The Criss-Cross Day

Today was one of those days where thoughts criss-cross like strobe lights, shattering as the light falls low and hits the ground or lands high and disappears softly into the sky.

I got a call from my sister in the morning telling me she is trying to get pregnant. With a man who a few months ago was threatening to kill her. With a man who raised his hand to my son because he refused to get him another beer. I worry about a little baby in that situation. It is wrong of me, I know, because it is not up to me to decide, but I wish with all my heart that it won’t happen.

My sister’s news unnerved me quite a lot. I am still getting used to her being reconciled with her abusive husband. I am still treading water around them, frightened to put my feet on land.

I have been dreading Christmas because I know there will be some kind of blow up. I am weary of conflict. It is the kind of tiredness that leaves me looking at things from oblique angles.

I called my parents who lately have the habit of cornering me into awkward silences. I was worried they would think I was trying to gossip but they were very receptive. They too, were not ready for a baby. It was a solidarity of sorts. 

Sometimes I like to think that I am not the only one slipping and sliding on shiny floors. The park holds the answer. The water ripples like thought. The trees quiver in the wind like an artist’s model shaking from holding a pose for too long.

A man walks in heavy boots. If he opened his mouth he would bellow. A woman grins, her cheeks red plums as she laughs at a little dog chasing butterflies. A ranger swaggers with a clipboard, drinking in his importance: he will fine anyone whose dog is not on a leash.

A Chinese woman shouts into a mobile phone. She has a heavy accent but her meaning is clear – Not good enough. Not good enough!

Two teenagers snuggle on a bench at odd angles as if their bodies don’t fit. I realise that getting used to one another is an art.

Then I see her. She appears to be rising from the water. A little girl, maybe three or four years old, stands right on the point facing the bay. She is wearing a pale pink leotard and tights and enormous angel wings. If I was much further away and couldn’t see she was actually a little girl, I would assume she had descended from the heavens.

People pass and stop. Struck by her wings, her celestial pose. It is like seeing the elements of a dream come to life.

Her mother calls and she bows to the water, just once, and runs off; the enormous wings flapping in the breeze.

My thoughts may have criss-crossed and fallen once, twice, but now they soar, carried to the skies on angel’s wings.

24 thoughts on “The Criss-Cross Day

  1. i am off to the doctor today.. a large portion of the reason for my visit,, is i cannot bring myself to just go outside.. even in my own yard..

    i work,, i run the necessary errands,, but it is panic time when i realize the hummingbird feeders are empty and i need to make a special trip outside just to do it…

    i want o be able to be like you selma,, go out and observe people and make up stories about someone other than myself…

    this was a journey for me a journey i so want to take in a less than virtual sense if at all possible…. thank you for reminding me…….


  2. I can only imagine how horrified you must feel at the prospect of your sister actually bringing a baby into her farce of a marriage. I also hope it doesn’t happen, not because I wish unhappiness on Millie but I just wouldn’t want to see an innocent child put into that kind of danger. May the angels watch over her and you dear Selma.


  3. Did you say … are there any other children?

    Because, if not, and he’s abusive to the baby, THAT might cause your sister to see him for the kind of person he is, and take the appropriate action more than anything he’s done so far will.

    I used to know someone like that … she’d put up with anything from her husband, until, one day, he threatened her little son. She called the cops and had him arrested … something she should have done years ago, IMO.


  4. Selma how typical of you to find a happy ending.

    This is what I think. Yes, perhaps we shouldn’t judge people BUT then what? We’ll all just walk around with blinders and people will be doing atrocious things? No, I don’t buy it. I say we have an obligation to humanity to speak our minds. Why have one otherwise? maybe this is why it has all gone wrong. Quiet to keep the piece- a silly concept IMHO. And it seems with family we are all worse and allow the most unacceptable things. There are those of us who are pretty sane and yet babies nearly drove us to the brink- imagine the crazies? No way, they shouldn’t have kids.

    Paisley, I am so sorry you must live with such anxiety. I hope that the doctor trip sets you free.


  5. Selma…I cannot imagine what the life of that baby would be like with that sorry excuse of a human being for a father. There will be no sudden realizations by your sister, even if that SOB kills the baby in a fit of rage. She will only blame herself and slip farther into that world she had created.

    Your post, while touching on a very sad subject, is still beautiful and your descriptions are a delight. I love how you showed the trembling of the leaves as a model holding a pose. Lovely.

    And the angel? What makes you think she didn’t descend from the heavens…? Ah, such gifts you found. Thank you for sharing them.


  6. Not to be mean but I hope that she won’t be able to conceive until she has her life in order! I definitely agree with travelrat. It might take something like that to finally make her leave him. Your angel was beautiful – and maybe you really did see her!


  7. Beautiful, redemption in a single moving image. Your writing is so balanced and calm with a subtle intelligence and grace that is in the prose as well as well as in the content. There are so many wonderful touches in this piece, each paragraph seems built around or to emanate from one glorious sentence or image. “The water ripples like thought.” “..getting used to one another is an art” “..drinking in his importance” All the subtle things it is easy to miss in bloggo writing which indicate that you are writer of great composure, experience and skill.


