As the days have passed in this recounting of my kindergarten year and my seeming abandonment by my parents, I’ve shared many memories with you. Today I offer you two more. For me, they remain as vivid and pristine as when they happened.
Both centered me in the present and in Presence. Both comforted me as the weeks and months passed. Both are with me today: talismans in my life when stress sometimes overwhelms me.
In kindergarten the teacher provided the clay, paint, brushes, soil, and cacti we needed for an art project. Each of us fashioned a pot for our mothers for Mother’s Day. I painted mine a lovely blue and brushed white Vs on it.
We put our pots to dry on a table beneath a window in the storage closet. One day I sidled into that closet, closed the door behind me, and picked up my blue pot with its birds in flight. It seemed beautiful to me as I held it up to the window imagining Mommy’s delight when I gave it to her. I didn’t know when that would happen, but I meant to keep it safe for her.
Between one breath and another, radiant light illuminated every pore of my body. I became prism. Peace inundated me. Joy embraced me. Shepherded me. Homed me.
How long did I stand there with the painted pot in my hand? I don’t know. I know only that this transcendent experience comforted me. Then and now.
The picture I have of that kindergarten class shows the eighteen of us sitting in front of a tepee. Each of us wears a headband. The name “Bright Eyes” is printed on mine. This in itself shows that I had not lost my essential self that year. I must have laughed and played and enjoyed kindergarten. Why else would the teacher have given me that name?
The other comforting memory from that year is meeting Arthur in the vast vacant lot separating the neighbors’ house from Our Lady of Good Counsel Grade School. Brambles and weeds, some towering over my head, grew in that lot, which a cater-cornered path transversed. Children ran down it, crossed at the corner, and raced into the school playground. I among them.
One day when I walked alone with no one in sight ahead or behind, a lion emerged from the plumed grass. “Hello, Dodo,” he said. “Shall we walk together?”
I lay my hand on the velvety softness of his muzzle and stroked his ears and looked into his limpid brown eyes. He told me then that his name was Arthur and that he and I could walk to and from school together. He’d wait for me each morning and afternoon. He wouldn’t go away if I were late. He wouldn’t desert me.
“And will you play with me after school?” I asked.
“And will you lie on the end of my bed each night?”
“I will. I’ll warm your feet.”
In the days ahead I rode on his back. Brushed his ruff. Chased his expressive tail as we played. We became fast friends.
I say this with great humility and awe and gratitude—Arthur saved me.
So much love within him.
Now, all these years later, I think that my noble and steadfast lion came from the deepest part of myself. The part where I am most me. Where I have the courage and resilience and fortitude to survive loss.
The me who is at One with the Universe.
The me who deep down knew—somehow—that the love her parents had lavished on her for five years could not just disappear.
What-ever they were doing. Why-ever they were doing it. Where-ever they where, they must still love her.
Somehow, that little girl held on.
Perhaps that’s all any of us can do in the reversals of life.
(to be continued next Tuesday . . .)