had posted this on another blog which I have since decided to delete. But I thought I'd share this little bit of my history, since I will be hard at work on wedding related crap today. I'm seriously thinking of writing a book about breakups. So this would be like the prologue or something. Is that a weird topic to be interested in when you are planning a wedding? I guess I just feel relaxed enough about it now that I don't have to deal with it anymore, that I can laugh about it.

Anyway, have a great 4th of July everyone. And to those international blog visitors -- have a nice regular old weekend.

It all goes back to my childhood. My first and probably my most devastating breakup happened when I was just a tiny girl all of 4 years old. It was the day my mom first dropped me off at Preschool. Of course, it wasn’t romantic, but a mother’s love is the archetype for every form of love a child will experience in life. It’s the foundation of affection, the cornerstone of relationship and the basis for all things emotional. And she betrayed me!!!! Why?!!! Whyyyyyy??!!!

Okay, okay. I’m calm now.

As my mother tells it, it goes something like this. The two of us walk hand in hand one bright fall morning to the schoolyard. I, blissfully ignorant, am babbling back at her all the cheery expectations she has been planting in my head for weeks about ‘school.’ I am going to play all day, meet new friends and have a wonderful kind and caring teacher at my beck and call. There will be snack time, nap time, play time, story time, crafts time… all sorts of delightful times. We enter the schoolyard teaming with the potential playmates who'll soon come to love and adore me. And there is my new teacher beaming with barely contained joy at my arrival.

After a few sparkling introductions my mom bends down to hug me and give me a kiss. The words, “mommy’s gotta go to work now” don’t quite register in the dreamscape of my new utopia at first. She stands up. The glorious teacher takes my hand. And then inexplicably my mother turns and walks out of the schoolyard.

Wait a minute! Something’s wrong. Where is she going? This isn’t right. She never said anything about me going through Preschool ALONE!!!! NO, NO… this can’t be happening!!! I pull away from the sweaty-palmed teacher but the gate to the schoolyard has been closed and latched. I’M TRAPPED!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!

My mom is walking away. Her back is to me. I run to the fence and grab the chain link screaming, “MOMMEEEEEEE! COME BACK MOMMEEEEE!” Inconceivably she does not stop. For a moment I think I see a hesitation. Will she turn? But no she doesn’t, she’s actually walking away faster. Hot tears are streaming down my face. “MOMMEEE, DON’T LEAVE ME MOMMEEE, DON’T LEAVE ME!!!!!”

And now she’s turned the corner. She’s gone. The evil, soulless, child-eating teacher is by my side trying to console me with empty promises that my mother will return for me in a little more than 8 hours. I want to believe her, but all I see is the empty sidewalk and the lonely corner that has led my mother out of my life forever!

Now mind you, I don’t actually remember any of that. That’s just what I see in my mind when my mom tells the story. She can tell it easily these days, but back when I was still a kid she would get a little choked up when she told it. That’s because when she was walking away to the agonizing screams of her only child, she was crying like a baby herself. She couldn’t turn around, because if she did she’d never have been able put me in school. She’d have probably ended up home-schooling me or something. That really wouldn’t have worked for her as a single mom at the time.

Abandoning me to preschool was torture for her and for me. But we got through it. And honestly I don’t actually remember the clinging to the chain link part. The funny thing is my real memory picks up the moment I turned around and faced the SCHOOLYARD. A vast expanse that was writhing with the unknown; a seething new universe that I had been thrust into. I was overwhelmed by the crushing loneliness of it. I didn’t know where to start. I felt defeated and terrified.

I remember huge 7-year old boys racing what looked like bicycle wheels through the schoolyard. I thought that looked like fun, but they’d never let me play, I was certain of that. I remember vague clusters of children laughing, children who didn’t know me and probably didn’t want to. There were balls being tossed around in games that I didn’t know how to play. I wondered if anyone would teach me. There was the serpent-teacher cooing, coaxing and comforting, but she couldn’t be trusted.

And then there were the swings. The one thing I recognized and was good at. I could do the swings. I could always impress Mommy with my swinging skills… "Mommy, look at me!!! Look how high!” Yes, the swings. I could do that, for now. But they were all taken. I had to wait. The troll-teacher persuaded another child to let me take a turn. That was nice of her I suppose (or maybe the other child was terrified of her and obeyed only out of fear of being tortured or worse, eaten alive.) When I finally did swing it was only numbly comforting.

Sometime during the day my iron walls sagged. Maybe it was story time -- or more likely nap time. Maybe it was my charmingly insightful teacher recognizing my artistic genius with flour paste. Or maybe it was that first kid who invited me to play something. I don’t remember. But at some point I relaxed enough to let it be alright. Not that I believed it was all right, or would ever be again. But I could let it BE alright even if I didn’t believe it WAS. Eventually I started having fun. Real fun. And then as suddenly as it had begun the emotional rollercoaster day was over. Mommy was back. Time to go home.

The first glorius day of preschool was over and I had survived. But you can bet I was relieved that she had come back for me. The best part was, she blinked first. She couldn’t live without me! I won! Maybe she THOUGHT she could just walk out on me and never come back. But when she had to face the cold hard loneliness of being without me she couldn’t even last one whole day - HA! But really the break up was complete. From that point on we would never "be back together." I had discovered that there really were "other fish in the sea" of human relationships. And as lonely as it might seem, I could swim in it by myself and manage to keep my head above water.

Ever since then whenever I was on the verge of breaking up with a guy the thing that scared me most wasn’t so much losing the guy as it was the idea having to face the world alone again. I could never shake the feeling that the boys wouldn’t want to play with me, that I wouldn’t fit in with a new group of people or that I wouldn’t know how to play the singles game anymore. I’d retreat to the familiar to comfort myself. I’d do the things I used to do with my ex. And then time would pass, a little healing would begin. Maybe some creative burst of writing or a day just hanging with my best friend. Eventually I’d relax my jilted-lover-pessimism and start letting it be alright, even if it didn’t feel that way. Gradually I’d start having fun again, I’d get back to being myself. It might feel like was only treading water at first but after awhile I could just lay back and float along the current. And that's when it would happen. A crush, flirtation, infatuation, romance and, if I was lucky enough, love. It would be like the first day of preschool all over again. So I guess that for me, in a way, breaking up is kid stuff.


gone said...

great story. its true, being alone or even feeling alone is terrifying. it gets us all at some point doesnt it. and no, its not crazy to think/write about that stuff while planning a wedding.

gone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gone said...

My wife (above) has always been good at breaking up with boys. I'm the lucky one...the one that didn't get away!

piranha said...

hey, i think i was lucky. reading your story really put me back in my childhood days. you describe those fears so well. preschool was all cool for me because my mom was the teacher hehe. and i had siblings. so my sisters would introduce me in school.
but the fears , we all have them. children are monsters and chidlren are fragile...

great post!