Essays · Prose

Childless

Childless

It was just an ordinary moment by the organic bananas in Gerbes. The kind of moment of silence as you pick over the fruit and feel lost in thought about what to make for dinner and decide whether or not you have gotten everything on your list.

Do you like this cart?  I heard a young voice say.

Not noticing that I was being addressed, I continued examining the bananas.

Do you like this cart?  The little girl said again, pointing at me with her voice.

Are you talking to me?  I had noticed her at last. Yes, it’s a fine cart!  She was sitting in one of those large wheeled carts from the front of the store or maybe from her mom’s car. I really didn’t pay attention to detail.

Do you have one?  She sparkled as she spoke. I noticed her shoulder-length blond hair. She was very friendly.

No, I sure don’t. It is a nice cart, though!

Do you have children?  She suddenly queried. Taken aback at the personal inquiry, I looked for her mom. Usually mom’s a step away at a time like this. I thought she would appear to say Now. Now. Let’s not get personal.

No. I sure don’t.  Might as well be honest though I thought about making up a story about having three kids, all girls like her only older, having graduated and gotten good jobs.

Why don’t you have children?  She asked. I saw that her mom was a short distance away examining the strawberries.

I shrugged and smiled kindly, thinking that would be enough. Don’t take me back there, I thought. I recall many encounters I had had in that very grocery store from women in my English as a Second Language classes in my child-bearing years before I learned the reason why I wasn’t bearing fruit. Some women from other cultures couldn’t understand why I was childless. To many people, bearing children is the most meaningful event in their lives. For others, it is a duty. In most societies, it is expected that people will marry and have children. This is one cultural expectation of theirs that I wasn’t ready for.  I hate to say this, but my emotional reactions to these challenges only made more women in my class torment me more intensely about it. Who wouldn’t want those cuddly adorable babies cuddled up to you with unconditional love? And small kids are so cute and entertaining with their words of wisdom and unabashed honesty. How could anyone not love children? Therefore, if you are childless, you must not like children. My students obviously struggled with this. Even people in my own culture didn’t understand.

If you don’t have children, you may be seen as selfish by some regardless of national origin. Even my own mother blurted out one day that people who didn’t have kids were selfish. This statement was only meant to highlight her accomplishment of having seven kids. Still, it made an impression on me as a young girl unaware that she was never to give birth. I knew it was important to be fertile and bear children as part of social expectation along with Why aren’t you married yet? When are you going to give me a grandchild? 

These days, because I am retirement age, I am even asked by hair dressers and nail technicians if I have grandchildren. Due to my age, I obviously must have grandchildren. When I reply No, the silence can be like a knife. Some people don’t know how to relate to the childless. I feel like I have to reassure them, I have three cats, though! Or I have tons of nieces and nephews!

Didn’t you ask God for children?  The young blond girl asked in a tone that said Simple enough or Let me help you out.  She seemed very inquisitive and concerned, even offering a solution, like it is still possible for me to have kids though I’m retired.

What do you say to that? My life circumstances and belief system came together like the perfect storm in my brain. This exchange repeated itself with me just smiling and shrugging my shoulders. OK, Mom, I thought, where are you? Can you kindly take this child to the candy aisle?

Well, you know, some people can’t have kids, I finally said with another kind smile. I felt like an angel trying to placate this young one and let her down gently to the truth.

This reply seemed to work long ago for one woman a former student who just didn’t understand why she had kids and I still didn’t. We were in a different aisle in this very store, maybe the cereal and pancake mixes.

Really, she was very rude, a real bully about it. I don’t know how we got from, How are you doing so nice to see you to Why don’t you have kids? Do you hate kids?  Don’t you like children?  Her eyes were on fire, and I was stunned.

Between her breaths, I heard her possible frustration with kids, maybe even jealousy that I didn’t have kids. Did I really have to say why I didn’t have kids?

The reason for my childlessness was Diethylstilbestrol (or DES), a drug given to women between 1941 and 1971 in order to prevent problems such as bleeding during pregnancy. I was saddened to learn that the drug had been tested on young girls before it went to market. Still, it was prescribed to pregnant women. Mom felt uncomfortable being given a medication while pregnant and didn’t take it for very long, but the effects grossly deformed my reproductive organs, caused me problems with my monthly cycle, left me sterile, made me an emotional wreck due to hormone issues, and gave me four cancer scares later in life.

