Boundaries in Conflict
Mrs. Davis



I am colored…light blue and faded into pink; a sunset seems to grow from the skyline. I am this mystery, a mix of hues. Emotions squeezed from an ominous, grey-black cloud, I remember the day I became the oak tree struck by lightning. I wanted a light blue, cloudless sky overhead.

I was not Michele, pretty and pink and “like the Lord;” I was now tough, charred, and angry. Age 25, 3 teenagers nested in my branches. Knots gnarled and branches wanted to remain winter: brittle and lifeless. I fought to keep cold the ground of my life. But spring came and green grew. I learned to be their mother without replacing their mom; I learned to be a mentor without becoming a nag. At times I felt a termite, decaying the tree, my sense of self, to the core; but through it all I remain myself: strong for the battle. Wood can fight fire when wet with tears.

I scream with anger—3 children not my own, now mine to raise.
I pound the soil wanting answers—my own child dead.
I search the sky for signs of life.
Black soars and circles-----not the life I wanted to appear.
I sing to forget.
I smile to breathe in happiness.

…It works and my grey gloom lifts; fog blankets the earth and light blue again colors me.

*

Three teens sitting on the Cameron’s couch, shocked, mouths opened as we explained that Social Services had called and explained that due to “your father’s drinking and neglect of the children, we are putting your siblings in foster care.” My husband’s face drained of color. We made phone calls: aunts in Michigan, grandma in Arkansas and one in Arizona, uncle in Colorado, and even wealthy family friends in South Dakota. No luck and certainly no use.

“Sorry, this is a mess your parents created.”
“This is terrible news, I’m sure, Jeremy, but it is truly out of your hands.”
“The kids will be fine and they know where they can find all of us.”

These were not the sentences we thought we’d hear. Smiling I say to my husband of just a year and 2 months, “Well, I’m always up for an adventure.”

*

“God won’t give you more than you can handle,” my Catholic grandma would say to me every time I saw her. I’ve had to repeat this, day in and day out at times. I don’t want to “handle” anymore. I’m colored blue as ink in my journal. Pen stains it and I live for its drawings. Letters create the words I live by; the alpha and omega and the budding spring---they teach me. Summer’s schnook wind whispers solace, fall brings fireworks, and my winter builds snowmen in scarves.



My parents trusted me. They still do. They really shouldn’t have at times.

I had always shown my maturity early: figuring out routes from Rapid City, SD to Baton Rouge, LA; I was my dad’s co-pilot as early as 7. I was an excellent student: responsible, hardworking, driven. I loved being recognized for my writing, my singing, or my ability to help others. This is why I think when I entered high school; my parents had normal boundaries like: no drinking, no leaving school campus, and no sex, but that they didn’t feel that they needed to enforce these boundaries, or check up on me. Until…

Sophomore year of prom, I was nominated as Sophomore Page on the Homecoming Court. I was thrilled; a little embarrassed, but loved the honor. This contest attracted attention, attention particularly by upperclassmen boys. Phone calls, notes dropped off at my locker, and a prom date that was a senior. I didn’t know this boy, but his best friend was my dad’s paralegal’s son and we loved Dan Thompson. What could go wrong?
Ten minutes into prom, we danced and I felt a princess in light blue satin, French-twisted hair, and peals. My heart-shaped neckline was low, but not too revealing. I felt beautiful.

“Ready to go?” Jamie asked with a smirk.
“Ready to go? Where are we going?”
“To our cabin. Guess I shoulda’ told you. You have change of clothes, right?”

I did…for after prom. This wasn’t the deal! My parents will kill me! My sense of boundaries kicked in and I was scared, for sure. But my other sense of wanting to belong was greater. I changed and off into the Black Hills we went, 10-car caravan strong.

A scene from Porky’s was soon created: couples made out freely, kegs flowed beer on every floor of the 3-story cabin home, and seniors chugged pails of beer like the liquid just couldn’t quench their thirst. Chants could be heard throughout the house.

Jamie’s hands began to wander as his drunken stupor took effect. I too, wandered, but quickly out of the house. I realized the raucous party could “hoot and holler” all night without alarm from the local police because the dark night and her thick evergreens surrounded the illegal activities within.

I walked along the road; a silver moon provided some light, but I was still scared. I didn’t feel beautiful anymore. To this day, I still don’t know if I would’ve had a cell phone, if I would have called home or not. Would I have just stayed for fear of embarrassment?

I found another cabin: loud music thumping inside. Four juniors were standing outside; one was my dance captain’s boyfriend. We chatted and soon they asked if I wanted to go for a drive in the one boy’s dad’s Mercedes. Again my boundaries kicked in and again I was scared, for sure. But sadly, the belonging boundary answered in a quiet “Sure.” Two of the boys grabbed their dates and two couples (including me) sat in the back. This time it wasn’t Jamie’s hands that roamed, but a new boy. I cried quietly as be groped. Why didn’t I yell out? Why didn’t I scream? Luckily we passed a car going “a little too slow. Think he’s onto us,” the driver said and we headed back to the cabin.

