10.15.2012

ric rac

A stack of enveloped letters
evades me, nowhere to be found--
The truth is, I haven’t read yours
since the postman brought them around.

As sweethearts when we were just kids,
you wrote to me every day--
I tied them in ric rac ribbon
for keeping, and tucked them away.

I saved them with me all my life,
never knowing exactly why--
Now that you’re gone, I can’t find them.
Your words, like your eyes, light the sky.

photo by Ellen Wilson

This weekend, Kerry challenged the Real Toads to write an envelope quatrain.

Also this weekend, my friend of many years, Don Martin, passed away, far, far too soon. This poem is for him.

I wrote the below essay a few years ago, about my experience meeting Don, and a host of other kids, at summer camp. He and they changed my life, for which I am still grateful.

I'm 14 years old and my parents have enrolled me in a week-long sleep-away "Summer Academy" for brainy kids at the local university. They unload me at the college dormitory. As I gather myself and consider what might happen next, two guys walk past my door.
             
They are wearing green hospital scrubs and red plastic Devo flowerpot hats. One of them has a giant octopus made from a garbage bag draped across his shoulder. They are skinny and are carrying an enormous boombox (yes, the kind that plays cassette tapes) that is blasting a Cheap Trick song. I am impressed.
                  
What happens next, and for the rest of the week, and for the week that I attended Summer Academy the following year is mostly a blur now. But those moments, those short days, were the best ever of my teen years. Hanging out with weird kids--although I must say I never thought weird, I only thought COOL--made me feel so very much not alone for the first time. I had found kids like me.
                  
Music was paramount to our group: Devo. The Cars. Elvis Costello. Cheap Trick. The Police. We performed the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I'm not sure for what audience. I got my FCC license, rowed a canoe, and learned target shooting. When the week was over, we barricaded ourselves in the dormitory in protest of our parents taking us away.

I remember nothing else about the academic program. But I remember all of those kids. Several are still my friends today. And I can bring up the faces and names and quirks of all the others. Emotions ran high in those weeks, and in the long-distance love and friendship maintained through the years in between. When I went back to my school in my town, I felt confident and cool. I had friends like me, who understood me.

25 comments:

  1. wonderful poem and equally moving tribute.condolences and congrats.

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  2. The highest praise for a lovely envelope poem .. and for the loving tribute to a friend gone too soon.

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  3. Oh, Marian, I so know what you are feeling. So sorry that you lost a lifelong friend, so happy that you had such a lifelong friend. I love that you met kids like yourself, and how that impacted you. In his photo, he looks like a boy who had known pain - sensitive and likely very talented.

    I had a devoted friend in high school too. Those were hard years for me, and he stood with me. He was mercilessly bullied because he was gay. The kids made his life hell. We lost touch after I got married because my ex was a bigot. I looked him up in 2000 and we resumed our friendship. But it was only months later that he gave up on living and took his life. It devastated me, as I had only just found him again.

    I know those letters are somewhere and will turn up. Then it will be bittersweet to read them again. So sorry for the sadness you must be feeling now. So glad you have your loving family around you.

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  4. I am so pleased that you were able to write this poem, Marian (and thank you for sharing your essay too). I find that death is best understood with a pen in my hand.
    The fruitless search for the missing letters seems to take precedence over the very real activity of mourning... The one who suffers grief knows those letters, what they meant are tucked in the heart. It is the person who is out of reach.

    My condolences.

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  5. So much love <3
    We are all so blessed <3

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  6. so beautiful... what a fine friend you had in each other. I am sorry for your loss.

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  7. Such a wonderful piece--I had forgotten about ric rac--it holds so many memories though--

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  8. Oh, Marian, what a precious bit of writing to eulogize a significant part of your past. So sorry for you loss.

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  9. Goddamn...it's a compressed novel. Fine, fine stuff.

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  10. Two precious pieces, Marian...poignant sharp writing that holds such a clear tone and purpose...beautiful tribute creatively wrought. My heart goes ou to you...

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  11. ...I had friends like me...

    Loved the whole poem, but these words are purely wonderful:


    I tied them in ric rac ribbon
    for keeping, and tucked them away.

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  12. Your poem and story are so thoughtful and precious. Great to have such memories of "friends like me". I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. My heart goes out to you.

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  13. About the rickrack--I think you absorbed those letters, that like the friendship, they became part of you. I have a little envy for the early memories--so much fun! And the poem--wow--"Your words, like your eyes, light the sky." As you grieve, that effect will get even stronger, I think, and turn the grieving into memorial. Holding you in the Light!

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  14. Marian,
    I'm so sorry about your friend. You wrote a wonderful and loving tribute. It's so great when a kid who feels alienated can finally find someone like himself or herself and start to feel "at home." It sounds like your friend helped you to do that.

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  15. I love the personal share, poignant words and prose about friendships and memories of growing up ~ I am sorry about your friend.

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  16. Those friendships rescue us from ourselves, those moments when we're young and desperately in need of a tribe. That yours lasted over the years and was able to reconnect before he passed is a blessing. The poem is gorgeous, the essay a poignant reminder of how important our connections are. Love you, my friend.

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  17. That beautiful moment, when you first realized - quite unexpectedly - that you were NOT alone. One of th best days of my life.

    So sorry to hear about your loss, your poem is a beautiful testament to a friendship interrupted.

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  18. What a lovely poem in memory of your friend. Sorry about your loss.

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  19. aloha Marian. a beautiful memory of beautiful moments with awesome human beings. would that we all could have such as this in our life.

    the poem and essay are each special and so well written. - together they bring a great honor to the friends who did so much for you and made you feel one with them. these words sound to me like a life worth living. very cool on that. aloha.

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  20. thank you, everyone. love like you only have today to love!

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  21. Marian, you are truly a conduit through which our little congregation attempts to justify the fundamental goodness of the universe.

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