Threads

While National Mental Health Awareness Month (May) is still weeks away, the COVID-19 pandemic has called greater attention to the need for support. Youth.gov explains the purpose of the national focus: “Mental Health Month raises awareness of trauma and the impact it can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, families, and communities.” 

I note that children are mentioned first. They are at the mercy of the grown-ups, and when the grown-ups in their lives are suffering, children suffer. They often don’t understand or have a framework for understanding, not for years to come, or maybe ever. To a child, your norm is your norm. You have little to no power of your own. Think of how long the Turpin children suffered, before one managed to escape and get help.

Last month, in the neighborhood of the school where I work, a little girl was found dead with her mother in an apparent murder-suicide. I didn’t know this child; she wasn’t one of our students. But I have mourned her, mourned for whatever she suffered in her short life, mourned that a mother, unable to cope with whatever lies in her untold story, would resort to taking the life of an estranged partner and then her child.

People speak of unbreakable bonds, of the ties that bind. Sometimes those threads are very, very fragile.

Some of the threads running through the background are beautiful and bright, even as the family portrait bleeds away from the canvas. 

Sometimes destruction doesn’t come all at once, but by a long, slow unraveling.

Threads 

This morning I trimmed the threads off of my patchwork writing journal.

As I balled them up to throw them away

I realized the tangle of color in my hand.

They spoke to me: Remember?

Oh yes, I used to see you all over the floor when I was a child.

Rolling lazily across the hardwoods when we walked by

or nestled in the frayed carpet of the living room.

Fragments of my mother’s handiwork

vestiges of the artist she was

crafter of clothes we wore

tailor for many more.

Who’d have believed that such a creator

could destroy so completely?

A family of threads, each one its own vibrant color

in seams ripped apart

scattered far and wide

drifting on

and on

and on.

*******

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 20, I am writing around a word beginning with letter t.

The poem has been sitting as a draft for exactly two years today while I pondered publishing. I wrote the original draft as a participant in professional development for literacy coaches, of all things. I can’t remember the prompt now, only that we were to share our poems with a colleague.

My colleague wept.

I share it for the children.

16 thoughts on “Threads

  1. Fran, with your intro, you lead us gently into your poem. It’s as if you want to steel us for what lies ahead and that’s understandable. The pain that is woven into our art becomes both visible and is often the weight-bearing element. I am glad that you were able to write, allow time to pass, and decide when the right time was to finally release these words into the world. Thank you for seeking out and finding the words and seeing the children of all ages who may be helped by and with your example.

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    • Sherri, thank you for your keen perception, for your words of kindness and understanding. This is a jewel of a line: “The pain that is woven into our art becomes both visible and is often the weight-bearing element.” So true. That word, “release” – so vital, on multiple levels. Such a graceful response – I am grateful for it.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story and your poem. You paint beautiful images overflowing with meaning and good intentions. The phrase “Family of threads” makes me realize how fragile alone each thread is, but woven together how strong our family can be.

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    • “Good intentions”…that idea had not occurred to me explicitly but you are right, that thread is certainly there, in the poem. And should be. Beautiful imagery of threads here, families being stronger woven together. I so appreciate your words.

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  3. I know that this must have been very hard to share, but I appreciate that you did. When you thought about the abecedarian (?) approach, did you sense that “Threads” was going to become public? I have a piece that’s a bit longer than a slice, that I’ve held for several years. Like yours, it was written at a writing institute. It’s only been read by three people. I’m apprehensive about sharing, but this gives me some courage. Your line, “Who’d have believed that such a creator could destroy so completely,” is a line that really resonated. It has so many different ways that it could be read…including (in some moments) with a capital C for creator. Thanks for putting this out there.

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    • So… first, a true confession: As much as I love to write, sharing it publicly is hard for me. I’ve come to feel safe enough to take some risks here in the TWT community and a couple of others, but I don’t often share my writing on social media myself (although its’s validating when others think it’s worthy enough to do so). I am by nature guarded and reserved. Yet a blog puts it out into the world at large…To answer your question: Yes. When I began thinking of “t,” this post came to mind immediately. The draft only consisted of the poem – captured so I wouldn’t lose it – and the title was always “Threads.” Part of me hesitated but another, louder part said “It is time.” I never considered another “t” word after that, although it was a test of faith to hit “publish.” One it’s out there, it’s out there. There’s a sense of release in it and I hope something of value to others. Of course there’s more story to tell but I am not there yet. Your response has encouraged me and I am grateful for it. I would love to read your piece, should you ever get to the point you’re ready to share. Oh – that creator line – that interpretation did occur to me, I imagine it’s been asked countless times in the history of the earth, and I almost struck it but left it in at the last. Life is full of tests of faith…that in itself is another thread. Mine still holds. Again, deepest thanks.

