For Alyson, on her birthday

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As a youth I never felt like I belonged to this world. My head was full of poetry before I knew what it was. I would walk around the forests and moss-carpeted wonderland of my childhood home and recite words in my mind like I was orchestrating symphonies. I would ride my bike, a squeaking yellow cruiser my eldest sister Alyson dubbed “The Bus”, manipulating my tiny universe with language, my mind always creating.

 

Alyson pulled me outside of myself. She helped me to physically exist outside of my mind, a harmony I am convinced I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Her room felt like a safe haven to me, a place where we could talk, and one of the first places I felt comfortable writing. I would look at her things, neatly displayed and organized on shelves like I was exploring a museum. In a day of compact discs and Discmans and summer hits on MTV, Alyson possessed a rather large and eclectic collection of albums. I would listen to Charles Mingus, Django Reinhardt, and to the detriment of my father, Frank Zappa. I cringe at the thought of my eleven year old self singing “Bobby Brown Goes Down” without a thought for what the lyrics really meant; I was in love with the music.

 

In 6th grade I discovered my love of actually writing down the words I thought. It was a revelation, quiet and modest as it may have been. My language arts teacher jarred me outside of myself with her exuberant personality and passion for creating. We called her “Cro the Pro”, as Alyson also had Ms. Crocenzi as a teacher some four years before. Ms. Crocenzi used to have her classes do homework assignments where one would write collaborative and creative pieces with a family member in a journal that she would read and add her own thread of creativity to; it was an on-going project throughout the school year. Alyson and I would have weekly tea parties in her room with Pirouette wafer cookies I called “swizzle sticks” and we would set to writing. These are still some of my most cherished memories. We wrote whatever wild thoughts came to our minds. I would unravel the gauze of my mind slowly and cloudlike and Alyson would help me talk it out and write it into reality. There are some people who fear quiet. They try to talk to fill the space. Alyson taught me the reverence of quietude.

 

In high school Alyson took on the task of all 16 years of me. I felt that schooling in Kentucky was detrimental to my mind. I felt stifled by the focus on standardized testing. And mostly, I just felt alone and stuck in my head a little too much. Alyson, only 20 years at the time, pleaded with my parents to let me move back to California. I felt like a hermit crab, retreating, and again there was Alyson, pulling me out. It was the most difficult and best decision that I have ever made moving away from my family at such a young age. Was Alyson ready to take on a teenager, albeit a responsible one? No. She was just a kid herself. We were both kids. But we figured it out in staggering fails together. I worked and went to high school. I stayed up most the night playing games with Alyson and her friends, went to school at 7am, came home and did my homework, went to work at a local café ‘til 10pm, and did it all over again. I used to sit on the couch and write while she played the bass and made up comics about workplace unhappiness—a quiet sense of creative space.

Our relationship now is one of long phone conversations. I have not seen Alyson in over three years, but our conversations, her intelligent and thoughtful dialogue, is the most important thing in the world to me. I call her with a fragment of thought and she coaxes whole thoughts out of me, fully formed and articulated. She is my sister, my friend, someone I admire immeasurably, my teacher, and in many ways, my savior.

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2 comments

  1. Aunt Lucy · · Reply

    Beautiful! Just beautiful.

  2. andrew sellery · · Reply

    May there be an Alyson & Ms.Crocenzi in each and everyones life. They are the saviors of our souls.
    Forever grateful to mine.

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