Carmen Rempel is here with us today, from Kelowna, British Columbia.
Hi, Carmen, and welcome to Buddy Breathing. By the way, I’m enjoying your BLOG But I’m Brave so much. You have a way of tackling tough topics with authenticity and humour. I know you as a compelling public speaker, and I’m delighted to get to know you as a writer.
As you know we’ve been having a daily party for April – National Poetry Month, and I’m hosting a creative a day for a conversation based upon a handful of questions. And then most people share a poem, either one they wrote, or one that wrote them, or one that is meaningful to them. Let’s get started!
Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?
Carmen: I’ve heard about this “more time” people have been talking about. I’m an adoptive mom of two teenage girls (one with an anxiety disorder and one with an intellectual disability) who are now doing school at home online, while I’m trying to work at home online, so I have less time than ever! I’ve been waking up earlier so that I have a few hours in the morning to read and write before the rest of the house gets up.
Lesley-Anne: What is the core factor that brings vitality and life to you?
Carmen: Nothing breathes life into me more than being totally alone in the backcountry. There is a tension of total peace, and constant anxiety as I hike alone with bear spray in hand, hours away from the next human being, with nothing but the Divine Presence and my own thoughts.
Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Carmen: We got a roommate! A friend found herself needing someplace to stay because her roommate was exposed to Covid. We are so grateful to have her staying with us for the next two weeks!
You have a poem with a story for us today, and so I’ll just pass it over to you to introduce us and carry on. Thanks again for dropping by. It makes me long for the days when we will be back sitting across a table sharing a coffee, or a pint, and unpacking something light and frivilous, yeah, right!
Until then, may your words be unleashed and good health be sustained,
When Your Hands Were Little
Background of Poem:
We were going over her old report cards together, snuggled up on the couch, tea waiting to offer comfort sitting wisely beside us. She had never seen them before, and they were from the time well before I knew her, so there was discoveries to be had for both of us. We read about her teacher being proud of her for this and that. I praised her for being called a friendly and helpful kid in kindergarten. I didn’t read that part that said she was well below grade level. I skipped over the extra note written by the teacher asking the parent to make sure she came to school more often because they couldn’t assess her properly because she had missed so much school. I left out the note from the principal asking to meet. Instead I read the bit about how the teacher said she was learning to share well with others. But then she pointed to the box at the top of the page that said “34.5”, and asked what it meant.
“That’s how many absences you had in between March and June in grade 2.” I said.
There was along pause and I watched the wave of understanding roll over her. Then I watched as the wave of painful memories came next. By the time the third wave, the wave of attached emotions, came crashing in, she shoved the papers aside and laid her head in my lap and began to cry quietly.
I took her hand into mine, and we waited out the waves together.
After a while she started playing with my hand, fiddling with my ring, feeling the sandpaper of my dry skin. She held her hand up, stretched out against mine. “Your hands are so small!” She giggled. Her 12 year old hands match her tall lanky body, and are significantly bigger than mine.
They always have been. In our entire relationship her hands have always been bigger than mine.
I brought my other hand up, capturing her one hand between two of mine, and said “They may be small, but they are capable of taking care of you.”
Her smile turned sad. “I know.” she said.
As an adoptive mom of an older kid I have this guilt companion with me all the time. I’m her mom. Its my job to care for and protect my kid. And she had been going through hell without me. I know its irrational, I know its misplaced, but in my heart I carry a deep regret that I didn’t get to her sooner. This feeling is what inspired the following poem. There is probably some therapist somewhere who would love to name this feeling I experience, but I haven’t met them yet. So this is what I have instead.
If you want to take a peek into the deepest parts of my heart; here you go.
Please handle with care.
When your hands were little I'm sorry I wasn't there I'm sorry that you were alone I'm sorry I couldn't be there when your hands were little. Littler than mine. I'm sorry I didn't know you then. I'm sorry that you were scared I'm sorry I couldn't hold you when your hands were little Littler than mine. I'm sorry I wasn't there to protect you I'm sorry that you were hurt I'm sorry I couldn't soothe you when your hands were little Littler than mine I'm sorry I wasn't there to feed you I'm sorry that you were hungry I'm sorry I couldn't pack your lunch when your hands were little Littler than mine I'm sorry that I missed so much I'm sorry that you had a whole life before me I'm sorry I couldn't get to you sooner, while your hands were still little Littler than mine.