Rewriting my name

September 13, 2009

If a weekend could take human form and walk around, mine would be a haggard and shuffling old man.

As I sat on the floor and rifled through old boxes of letters and journals from my past at my parent’s house this weekend, I knew I was taking a risk. You see, my past is definitely tainted with things that bring me pain, things I won’t name here, things that still sit in boxes, waiting to be healed.

They are ugly things, some that were out of my control and some that were in it.

So I ran down memory lane instead of strolling, holding my breath and leaping over pot holes, eyes scanning the pages in a bit of shock. At one point, I tripped. I took a sharp curve and landed face down in the dirt of my own mistakes and the mistakes of others in my life.

And there on the ground, I was struck with those things I can barely remember, written on the lines of my heart and on the pages I was rifling through. The scent of aged paper mixed with regret was billowing up and overwhelming me, bringing back emotions that I’ve never fully left behind.

It wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but I knew I needed to do it.

Then last night, after a stressful road trip, I carried our things in the house from the van while I ruminated over my figurative baggage. I was haggard and shuffling.

In the midst of all of the things from our trip, Miles immediately noticed some of the old notebooks, ones I had brought home from the wreckage of my keepsake boxes.

I had already been thinking about the irony of these particular notebooks, the kind that are barely used, the ones with only the first few lines filled with halfhearted attempts at doing something…and then…nothing. I had brought them home from my parent’s house because I knew Miles and Asher would love them, all the blank pages for drawing and practicing letters.

Miles sat down next to the stack of notebooks and started asking question after question…

First I explained that the notebooks were from many years ago, when I was younger.

When was that?

When I was a teenager and a little older than a teenager, Sweetie.

Why did you only write in part of them?

I don’t really know, I guess I just didn’t get around to using the rest.

But you wrote a lot of things in some of them.

Yes, I made good use of some of them. And others…not so much.

Of course, the irony escaped him, and he excitedly hopped up to the table then, old spiral notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. He flipped the pages open to the middle of the nearly empty book, and for the first time ever, he asked me to spell something out. He wanted me to give him one letter at a time so he could practice spelling.

He said, “Can you spell out your name?”

Ha, I thought. This just keeps getting better.

So, letter by letter, we slowly spelled out Heather. Me.

I could feel it then, something in me was turning, pulling me closer to exactly what I needed. I slowly left the past and was fully aware of the meaning in this moment filled with grace.

I stopped the unpacking of our bags and stood frozen across the room, slowly speaking each letter from my own name while waiting for the beautiful thing I knew was coming without knowing exactly what it would be.

There was my little boy, on the very day I needed it so badly, thinking of my name and bringing it to life on pages from my past, ones I hadn’t known how to fill while I searched for myself or grew scared or gave up.

I gave him the last letter and he sucked in his bottom lip, thinking hard about the shape of an R. Then he took a deep breath and seemed a bit disappointed that he couldn’t remember how an R looks. So I helped him by writing in the R for him, reassuring him that he’d get it, one day he’ll surely write the letter R all on his own.

Sometimes we can’t finish things until we know how, and sometimes we need a little help from someone who loves us.

I can’t accurately describe what moved me in that moment. It was beyond both of us, and it was good.

I looked down at our work, and I especially loved the second letter E with it’s extra lines.

Sometimes errors are simply beautiful.

I beamed with pride and ruffled his hair, the scent of it wafting up, billowing over me, bringing with it redemption.

Then he ran his finger along my name on the once empty page and said,

“Look at that! It says Mama.”

I buried my face in his hair and started to cry. Happy, overwhelmed tears.

It is hard work to overcome the past. It makes the present hard work. But I’m not done writing this story.


We are not done writing this story.


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