  8. Having been in the middle of this sort of family conflict I think the best advice I can give is to accept that there’s conflict. I used to think I had to come up with a solution for stuff like this but now I just accept that I’m in the middle of it and that the best thing to do is not to get too worked up. That’s a lot easier said than done when people around you are yelling and hostile, but those moments of high drama usually aren’t too frequent.


  9. Daily I’m struck by the enormity of the responsibility of bringing a child into this world. Every time I read about certain teenage/immature celebrities getting pregnant and trying to slot this baby into their celebrity life I feel a pang for that child. Or women addicted to drugs or alcohol, or other issues like your sister’s. I know it’s judgemental of me too. I don’t think there’s anything that can substitute for being in a strong relationship, being healthy, and being mature enough to feel that you have your head in exactly the right place for having a baby.


  10. Hi Selma,
    I was watching a programme with my sister on TV yesterday which showed a new mother successfully giving caesarian section birth to quintuplets (4 girls and a boy).
    I commented to sis that EVERY child born into this world is naive and innocent, they ARE Angels. What we then do is bombard them with a diet of death, horror and destruction through the daily news, computer games and violent fiction rather than lead them to true beauty by sharing the wonders of nature with them. Hope is being minimalised by marketing and wanton greed, its people who stand up who make the difference, that would be you.
    I feel sorry for your sister and her partner who has probably been corrupted by a combination of negative culture and upbringing, that doesn’t excuse it though!
    Good luck with it all and good luck to Paisley as well. Maybe a dose of Kayt’s “Icicle Valley” might be helpful?


  11. Beautiful writing of course. In fact this is one of your gems IMO. Gorgeous imagery “…one of those days where thoughts criss-cross like strobe lights, shattering as the light falls…” and profound insight “I realise that getting used to one another is an art.” The whole piece is an unfolding evolving insight, but the above realization is incredible, and so beautifully put. I think this is very true, and it is something that will accompany me for a long time to come. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Having to be an observer while these next chapters unfold in your family is a weight unlike any other. Even when we step up and speak our minds (Lauri points out well the importance of speaking out) ultimately the only behaviors we control are our own. My heart goes out to all of you.


  12. This is just so sad Selma. Can I get this out of my system: I’d like to give your sister a good shake and how!!! There….wow, I don’t even know her personally and she makes me soooooo mad! 😦

    A new baby (or even the expectation of one) should be a time to rejoice and be thankful. Certainly not so with your sister. It is all well and good to say, just ignore how she is living but I can see how impossible that would be, with that kind of news added to your already overloaded plate!!!

    I feel for you dear Selma. I wish things were easier all around and I do hope that a bright sunny stretch of days is on it’s way to you. You deserve good things and lots of them, not more worries and sadness to contemplate.

    Big hug, G


  13. Such profound comments today.

    Not much I can add. I think as I was reading all of this — the little voice came on and said “You can’t change them.” I was at once reminded of how I tried to get a friend to see his many flaws and how she married him. With distance, I realize the pathology is as much hers and it is his. The delusions evident. But she is not family. Family would be harder.

    But a child, wow, that throws a wrench into the mix… they are little angels standing by the water.


  14. PAISLEY – I am sorry to hear that, hon. I do understand what anxiety can do. It can be terribly debilitating. You are doing the right thing going to the doctor because if you become able to cope with being outside, as a writer, you will find so much material just by taking a walk. I am stunned every time I go for a walk – there are so many stories out there. You know that it goes without saying that if I can help in any way, I will. Take care of yourself. XXXXX

    ROMANY – I will admit that I really am horrified about it. A child would make things so much more stressful. It would probably only be a matter of time until either I or my Mum ended up looking after the baby. I am praying it won’t happen.

    TRAVELRAT – there aren’t any other children, thank goodness. I am sorry to hear you knew someone who went through that. It must have been so stressful. Things like this are so upsetting.

    LAURI – I completely agree with you. It is so important to speak out, but for some reason it is so hard when it comes to family. I must sit down and have a serious talk with my sister. I think in her heart she knows the marriage will fail and is looking for something, anything to cement the relationship. I don’t think she has any idea how damaging it would be for a child to be born into such conflict. Looks like it’s up to me to fill her in.

    KAREN – I fear that too, that realisations will be few and far between. It never rains but it pours with my sister. I am praying to as many gods as I can think of that she sees sense. I am so glad you enjoyed my little observations. That means a lot to me!

    TBALL – you’re not being mean at all, you’re just being sensible. I hope that too. That little girl might have indeed been a real angel. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were true?

    PAUL – awww, hon. That is a major compliment coming from you. I am absolutely delighted. Thank you!

    RICHARD – that is excellent advice. Acceptance is half the battle. I am so sorry you have had to go through something like this too. It is not much fun. You always come up with such good points.

    DAOINE – I don’t think it’s being judgemental at all. As Lauri pointed out, it’s difficult enough raising children under normal circumstances. I don’t think either my sister or her husband are of sound enough mind to care for a baby properly. Let’s hope it just doesn’t happen. Hope you are feeling well, by the way.

