Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Old Photos

Scars upon scars

Scars upon scars
cover futile attempts
to distance pain
of yet another blow
to my body, soul, dreams
or soothing denial

It’s nothing
I can take this
I don’t need to talk about it
I dealt with that long ago
Didn’t I?

And how can I help you today?
I have plenty of time.
I can proofread that if you’d like.
It’s nothing. Really. Nothing at all.
No problem. It won’t take long.
No need to apologize
for anything, really.
We all make mistakes.

Time passes
skin thickens
spine goes rigid
demeanor tentative
neutral eyes scan
from the periphery
avoid other eyes
awkward at best
antennae soar heavenward
nothing and nobody is
safe but this last remnant of
body-soul on alert
not to be lulled into
carelessness

It wasn’t being born female that scarred me. It was overtime, double duty hyper-vigilance plastered layer upon layer with each attempt to control, use or fix me.

Over time petrified limbs of my body and soul cowered whether I wanted them to or not. I fell into protective behaviors that stifled every hint of unhappiness or, God forbid, revulsion. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Each woman is different. Internal scars from child abuse, and sexual harassment or unjust workplace practices that disadvantage women are not the same as external scars or physical challenges. Sometimes the best way to begin healing is to find a trusted friend or referral service to suggest next steps that might work for you.

I was initially helped by a twelve-step group of over 20 women meeting weekly in a church basement. It didn’t cost me anything but my pride plus $1 a week (optional) in the basket. For 5 years I showed up 2 or 3 times each week for this and other twelve-step meetings. All while I was teaching full-time at a seminary. It took me that long to realize I needed professional help. By then I was in my late 40s.

I began blogging four years ago to break silence about my childhood and teenage years. Today it’s about more than that—though dealing with my past helped free me to write as I do today.

When we women invest wisely in our emotional, spiritual and physical health, we do the most important work of our lives. We don’t deserve to carry heavy layers of scars. Some can be laid aside. Others we get to keep. They connect us to sisters and brothers, and can, from time to time, add to our beauty and wisdom.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2018
Photo taken by my father, 1954/55, my youngest sister and I, Savannah, Georgia

A Special Day

~~~Mom hugging a happy tree in Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon 2012

Today is our son’s birthday. I won’t say which birthday, except that it’s one year from being one of those Very Big 0-Years!

The photo above is in honor of our son Scott. I owe much of my current adventuresome spirit to him. No, he isn’t a tree hugger, but he’s definitely an outdoorsy guy. Always on the lookout with his nature-loving, camera-toting family for new or rare birds, small and large animals, adventure and excitement, the thrill of the hunt and pushing the limits. Anywhere, anytime.

A good balance, I think, for his almost-but-not-quite nerdy love of computers and all things connected with computer languages, information technology, and whatever it takes to make huge data systems work for the good of humanity. Especially in the areas of medical data and devices.

I honor him for his lifelong pursuit of happiness, sanity and serenity. He’s gifted with a mind that works quickly, efficiently, and intently on problem-solving. A great gift. But the greater gift is his ability to get along with just about anyone he meets. Friend, stranger, it doesn’t matter. He’s a consummate people-person, a faithful mentor and a devoted if sometimes over-the-top Dad and husband.

Yesterday, as I was about to take off for my restless walk, he called. Just to ask how I was doing. Needless to say, a heart to heart conversation followed. Of all the things I might wish for in a son, his interest in me and in D and how each of us is doing means far more than his exciting adventures or accomplishments.

And lest I forget, he loves music. My kind as well as his kind. Which moves him immediately to the top of my Favorite Son List!

Here he is, about one week old, just waking up, yawning and getting ready to exercise his considerably strong lungs.

Happy birthday, Scott, from Mom!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2017
Photos taken by DAFraser, Fall 2012 and August 1968

Captured on camera

In the blink of an eye
Memories take me back
Surrounded by music
I want to stay here forever
Feeling the harmonies
The ebb and flow of
Joyful voices surrounding me
Filled with hope for tomorrow
Lost in a magic sliver of time
When all was right with the world
We were ambassadors
On a mission
Ready to die if needs be
My heart aches for what we lost
On our way from there to here
So many hidden wounds and
Untold secrets and yet
One concert after another
We entered gladly
Into His gates with thanksgiving
And into His courts with praise
Eager and ready for whatever
Tomorrow might bring

This photo was taken in 1962-63. It’s the Ambassador Choir—the concert choir of Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina (now Columbia International University).

It was D’s senior year, my junior year. He was president of the choir; I served as accompanist to the choir. Mainly piano, and a little organ. D is on the third row from the top, 2nd from the left. I’m on the same row, 3rd from the right (with glasses).

We’re in the college auditorium, in front of the college motto and a huge globe of the world. Many students studied at CBC/CIU because they wanted to be missionaries. Among them were bi-lingual ‘missionary kids’ who came from all over the world.

Bill Supplee, our beloved choir and music director, was a stickler for getting things right. In the photo we’re grouped according to gender and height. However, each concert required a new lineup created by Mr. Supplee. We stood in groups of eight (eight part harmony for many songs), never next to anyone singing our part.

Getting it right meant on pitch, from memory, with no sliding notes or coming in early or hanging on late. Precision mattered. Articulation was paramount. Drawing attention to oneself by swaying or making head motions was absolutely forbidden.

This wasn’t about us, it was about the Gospel. Always presented in a carefully crafted sequence of music. The choir processed from center and side aisles onto the risers. Unison at first, breaking into eight-part harmony at the end. All to invite the congregation into the Lord’s gates with thanksgiving.

Each concert ended with a brief challenge to consider what God might want you to do in response, followed by a glorious recessional. The message was clear, and always well received.

Not clear, however, was how many of us carried hidden, unresolved pain from our childhoods as we processed down the aisles. Today I’m aware of stories I didn’t know then, and have shared my own. Many of our friends are already gone.

Still, I’m no cynic. I value the privilege of having been part of this spirited endeavor. It gave me the privilege of being regularly surrounded and held by music that kept my soul and my spirit alive. And, along the way, gave me the gift of knowing and falling in love with D.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Gate

rugged road signs

David and John in Kansas

Dad on the right with his older brother, farming in the Midwest, 1920s or 30s.

they journeyed
by rugged road signs
each with its distinct
look and character
weather-beaten
numbered and lettered
pointing the way
luring them on
from here to there
over miles of unexplored
wilderness and wasteland Read the rest of this entry »

Memories and Old Photos

1974 May Sherry's 4th Birthday in Altadena

before my eyes
they swim
in salt water

old photos
fresh with memories

I blink
reluctant to move
my eyes

tears water
my face

 ***

Christmas stockings in Altadena Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Mom, Happy Days Photos!

JERenich, Summer 1959?

California Grandpa & His Beautiful Women 1959

Dear Mom,
This photo always makes me smile! I don’t think I have another photo of all of us together with Grandpa. With the exception of our double wedding in 1965, I don’t think he visited us in Savannah  except this once. He looks super dapper in his Sunday suit, starched white shirt with tie, and Palm Beach hat! Read the rest of this entry »

Early Marriage | Part 22

FRASER_S_0146