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  4. I know you’ve been hesitant to share stories of your mother, and your last lines tell us why. This is the conundrum, isn’t it, of being vulnerable in our writing, because it’s never just our story; we are weaving others’ stories into our own. We worry about the consequences of sharing, the consequences of carrying the burden of the story without sharing…it’s an enormous personal decision to make. I hope that there was a bit of catharsis even in writing and posting just these lines. You are entitled to share your story, seen through your eyes, lived with your heart, if and when you feel ready to do so. I know that if you do, it will be with gentle brush strokes and profound emotion–just as you’ve done here.

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    • I will rest a long while in your words, Chris – in the shelter of their comfort and understanding. The important thing to me is holding onto the threads that are good, and beautiful, for there are many that remain, even when ties that are not meant to be severed, are. I would never have painted over the family portrait with such sad colors…but in story, maybe I will be able, as you say, to add some gentle brush strokes to the telling. Someday. Thank you for such lovely, caring words, my friend. ❤

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    • Writing is so personal an activity anyway; it is something I approach mindfully, even with my harder truths. Something to keep in mind when working with writers of all ages: that’s pieces of one’s soul, there on the page. Or screen. How I appreciate your words, Elsie, and your deep insights. They are – you are – a gift.

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  5. This simply takes my breath away. I wept. The images are so precise and clear. “Who’d have believed…” We can never know another’s feelings. Thank you for sharing this with us; difficult as it was to do.

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    • That is true; we can never truly know another’s feelings, or experience their full story… the tears, oh dear. There’s suffering but also survival layered in those lines…your words mean so much. Thank you.

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  6. Firstly I love the word ‘threads’, both literally and figuratively. So many connotations that you’ve woven perfectly into your prose and poetry in today’s slice. It’s hard to have someone that you love so completely and was such an artist who could also destroy. Such sadness, that I can connect to in a little way because of major sadness and despair caused at times by my own mum.
    Your introduction with the story of the little child and her mum and mental health are such sad glimpses into the tragedy all around us.
    Thank you for sharing this with us today and for overcoming the pain it must have caused you to do so Your writing is infinitely deep and beautiful!.

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    • There is so much metaphor in the word “threads,” isn’t there? I figured that someone out there, maybe many someones, might be able to relate to this – as you put it – “major sadness and despair” wrought by a mother. Lots of threads of grief, sorrow – once upon a time, anger, but anger is sustainable for only so long. You’re right about the tragedies all around us, so many stories we do not and cannot even know. So much need in regard to mental health, even with so many available options for help. Most of all – thank you for your gracious words, for they mean so much.

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  7. Fran, I’ve been carrying this post – and you – around with me the past couple of days after reading this. There is so much love and heartache and beauty all worked together here. Sometimes, responses come easily to me and sometimes, the emotion behind them is so great that words don’t seem to match up. Childhood trauma has left all too many of us with dark corners to explore. What I keep coming back to is this: what you’ve brought forth is deeply personal and heartfelt. This post – it’s an act of courage and trust. Mining through painful memories…that takes exceptional bravery. And, it’s hard enough for us to trust this world enough with the regular writing we give from our hearts. But you’ve trusted us with this writing, and I’m so grateful to you for that gift.

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    • Many thanks for this caring message, Lainie. It means much. Writing itself is an act of courage and trust – sharing it, exponentially so. Putting pieces of your soul there on the page (or screen). That poem is laced with sorrow but also with recognition that every thread isn’t one of sadness; there is, in this case, an honoring of the gold & silver threads running through. There’s understanding that some things cannot be repaired because they’re out of your control. Perhaps even strength “at the broken places” as Hemingway might say (I love that phrase, the truth in it). Thank you – always – for the gift of your words.

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