    CHRIS – it’s true, they are all little angels, but good parents can protect children from all the evils out there. Thanks for your very kind wishes.

    KAYT – you are so kind to me. I thought when I saw those teenagers together, not knowing where to put their limbs and generally just looking awkward that it would take them a while to get used to one another. Thank you for your incredible level concern. I really appreciate it.

    GERALDINE – I would definitely join you in that good shake. I just hope, hope, hope she sees sense. You are just such a lovely and caring person and I really appreciate everything you have said. Hugs to you too!

    NAT – a child. I know. I feel so responsible for that little life already. Changes things entirely. Maybe it just won’t happen. I live in hope….


  15. PS: I thought after I wrote my comment that perhaps I went a bit too far. I’m glad you understand Selma. I wish your sister no harm or anything worse coming her way. I just wish she would wake up and face reality before it’s too late. Most of all, I wish she would come to realise how incredibly lucky she is to have a caring and concerned family who is still trying to help.

    I wish I had a sister like you!!! You are a gem. 🙂

    Hugs again, G


  16. Hi Selma,
    Not just good parents but also caring and supportive family are critical (like you).
    When I was in my late teens my father hit my mother. I chased him up the road and threatened to kill him if it ever happened again. He ‘shot’ through and there was no contact whatsoever for 28 years, no maintenance, nothing.
    I ended up acting as a male role model for my younger sister (4 years) and brother (7 years) and mum at this stage was also suffering from a debilitating bone disease so I was strapping her into a leather and steel torso brace every morning.

    The only thing that ‘got us through’ was the support of my maternal Grandparents and my mum’s sister (Mignon) and her husband (Alwin).

    And we all have wonderful children (significant bias here, but true). Thats why you and your mum are so important if your ‘fear’ is realised. In this case babies ‘RULE’.


  17. Ooops! A writer I am supposed to be and yet ‘piece’???? Sorry.

    I should also apologise a bit for my rant. My husband is a headmaster and you really get to see the terrible parents come out of the wood work- we’ve both reached a critical point. I’ve drifted to a radical position regarding reproduction; let’s leave the details only to say that the Chinese government and I could easily find common ground.


  18. GERALDINE – no need to apologise at all. You could never go too far. I feel like shaking her all the time. She lives in a fantasy world. I really do appreciate your concern. You are a true friend!

    CHRIS – I had no idea you had gone through so much. I really do admire you. I’m not sure if I could have coped. How hard it must have been for you. And I agree 100% – the support of family is critical. Take care.


  19. LAURI – absolutely no need to apologise. All rants are welcome here. I used to teach in the public system too, so I know what you’re saying. Some people really shouldn’t be parents. It sounds harsh to say it, but that’s the way it is. You would not believe the cases of neglect I have witnessed. The emotional neglect is the worst. I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered from seeing some of it. I know, Lauri, that your heart is always in the right place. I value every one of your comments!

    MELEAH – she might as well have announced the end of the world as we know it. It would have the same effect. I think I am still in shock.

    Christmas changes as the kids get older, doesn’t it? Although my son is majorly excited about putting up the tree, so that is something to look forward to. I’m sure we’ll both still enjoy it!


  20. PS: I also meant to say something to Paisley re: her isolation issues. I hope you find the right help to overcome this (not drugs from the Dr.) I think some of them have a tendency to use chemicals as a cure-all.I am NOT saying yours would though.

    My first mother-in-law suffered with the same problem for years. She finally got back out and about by giving herself small challenges and ALWAYS having something to hang onto such as a shopping cart, friend’s arm etc….sounds simple but it worked. She was finally able to get back out by herself but it took months to turn the corner. Hope this helps a bit. It’s a common problem but one that many people are able to overcome. It might just take more time and patience than you had hoped. Hugs, G


  21. GERALDINE – how kind you are. It is such a common problem these days. Some doctors are marvelous about treating it, others just hand you a prescription and nothing more. I know Paisley means as much to you as she does to me, so I am hoping she will find a treatment that really helps. Thanks for caring!


  22. I am so praying that this “pregnancy” will be a mis-diagnosis, that there’s no “baby on the way”. If there IS, it may be that this will change the course of your dear sis’s life. I certainly hope so. As a commenter here posted, perhaps she will then be able to summon enough courage, to leave for good.And like another commenter posted, I too, wish I had you as an extra sister! You rock!
    The writing here is some of the very finest you’ve ever done–I love the trembling leaves(like the artist’s model), and “getting used to one another is an art”. I had a moment the other day, observing an elderly couple while I was seated on a plane, that brought tears to my eyes–it was the opposite of what you saw with the teenagers–it was a sweet “anticipation” of each others’ moves, wants. His gentle touch at the base of her back, and inward turn, because he knew precisely how she’d edge out, and down the aisle.It was so sweet. They must’ve been together for 50+ years….


  23. LISA – your description of the elderly couple is just lovely. There is a poetry in that kind of familiarity. There are so many amazing stories out there. I’m hoping that my sister’s story ends up without children – for the sake of everyone’s mental health.


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