Friday, August 10, 2012

Graveyards and My Long Dead Past

I buried my past.

The summer after my freshman year of college I returned to my hometown because my mother was in the hospital, but that was my final summer in the town where I grew up. Six months later I came back again for my father's funeral. After that there were a few scattered  Christmases. Some hurried stops on summer vacations.

No one recognizes me now. The raven waist-length tresses and apple cheeks are gone. Both my maiden name and the married name that some might have heard of are now erased. I call myself by my maternal grandmother's maiden name, and it would take a certain amount of explaining to make people understand why I required this self-made rebaptism. 

Sometimes I feel as worn and askew as the grave markers in the old town cemetary when I think of the water that's coursed beneath my personal bridge. Many of these monuments are almost 200 hundred years old, and the names they once bore have been scoured into oblivion. The town's founding father merits a shiny new tombstone, but I was disappointed to find no trace of the original stone that marked his grave.

Presumably his bones still lie beneath the earth, but the headstone feels to me like an impostor. I ask myself if I'm an impostor, too, but it's more complicated than that.

After all these years if I somehow met my past self, I would take her by the hand and lead her into the present. I barely remember you, I'd tell her. But we have some catching up to do.


Wrinkling Daily said...

I am always amazed at some of the similarities in our lives, even though I have not had the adventures and travels that you have. I was going to take my mother's maiden name when I divorced too. Taking back my maiden name didn't feel right, that person was gone. Keeping my married name would have been self destructive. In the end I settled on my maiden name, because no one understood my reasons, and I was pretty much told I had no right to the name I wanted to use. I regret it now. I still stutter when people ask me my name. It doesn't seem to fit. Glad you followed your own instincts. It is so hard to revisit the past, in memory or in "person" as you are doing. Hold lightly the hand of the young you and take her with you on this next chapter. We don't have to let go completely, do we?

This was a tender post.

Ms. Moon said...

This was a fine piece of writing, Denise.

Elizabeth said...

I think you should keep going with this, Denise and write a fuller essay. It's so beautiful --