Friday, May 22, 2009

Chasing peacocks

(Pre-script: To get your money's worth out of this post, you must fully engage in it. In order to so, I recommend strapping on your running shoes before reading, regardless of whatever else you are wearing, and also, turn on the song, "Blackbird," #15 on the playlist below, before you resume reading. I'll wait...) (...still waiting...)

When your baby sister dies and you are 3 years old, you spend a lot of your childhood in the cemetery. I have always loved the cemetery where my sister's body was buried. There are large over shadowing old trees, statues, fountains, old graves, and peacocks who strut around. My siblings and cousins and I used to chase the peacocks in an attempt to pluck a tail feather. My cousin Kelly used to barely pinch my hand and say, "It doesn't hurt them, it just feels like this." Kelly was 6 years older than me, so I believed her, and never once thought to question how she understood the nerve endings of a peacock; instead I just passed along the knowledge she had given to me to anyone who would listen. Not a lot of people listened to me, probably because I had a tendency to just mouth the words I meant to say, and not actually say them, after my sister died. We never gave up chasing the peacocks, even though we never got a feather. As long as we could see and chase the peacock, there was a chance that we would one day catch a feather, a large gaudy gloriously colorful feather. And then we would have it to hold and to keep, for we would have acquired it, ta da, and who's to tell you what to do with the peacock feathers you acquire over a childhood, no one can, although certain grown ups will tell you to wash your hands, scrub them good with soap and hot water, there are scummy feather germs that could affect you somehow. Too late to protect you from the emotional germs that had already affected you, that had brought you to this makeshift garden where the peacock's roam, in the first place. But I never caught a feather, I just always chased, chased, and chased, red faced and puffing hard, even in my once neat and unscuffed Mary Janes and ribbon tied dresses.

Fast forward a couple decades to a time when I had 2 babies of my own. I lived less than half a mile away from the cemetery, "my" cemetery, and when I got restless, I would pack those babies in the double stroller and jog to the cemetery. Right near my sister's plot there is a very steep hill that climbs for a quarter of a mile. I would push that double stroller up that hill, and down, up that hill, and down, 10 times in a row. I would also point out statues of Jesus, and the disciples, and fountains, and peacocks, and hens, and roosters who roamed the grounds. On the top of that hill, we could look down and see our little house in the distance, half a mile away. I would tell them stories, and they would make requests; "Take us to the fountain over there" "Show us Jesus over there" "Show us Mary kneeling at Jesus' feet." or sometimes, Let's go looking for peacocks" so we would, all together, the babies securely strapped in their seats with snacks and sippy cups, and me, secure in my running shoes, my steady feet the power behind the pursuit of the hope of a feather. I have yet to obtain one.

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