I bolted out of the car and ran into the dark night with her evergreens to hide me. I ran and ran and cried, stopping eventually at the bottom of a steep hill, just below my prom date’s cabin. The music still pumped and played, but I didn’t hear the chants. Clawed my way up to the basement’s sliding glass door, I slid it open quietly. Jamie sat in the dark, arms folded.

“Where’d ya go?! Huh? Nice date you are…I thought you’d be fun…on the Homecoming Court and all. F--- that.”

Just because I was nominated on the Homecoming Court, he thought I’d be “footloose and free”? My arms crossed feeling the dirt on my hands and under my pretty pink-painted fingernails. My stomach knotted feeling the regret of not listening to my boundaries of right and wrong.

“Please take me home. Please?”
“Sure. What else do I have to do?”

I folded my satin dress into the trunk of his car. I’m so stupid. I am so stupid.

“You did look really great tonight. I’m sorry, I screwed this all up.”
“It’s ok” I said. I wanted to believe that it was. Driving down the wooded 2-lane, we were crossing Lake Pactola’s Dam when I saw my dad’s car coming towards us. “That’s my dad!” I yelled as the two cars approached.
“Duck down!” Jamie pushed my head into the red vinyl seats. It really wasn’t ok.

We drove in silence and I fought back tears. My mom knew when I walked in that I knew I’d broken their trust. I cried. She held me as we stood in the doorway. My dad flew into the driveway, jumped out without shutting off the car or closing the door. Pushing in, he too grabbed me, “Are you ok? Mom and I were so worried.”
“I know, I know. I’m so sorry.” More tears…I felt the ugliest I had ever been.

My parents still trusted me after that, blaming Jamie more than me. They shouldn’t have trusted me, and yet they did. It’s strange how maturity can digress for awhile. I’ve often wished to be my seven-year old self, holding a map with clear directions and destinations; my dad’s co-pilot.



Seven years old and I was persistent: “Please mom. I’ll be careful, I promise. Chaser will be good. He always listens to me. Pleeeeease!”
Same plea almost every day that spring. “A schnook wind again,” my dad would say on our bike ride. “Warm winds could bring rains,” he’d continue.

“Well then we better get home so I can walk Chaser, Daddy.”
“Not yet, ‘noopy. You’ll get your chance when you’re a little bigger.”

I blushed from the silly nickname…’noopy! He called me that because I was always a little snoop…like Snoopy, curious and carefree. “I’ll be bigger, Daddy in just a week! I’ll be 8 and that’s big enough, isn’t it?”

My eighth birthday came: pink Barbie doll cake, white helium balloons tied to the front railing, frilly-dressed friends sitting alongside me at our kitchen table, and my dog on the floor right next to me licking the pink frosting off my fingertips. The party ended, friends left, and then my question, “Mom, may I please take Chaser on a walk?”

“Change out of your dress and I guess it would be ok. But, Michele, you are only allowed to go to the end of the block and back.”
“Yipeeeeee!” I yelled racing up the stairs; Chaser on my heels wondering what wonderful game we were playing.

Out the door we went. Head held high commanding Chaser to “stay close” in my new “big girl” 8-year old voice. Two houses past my own and we turned to cross the corner. My heart raced knowing this was such a privilege…and that I was going further than I should. I stopped “kitty-corner” from house and looked back. I was nervous; my heart pounded like the music from the teenager’s cars down the block and I looked down at my white Keds with pink laces. Tha’ thump, tha’ thump, tha’ thump. My heart pounded, but not out of fear; I felt fearless. It was pounding because I wanted to go further. I was big now, so why couldn’t I keep going? Chaser, my cute little cocker spaniel looked up at me with his droopy brown eyes and long, blonde curly ears.

What’s the matter? He seemed to say between pants, pink tongue hanging out.
“Let’s go, boy.” Head back up, Keds one step in front of the other. Now my rhythmic steps sounded like the teenagers’ music. I was confident.
A squirrel jumped off a low tree limb and ran into the street just in front of us. Chaser lunged forward, pulling the leash out of my hand…just in time for a dump truck to clip one of Chaser’s back legs. Yelping, I screamed and ran into the street. Chaser’s yelps grew louder and emitted pain. I tried to calm him, my tears streaming. “It’s ok boy. You’ll be ok…you will, I promise.” I turned and sprinted.

My dad raced back towards where Chaser was hit; we rounded the corner and saw him limping and whimpering towards us. My dad swooped him up and held him tightly as we ran to our car. An hour later, a vet’s visit done, Chaser was bandaged, his leg in a cast. He had broken his leg and I had broken the rules.


Green, darker than the first leaves sprouting out of limbs,
yellowed spots hardened, crisp and crinkled, I am surrounded.
Shaking in the wind, rattling like the poisonous snake’s tail hiking in tall grasses
trying to soak up the last of summer’s sun, I hike unaware.
Dog pants, tail wags whether an hour run or a whole day; he never tires unlike my legs.
Panting, humming, taking in nature, a Monarch flitters by and lands on a pink
yarrow. I pause to capture the image; the
digital image remains as the butterfly takes flight.
This solace fills my soul;
I am absorbed in this hike
forgetting the city, to-lists, and worries.
Nature fuels me.

**
…For now, my skies have a hint of light blue—a boundary that holds me together.