It’s Fartbuster week here on Baddest Mother Ever, folks! Today’s story is about the weekend after I found out my husband had a pregnant girlfriend. I fled to the coast to get a hug from my friend, Brantley. We’ve been friends since 1985. He took me to the SCAD Sidewalk Chalk festival for diversion and to meet his new love, Luis. That was 11 years ago and they’re still together. I’m on marriage #3, but those two crazy kids still are not allowed to get married because they might threaten the sanctity of marriage…but anywho, back to my husband and his pregnant girlfriend, AHEM.
People knew that Fartbuster and I were separated, but Brantley was the first person who heard the real reason, face to face. Telling him the truth was me taking the first step back into my own life. As we were wandering around the festival–each artist is given a square of sidewalk, a few sticks of chalk and a couple of hours to make magic–I spotted a drawing done by a child. I wish I still had a photo of it, but that has been lost in the shuffle. The sidewalk square was filled with red chalk background. In the foreground, two dark gray mirror image profiles faced each other, smiling. The words said, “I LOOK LIKE MYSELF!”
I can’t remember any of the winning artistry from that weekend. I can’t remember Luis’ third place drawing. But I remember that little kid’s square because it rang true with me. I look like myself. I am me. I am here. I am OK. I spoke the truth to my friend and life went on. This next few months might be painful, but I was going to make it out the other side.
The second person I told was my friend, Mike, another kindred spirit from that magical summer of 1985. After we talked and sang some Trisha Yearwood songs, I said, “I feel like a new woman!” He chuckled and said, “Nooooo, honey, you seem like your old self again. I’ve missed you.” He was right. I had spent 10 uncomfortable years auditioning for the role of wife. Trying to measure up to whatever it was Fartbuster judged lacking in me. Once I stepped aside from that, I found space for myself again. I looked like myself.
The Sidewalk Chalk Festival is this weekend in Savannah. I’m taking my little girl to meet Luis because I think they are kindred spirits. My daughter, who never could have been born if I hadn’t lived that broken-hearted life a decade ago. She’s here now and she looks like me, and she looks like her father, and she looks like herself.
This story of the sidewalk chalk came back to me tonight when my friend, Katie, shared a poem by Derek Walcott:
Love After Love
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Thank you to Katie, to Brantley, to Mike, to Luis, to Derek Walcott, to the little girl who drew on the sidewalk. Even a little to Fartbuster for finally hurting me enough to get me to let go. I am so glad to be this person, in this place, on this day. I am grateful to be able to say, “I look like myself.”