~~~Our son, born in Boston, August 1998

July to August, 1968. I watch and feel my protruding belly take prodding kicks at all hours of the day and night from this unknown-gender life inside me. It’s almost impossible to get comfortable lying down. Or sitting down. Or standing up from sitting down. I have to pee every time I turn around. The Boston heat is sweltering.

I go to the Boston Lying In Hospital Clinic regularly, watch my weight and diet like a hawk, and arrange for a 6-week leave in August and September from my position as organist/choir mistress at the First United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge. I also arrange to work in the dean’s office at the Harvard Law School until two weeks before the due date.

D and I need to move out of Mr. Griswold’s house by Christmas. We know we’ll have an apartment, thanks to friends moving out in the fall. We’re at the top of the waiting list, though they’re not sure when they’ll move out, or how much furniture and baby equipment they’ll take with them.

Even though I’m the oldest of four daughters and have experience taking care of my sisters, I’m anxious! Not so much about giving birth as about the kind of mother I’ll be. Will I know what to do and when to do it? Will D be able to help me, or will I be pretty much on my own?

And then there are D’s fears. He’s been a child of divorce since he was 3 ½ years old. He didn’t see his father often; his single mother raised him the majority of the time. What does it mean for him to be a father?

I’m a worrier from way back. My intuition, experience and observation of friends tell me this could be the end of life as I know it. I fear that once again I’ll lose my identity as Elouise. Instead of being Mrs. D, I’ll become Mom. Generic Mom. The kind people tell bad jokes about or worship as though Moms were at least near-perfect.

Money, time, health (mine and Baby’s), David’s studies, my need for a life of my own. All this and more weighs on me. It feels like getting married without being ready. Maybe a bit like driving without a license, training program or instruction book. We already have Dr. Spock’s latest edition, but I haven’t read it yet.

In the end, these unknowns softened us, even though we were both anxious. It was like getting married. We didn’t have a clue what was coming next, yet we were committed to getting through it together.

I don’t think my experience was strange or unusual. Yet that didn’t make it easier. Just the thought, much less the reality of being responsible for the life and wellbeing of a helpless baby was enough to set me off.

There’s grace in not knowing too much about what’s coming down the road. Or about what you’ve already met up with down that road back there called Childhood. I was clueless about my past—not about what happened, but about how it had shaped me.

Not knowing this may have been a disadvantage. But it may also have been a gift. I didn’t feel pre-programmed to become a certain kind of parent, as though history would inexorably repeat itself.

I’d always thought the process of giving birth would be the most difficult part of all. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the nightmare I expected. Becoming a parent was much scarier and way too real. No going back. We’re it! Coming, ready or not!

At first it was stranger than strange. Yet from the moment our son was born, something began happening in us. It happened when we held him and fed him. Watched him breathe in and out. Counted his tiny fingers and toes and responded to his cries and baby talk.

He was part of the family now, and we were at least ready enough.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1968

For the Children, from G. MacD.

gmd_family_1876_mid

George and Louisa MacDonald’s 11 Children, 1876

I love the way George MacDonald does a little back-door teaching by way of this poem. I left the language as he wrote it, though the content isn’t necessarily gender specific. In the photo above, George is sitting in the center, with Louisa standing directly behind him. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Mom | Your eyes seek the camera

Four Generations Late 1944

Your eyes seek the camera
Draw me into your beauty
Your calm demeanor
and stylish dress. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Diane | Old Photos

1967 Jun Legs at the Beach Diane and Elouise

Dear Diane,

Summer 1968. How do you like your lovely tanned legs? And what about those toes? I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this picture! Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: