While I make rhymes my brother John
Makes shiny shoes which dames try on,
And finding to their fit and stance
They buy and wear with elegance;
But mine is quite another tale,--
For song there is no sale.
My brother Tom a tailor shop
Is owner of, and ladies stop
To try the models he has planned,
And richly pay, I understand:
Yet not even a dingy dime
Can I make with my rhyme.
My brother Jim sells stuff to eat
Like trotters, tripe and sausage meat.
I dare not by his window stop,
Lest he should offer me a chop;
For though a starving bard I be,
To hell, say I, with charity!
My brothers all are proud of purse,
But though my poverty I curse,
I would not for a diadem
Exchange my lowly lot with them:
A garret and a crust for me,
And reams and dreams of Poetry.
A cold rain mingled with the river
at evening, when I entered Wu;
In the clear dawn I bid you farewell,
lonely as Ch'u Mountain.
My kinsfolk in Loyang,
should they ask about me,
Tell them: "My heart is a piece of ice
in a jade cup!"
It is all about feeling safe. And it was all about feeling safe.
Never mind that I was sometimes bullied or teased. Never mind that I felt like strangling them at times, calling them "idiots" out of irritation or affection. Never mind that their unkind teasing made me question myself and my abilities. They were only boys then just as I was only a young girl, growing up with her insecurities and daydreams. I never knew how insecure they were, if they were even insecure at all. If they had any insecurities or shyness, they never showed it. But then I was also in my own little world most of the time and only saw what they wanted me to see or what they showed to the outside world.
As I grow older and remember my past -- even if it's just fragments here and there -- I wonder if that was how it truly happened, if those words were actually said, if what I remember -- or think I remember -- happened that way at all. Sometimes memories can be blurred. Sometimes one event seems to merge with another. I am older and I don't remember everything exactly as they had happened, that is true. But at least I remember. And perhaps that should be enough for me. And if any of my brothers should remember our childhood, I wonder if they remember as it had happened or has the past become somewhat blurry for them as well?
And I remember my brothers. Photographs help and so do old family movies. I remember. And there is a slight echo of an ache -- ancient and faraway -- that dwells in the pit of my stomach. Childhood. One doesn't remember one's childhood as it happens. One can only look back when one is an adult. I thought that looking back would be a pleasant experience, recalling memories fondly. And yet there is that slight ache and I don't understand it.
It was about feeling safe.
My brothers were my peers, my siblings, growing up in the same childhood home, all of us sharing our separate lives. I was a sister -- younger to three boys, older to another -- and I wanted to be closer to my older brothers. I very much wanted that special relationship with an older brother, someone that I obviously felt safe with and could turn to and share with about every aspect of my life. I wanted that deep affection between a brother and sister that I only found on television and in the movies. My younger brother and I shared a closeness that exists to this day. I remember fighting with him when we were children. But he was also my ally and advised me -- me, his older sister -- and shared with me.
And yet I still wanted -- wanted -- that closeness with an older brother. It was about feeling safe and cherished and cared about.
During our most recent family reunion, I actually wondered if I should tell them about our father. My second oldest brother already knew for I had shared it with him twenty years before. Neither he nor I has mentioned it to the other ever again. And I know that it should stay that way.
But what about the others? I shared some of it with my oldest brother's wife a few years ago and had sworn her to secrecy. One of his gifts to me this Christmas was the movie, Field of Dreams, a movie that I had shared with my family years ago. We were watching it in the living-room and when my second oldest brother finally joined us, he asked what it was about and my oldest brother simply replied, "Reconciliation." Just that one word said it all and I still remember it to this day. Ever since I shared that movie with them, my oldest brother knew that it was one of my favourite movies. I didn't really think about it at the time but now I wonder if his wife had finally told him what I had shared with her. Was that why he said that I was Sulky Sue and hardly interacted with my brothers during my teens?
I don't know.
If he did find out from his wife, I wish that he would have been more specific and brought me aside to ask me. But how does one do that? Besides, it was in the past and our father is no longer alive. No one else is being hurt. The hurt has been done. We are all older now. Older, wiser, living our own lives with our own jobs, dealing with whatever joys and sorrows that life brings our way.
And what if he still doesn't know? What if his wife had never said anything to him at all? Would I still want him to know? Would there still be this need to tell all of them? Would I still feel a need to round them all up, sit them down and talk to them seriously, opening up to them, trusting, sharing, revealing this piece of truth that has been kept hidden from most of them for such a long time? It is still a secret, after all.
I felt that I was standing on the precipice of indecision. It was a precarious place to be. And I didn't like it one bit.
My life has been full of indecisions. There is nothing secret about that.
Life is indeed fragile. And life can be wonderful. My brothers have their lives to lead. And some of them have their own families. And some families have secrets. Maybe I'm not the only one who has a secret.
The answer is simple, isn't it? I can simply turn around and walk away from the edge of the cliff and refuse to jump. If I did jump, would I fall? Or would I soar? Do I really need to find out?
No, I don't.
Our father is gone. And even though I may sometimes revert back to the quiet yet annoying sister during a family reunion, they know that I am no longer that young girl of long ago. I remember my brothers so clearly as the young boys they once were. But I know that they, too, have matured and changed over the years. Life does that to us.
Our father is gone. I am still here and I can still share my story. I just needn't share it with my brothers for I don't see what purpose it would really serve other than allowing me an opportunity to explain why I was the way I was.
Maybe the question isn't what would be the right thing to do. Maybe the question is: What would be the most loving thing to do? I still have my own hang-ups, to be sure, and I still have my own issues to struggle with. I am not a child; I am a woman. My brothers are not boys but men.
Talking about my indecision with my husband helped as he could afford to be objective. He even seemed amused as I told him the Sulky Sue story. But when I burst into tears as I started to explain to him how much I wanted to be able to tell my brother the reason behind my behaviour, he -- and even I -- realised the depth of it and how much it meant to me. It wouldn't have been a frivolous decision but an important one. Or it most certainly felt important.
Remembering my childhood -- especially with the help of long-ago family movies, watching their teenage faces and their smiles and oh, so familiar mannerisms -- brought about that hollow ache because I loved them, you see, and I felt safe with them.
Maybe I'm not on the edge of any precipice but on a merry-go-round.
I have healed. And I know that I still need to heal. Over the years since I left home, certain experiences made me realise that my brothers cherish me just as I love and cherish them. We don't talk about such things with the exception, perhaps, of my younger brother. And with his gift of the movie, Field of Dreams, does that mean that my oldest brother knows about it, whilst still acknowledging the possibility that all it was, was a gift and nothing more? It is I, after all, who has her own personal reasons for favouring the movie. He knows I like it but not necessarily why I like it. (Yes, I still think too much.)
I don't know if he knows. But that's okay.
As simple as that? Yes, and no. (Perhaps a merry-go-round of indecision would be more accurate.)