Being reminded of who you are.

I once had to remind my Mom of how strong she was.

I’m not sure what was going on – either Dad had separated from her, moving in with his 80 year old Mom, or she had cancer. It all blurred together that year, one bad thing fading into another.

She was alone, and frightened. She had me, but I was 24, still living at home. I was in college, working part time. It wasn’t enough to support us, and she didn’t want me to quit college. She never got to go and it was important to her that I finish. Dad was sending some money, but it wasn’t enough. She had to get a job.

She set her sights low. She thought about going to work in a gas station. It was simple – no experience necessary. I didn’t like the idea because it would be dangerous – there was a risk of her being robbed. I also knew that she could do better. She’d managed a call center, many years before, when I was in kindergarten.

She’d forgotten about that – and she’d forgotten about even earlier than that.

When she first came to America, she came to stay with a pen pal. The pen pal wasn’t much of a pal – the situation got worse very fast, and she couldn’t stay with her. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding of what was expected. Perhaps the person was just a jerk.

But Mom didn’t go back home to England. She stayed here, found a job, found an apartment. She took care of herself and then met the person she was to marry.

And she did it all by herself.

She’d forgotten how strong she was, way back then, in her 20s. Surely she was even stronger now in her 50s. She could handle it. She’d done so much more since then – run a house by herself for one. My Dad wasn’t interested in cooking or cleaning or repairs or yardwork. She’d been the president of the PTA. She ran my Girl Scout troop after the leader quit at the first meeting. She was always filling in where others dropped the ball and doing a great job. She had no training and no experience, but she knew when something had to be done that someone had to do it, so she did.

I take after her a lot, now that I think about it.

We forget ourselves. We forget how strong we are. So when something unexpected and hard comes up, we think it is the first time we’ve climbed that mountain. We’ve climbed Everest. It was years ago, but we climbed it – when we handled our parent’s estate, or stood up to a bully, or left an abusive boyfriend or husband, or gotten a PhD, or any number of things. Life is full of mountains. It is just that when we get into the long flat stretches that we forget.

Remember your mountains, and they will help you get over this one.

Poem – taking my leave

It is a little like death,
this leaving.
I’m telling all my favorite patrons
and they say
“It was nice to know you “
as if I’ve said
I’m dying,
or moving to Minnesota.

They ask
“Is it closer to your home?”
“Is it a promotion?”
“Is it something you want?”

Some don’t catch the use
of the
I’m being transferred.
It is a subtle difference,
but a difference
none the less.

They need someone
who is experienced
at this new-to-me
tiny branch,
who knows
the rules and can stand
on her own.
Someone who is strong.
It is a complement
that they have such faith
in me.

But it is still hard,
after 14 years.
I grew this place.
I grew in this place.
I decided where everything went.
I created the flow.
I shaped it.
It shaped me.

I take my leave of this place.
This is the last time
I’ll walk in the park.
The last time
I’ll get the bookdrop.

I’ll be back, sure,
to fill in,
to catch up on hours
so I can get the weekend off.
I’ll teach a bead class.

But it is like
having a house
and planting a garden.
When you move,
someone else tends the plants
– or not.
Someone else does the repairs
to the bathroom tile
– or not.

It is a letting-go,
this leave taking.

It is a bit like death,
and being reborn.

Aliens built my birdbath – not.

To say that aliens built the ancient structures on our planet is insulting to ancient people. Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu – these are all amazing structures. And they were all built and designed by people.

Here’s the catch. Why don’t we have collective memories of these things? Why wasn’t the knowledge of how these stones were transported over long distances without the benefit of modern machinery? This question is one of the “proofs” of why these structures can’t have been built by humans.

But then again, how much collective knowledge do we have? Just look at your own family history. How many of us can name or tell anything about our great-great grandparents? Or great-great-great grandparents? Yet they most certainly existed, and many more back. We know as far back as three generations at most, usually. We didn’t come out of nothing. We didn’t just happen to be. If we don’t even know our personal history, how can we hope to remember our collective history?

I’m not saying that aliens haven’t visited Earth. To me, that seems entirely reasonable. If God can put sentient life here, there’s no reason God wouldn’t have put the same elsewhere. There’s no reason that life couldn’t have discovered a way to travel to other planets. I have no problem with that idea.

But I say that to decide that aliens invented, created, or built the amazing structures from our past is to insult our ancestors. I say there is no proof that it has happened, and only cancels out further questions. When you say that aliens are responsible for these amazing structures, you stop wondering how they could have been made, and you stop learning. If we can figure out how the stones in Stonehenge or the moai on Easter Island were moved from the quarry to their resting sites without modern pneumatic machinery, we’d learn a lot about how to build in energy-efficient ways. This could help out developing countries that don’t have such technology but have a need for large structures for housing. We could learn to build in less expensive ways.

Look at the Romans. They figured out the secret of concrete and of indoor plumbing – hot and cold, long before anybody else did. When they retreated from Britain, they took their knowledge with them. They weren’t aliens. They were just really organized, and knew a good thing when they saw it. They were really good at taking technology from other cultures and adopting it as their own and improving upon it. Nobody says the Coliseum was built by aliens, and it rivals any ancient marvel.

So let’s stop thinking that aliens built anything. Let’s start thinking for a change.