I didn’t notice the absence of my siblings, the eight closest living relatives to me. At other times, I have. I felt the longing for people who knew me, grew up with me, had a similar life. There was a time I yearned for them to see me and acknowledge my accomplishments.
The room was full of friends. People who supported me. Listened to my words. Really, listened to me.
Imagine if that teenager had had that support when she was 13, 14, or 16. Instead of the silence that accompanied the aloneness that scraped at my young heart. I was a pariah in my own family.
“When’s the baby coming home, Ann?” My 5-year-old brother who did see me would ask. “When’s the baby coming?” He wasn’t yet trained to pick up the subtleties, of who was in or out of the fold. He’s now dead. Died of a heroin overdose when he was 29 years old. I don’t hold any notion that he would have been there Friday night if he lived. My family runs in a pack or as a lone sheep in a gully.
With a sunkeness, I’d pat his sun streaked hair. It had the look and unruliness of summer cut straw.
Every time I speak of my birth son, the baby who didn’t come home, it’s a homecoming.
I live in this body. I breathe this air. I’m here to tell you that it does happen. Sisters sometimes get pregnant by a brother and have their baby and then if they are lucky enough, they get to write a book about it that people will read and celebrate with you at a book launch.
I recently read a Facebook post from a high school classmate who read, House of Fire, and she said that it had a happy ending. She was encouraging another classmate to read it.
Think of that. Out of tragedy you can have a happy ending. You can be a happy ending.
I was very happy Friday night at my book launch. Because you were there. And, if you weren’t, you sent me good wishes. All of me was up there at the podium, and it was enough. It has always been enough.
At the podium, I thanked relatives who came. And someone asked me later if my relatives were actually there. I smiled. It would have been something to point out a brother or sister. I would have wished for that before Friday night. But on this Friday what I had was abundance. “The relatives that are here are the chosen aunts and uncles that are in the book,” I said. Except my niece. That brave niece who came. Who fortunately doesn’t have the same story line I do though she’s looked across the fence at mine and knows it to be true.
My 40th high school reunion has come and gone. Not that I attended it. My book did though. Classmates are now reading, House of Fire. I’m in awe of the support. It’s unbelievable to that young teen who had nobody.
Coming home can be a difficult journey and yet the most wonderful. It has a happy ending.
If you’d like to hear more of my voice or you weren’t able to make it to my book launch, please join me and Su Smallen on October 21st at 7pm at Hamline University.
“Su Smallen´s new poems, a lexicon of snow, sing with notes of grief, sorrow, joy and resilience, pondering that great Midwestern element. . . . I am grateful for what this talented poet brings forward: pressing with renewed trust her words onto the pages the way you step — well, through snow.” – Spencer Reece
“House of Fire is a book of naked, sharp-edged truth, a journey into and through immense darkness. Yet it is also a profound testament to our deeply human ability to heal and transform.”
– Scott Edelstein