There is a world in which I never fully existed, one that will always be yours and not mine.
Which is another way of saying that you died before you could tell me all your secrets.
Maybe I am there with you in some way. In a wisp of memory you held as your light faded from your body – the shape of my hands, young and plump, reaching for something you offered. My eyes – big and unafraid, expecting to find love wherever they fell.
If this is all you kept of me, may it give you comfort to know that I never fully let go of that innocence, but it has traveled a great deal with me. I took it into lands where the softness was beaten into a new shape. In other places, I learned how to melt my scar tissue, gaining the truth that the skin over our battle wounds never fully returns to what it once was.
I say this with a knowing wink in your direction, because I know your stories. They churn and rest in my lymph as much as they did in yours. So let me show you what they have taught me in your absence. Let me show you a face that has been shaded with wisdom (for better or worse), a mouth awakened by a kiss on more than one occasion.
See me, Grandmother. I am the woman who says yes and no when I want to say yes and no. One who is still learning the language for this, who often fumbles, retracts, and regrets the freedom you never could take advantage of. I do this because I can no longer swallow my words until I choke. But I also do it for you, because you never had the chance to see what you were gagging on.
See me, Grandmother. I am the woman who says the things that they told her she shouldn’t say. Who holds a megaphone to her mouth so the threatening voices in her head can’t overtake her honest timbre. I do this for you, because I know that you had to shut up so you could stay alive. It’s our shared screams and songs that I’m letting out.
See me, Grandmother. I am the woman whose limbs tremble as I reach for what was so far out of your grasp, you couldn’t even imagine a span so great. Though I am leaning at an awkward angle, one toehold on the ladder, I think I can reach the apple. When I do, I will give you the first bite.
Because you gave me my name, I do these things in your name. Yet I know you would not have been proud. Don’t deny it – you would have held your daughter to your breast as I walked by. You would have averted your eyes from the way my hips sway as I walk. You would have hissed at me to cover my skin and close my legs.
I don’t fault you for this; your reproach, too, is an act of love wearing the wrong clothing. We all wear these disguises, and shame helps no one find their skin. But perhaps an honest request will allow us to drop our arms and dearmor our breasts. It’s one I can make only of you, the one whose legacy reddens my blood.
Please, help me carry the loose bits you’ve left me. The mess of unfiled papers. The frayed hemlines. The rooms that you never had a chance to clean out before everything went still. Help me see which of these I should tend to with soft hands, and which I must light on fire.
No matter what you say, I will go on doing my business. But imagine the miracle we could create if we each exchanged the gifts that we uniquely carry – yours of the world of steadfast and sticky mud; mine of the excited first spark of wildfire.
Imagine us clasping hands to break down the barriers of time and space that segment us, separate us. Imagine us finding a calling we would be proud to answer to and introduce ourselves with. Imagine us meeting, different only because of the molds that formed us, finding that when we stand together, our shapes finally make sense.