‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Post!

My favorite recent photo of her
My dear friends, I hope you enjoy this guest post! My sweet little cousin (and first godchild!) wrote this piece. She has always had a passion for writing, but never seemed to 'get' the fact that she is truly gifted at it. I'm so impressed with her tenacity and courage in applying to Grad School for writing -- a long, complicated and difficult process. She was asked to submit a 2-3 page personal narrative as part of her writing portfolio. She graciously consented to my sharing it with you here. I'm delighted to also share that she was accepted into the program this past week.

I'm not sure if she wants me sharing her name, so for now I'll just give her initials. HR is is 29 years old, lives in London, and is a tremendously soulful and adventurous human being. I hope you'll take a moment to comment on her writing. She'd love to hear what you think!

Mary Poppins, Baggage Fees and a Funeral

The day I left the States to move to London, my mother handed me a hundred dollar bill and a card. Inside she wrote, 'I wonder how it came to this. Did I let you watch Mary Poppins too often as a child?' She had managed to find a way to blame my beloved screen nanny for her only child leaving home. Truth be told, I was already nearing thirty and recently married to a wonderful British man; no magic was needed to draw me across the pond.

Upon my arrival at Boston’s Logan airport, I quickly realized how in handy Miss Poppins’ famously fathomless carpetbag would have come. My idea of what was necessary for an overseas move did not square well with the airline concierge. I’ve never been a light packer. I pleaded with her to assent to my tattered and seam-bursting luggage without charging me the extra fees. I was a New England girl heading back to Old England, and I couldn’t possibly be expected to start a new life sans three suitcases of essentials.

Somehow all three of my embarrassingly oversized bags -- the kind that seemed to scream ‘American coming thru--make way!’ -- made it to the land of tea and biscuits free of charge. Good thing, too, as all I had to my name was that hundred dollar bill and a Bank of America checking account in the red. My poor heart had already been over theweight limit for years. If only those airline representatives knew the baggage I was really carrying.

For half my life I had been living under the haze of medication. Twelve years of anti-depressants,sedatives and other meds-du-jour prescribed by a parade of therapists. Still I found myself depressed, or half asleep? I couldn’t tell. None of this seemed remarkable to me pre-England. I am American after all. I hail from a country of over-medicated, super-anesthetized masses. Pharmaceutically speaking, we take our constitutional right of the pursuit of happiness very seriously.

It wasn’t until I sat down with a British psychologist that I realized I’d been fooled. I saw it, the look on her face, when she asked me about the thirteen different psychotropic medications I had been prescribed over the last decade. [Insert enchanting British accent here] ‘According to this list of medications you have had nearly five different psychiatric diagnoses over the course of your life.’ All these years, all these meds, all these diagnoses and I had gotten nowhere. Half a lifetime of being legally ‘high’ had taken its toll. And, as we know, ‘extra baggage’ fees don’t come cheap.

The week after I met with the psychologist, I began weaning myself off anti-depressants. I felt like a derailed junkie. I cut the pill from thirds to halves to quarters. I noted side effects. I chronicled my experience like I would a science experiment. I soon found it was not unlike coming off an illegal drug. I felt dizzy, nauseous, achy and sleepless. I experienced crying spells, temper tantrums and night sweats. After a month, the withdrawal symptoms started to ebb. I felt miserable, but somehow hopeful. I was determined to continue on the rocky road. I was buoyant with expectation. Then my father called.

'Your grandmother died. You need to come home.'

I dragged the baggage out of the closet and spread them open on the floor of my London flat. I then began to pack for a place I’d never been before, my grandmother’s funeral. I hunted my drawers for fresh duct tape to hold these bags together for another trip, but there was none. Later, I reached for my bottle of pills to hold me together, but it was empty. I had to do this one on my own, without the convenience of duct tape or Xanax to cover unraveling seams.

When I reached Boston, time seemed to stop. Literally. Every clock in my vicinity showed incorrect time. The kitchen clock said it was five minutes to ten. The antique mahogany tableclock told eleven minutes before twelve. It was twelve thirty. I took my timeless self for one last visit to my grandmother’s house where her things stood untouched.

It was as if she hadn’t really died at all, but simply passed effortlessly into another room. All these rooms, permanently fixed in my imagination like etched glass. And here I was within them again, like a ghost, moving from room to room. There was my customary corner of her aging couch and, nearby, the obtrusive ipad she had been learning to navigate. Since my move to this other part of the world, my grandmother had embraced email, much to everyone’s surprise. She was going to keep this tethered line to her granddaughter taut, even if it meant pushing herself into foreign waters.

Opening my inbox in London to find a message from my nonagenarian grandmother never ceased to make me smile. Here, in her livingroom, I leaned over and pressed the ipad’s button. The loading symbol appeared on the screen, and round and round it went until, finally, it went dark. The battery was dead. I looked up towards her clock, the antique brass one that held court on her mantle, the one I always found too emphatic as a child. It hadn’t struck a sound this entire time. It read twenty past eight. It was now two thirty. It had died, too.

I left, retiring to my great uncle’s condo where I was staying while I was in town. Restless, I poked around and discovered his old typewriter in the closet. In an unconscious lust for inspiration, I decided to see if it worked. I imagined all the great books he had written on this very machine. They would trigger something in me, and I’d finally find that voice that was hiding inside me. I fed the plain, virginal paper into the machine and began to type. The words seemed light, lifeless; each letter a tiny, obscure impression, no more.

It was out of ink.

I pushed the key more insistently, trying to at least write my name. I watched the long arm of the type hammer swing up to the paper with its expectant letter ‘H’. It stuck. Immovable. Oh, the irony! I was stuck, too. I stood, unyielding, like this letter ‘H’. I was caught, frozen in time, between two places. Where do I go? How do I get there? I’m the middleman, trying to broker a deal between my past and my future. And both sides drive a hard bargain.

Later that night I foundan old ‘to do’ list in my uncle’s bedside drawer, written on a dusty index card. The list was lengthy, and partially crossed off. I couldn’t help but wonder if any soul ever completes their life’s ‘to do’ list. My uncle, halfway through his list at death, my grandmother, closing in on a century when she died, but still not finished with life. How do we keep moving? How do we keep the type hammers from sticking or clocks from breaking or souls we love from dying? I look down at my uncle’s unfinished list. At the bottom is a task not yet crossed off, and yet underlined as if accomplishing of it is of tantamount importance.

Buy new typewriter ribbon.’

Ah, yes, the ink. I find my coat, grab an umbrella and, list in hand, head out into the world. The paper, the well-worn machine, the questions – they will be there when I get back.

HR on her home turf in London:)


  1. Lifebooks1:12 PM

    Wow. And she's only 29???

    What a life to have led in such a short time. She reminds me of you - gifted with words, brave in spirit, and honest in a way most of us can't muster.

    Tell her I look forward to reading more! She should have a blog.

  2. Anonymous1:39 PM

    What talent!! She is going to go far in life. :)

  3. A talented young lady, just a couple of years older then my oldest daughter. It is amazing to see the world from their point of view.

  4. Anonymous3:00 PM

    ahhh ... I must run to pick up kids from school ... I've only read a bit and LOVE her writing style! You are so right Keri. I'll be back this evening!
    MariaG (Canada)

  5. I found this piece lovely to read, engaging and interesting. She made me want to read more! To me, that is the hallmark of good writing.

    I can see why she was accepted into the Grad school program!

  6. Heart4Russia7:35 PM

    She has a powerful voice for such a young woman. If this were the first page of a book, I would want to read the rest of the story, hands down. And the photos of her are like little stories in themselves. She is so very pretty and, as you mentioned, soulful. Thank her for allowing you to share this with us!

  7. Anonymous2:09 AM

    Awesome writing!
    MariaG (Canada)

  8. Thanks for the comments everyone! I'm sure HR is enjoying reading them very much!

  9. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Thanks to everyone who has shared their feeling to this piece. I really appreciate the feedback as I have never put my work out there officially so it is a bit scary at first. I so enjoyed hearing from each one of you. Lots of love from London xxx


  10. I'd like to read more, H! I agree with another person who commented "If this were the first page of a book, I'd want to read the rest!" Actually, I DO want to read the rest....tell us more!

  11. Anonymous12:28 AM

    Wow HR, absolutely incredible... I felt what you were feeling, saw what you were seeing, now THAT is hard to do!! You are so very talented and there is no doubt in my mind you will be successful in life.
    xoxo Sis

  12. I thank you for sharing this. Such fine writing to bring so many thoughts to mind. Wow.


What do you have to say? Leave a comment!