It’s ironic that DES, which was given to prevent miscarriages, prevented countless  births and ruined the lives of not just women but men. If I had been able to sustain fertilized eggs in my t-shaped uterus, both my male babies and female babies would have also been infertile and would have faced the same effects I did. As bad as my case was due to DES, others’ cases were far worse, including breast cancer, moderate to severe cervical squamous cell dysplasia, spontaneous abortions, preterm deliveries, ectopic pregnancies, to name a few. Due to these ramifications, I was happy my OBGYN was a DES specialist. I was well cared for.

As much as I wanted children, I chose not to go through expensive daily hormone treatments and have my cervix tied to prevent miscarriages. The process was already hard enough on my husband and me. I was also the breadwinner in the family since we depended on my income and couldn’t afford to miss work every day. I certainly didn’t want to face some of the dire consequences of DES exposure throughout a pregnancy. I also didn’t want to pass on the conditions I had suffered from to unwitting children.

Didn’t you ask God?  She asked again more pointedly. She was really concerned, having learned that God answers prayers. Her enquiries were innocent but persistent. For a five-year-old, her faith was immense. I heard her embarrassed mother say to her daugher (as she passed by us without stopping), You are silly.

Yes, of course, but…. And I shrugged again.

My brain felt like it was twisting in my skull. Back in the past, I finally tired of the rude challenges and just told the inquisitors why I was childless. I didn’t do it perfectly or with love, sorry to say, but the challenges stopped.

When you go right up to their face as close as you can without eating their nose, and speak firmly and slowly, Be….Cause.…I….can’t….have….chil….dren, they stop. And then they say matter-of-factly, Well, kids can be a lot of trouble! And then they forgive you for being childless. They flip flop as fast as coin being dropped to the surface of a road spins from heads to tails.

I certainly didn’t want to eat this little angel’s face. I really thought I had let go of a lot of the pain. It wasn’t my fault I had fallen victim to Big Pharm “science”. I just wasn’t prepared for this journey back to the past; all I had wanted was a good bunch of bananas. Instead, my life went before my eyes like a near-death experience.

All I could think of, as well, were the things I have missed out on by being childless. The list is so long: the pregnancy, the delivery, the first word, the first step, the first day of school, the graduations, the first job, the first love, the first date, the wedding, the grandchildren….The list goes on. By being childless, I have felt left out when mothers I knew shared their stories about their kids: the birth experiences, the joys, the triumphs, the sorrows.

I have a brother, she suddenly changed the topic just as her mother reappeared.

I have six brothers and sisters, I proudly stated. Her mother gasped.

I don’t believe you! The child said.

It’s true. I have six brothers and sisters!

Suddenly, she was elated. Then you DID have kids!

Yes, very true!  I affirmed.

I did help raise my siblings since I was the eldest girl and second oldest of the seven. The “little ones” were all in diapers when the last was born, almost taking Mom’s life, so Mom desperately needed help. One toddler was in the process of being potty trained, two babies were one-year-old twins, and one was the newborn. Because we had no disposable diapers in those days, the laundry had to be washed and folded constantly. All the bottles had to be boiled and sterilized between uses. Mom couldn’t breast feed, so we made formula and later added solid food we would mix up. My sister Martha and I would sit the babies side by side in their seats on the sofa and go down the row with the spoonfuls of food and sips from the bottle in succession.

As young mother’s helpers, my sister and I were not perfect. We still argue over who had pinned one of the twins, Christopher, to his diaper. However, I used to wake the babies up at night just to rock them and hold them. Being 10 years old, I didn’t completely understand that these years would my only time mothering babies. I didn’t realize then that the day the youngest called me Mommy would be the only time any child would.

I suppose this experience at Gerbes affirmed the young girl’s faith in God, for she had seen what I had grown to realize: Blessings don’t always follow time lines.

 

Copyright © August 23, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

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In this picture from left to right: Martha, me holding Earle (the youngest), Cynthia (one of the twins), Monty, and Christopher (the other twin). Not pictured is Grant, the oldest. The four youngest, born 5 years after Martha, were the “little ones”. They were my children for a few years.

Audio · Poem · Poetry

A Time to Heal

A Time to Heal

We are all One
Sharing the Same Energy Field.
We are but sparks from the Same Light.
Your day is everyone’s day.
Your night is everyone’s night.
Your tears become the tears of all time.
Your joys make all life and matter smile.
Every cry of a newborn
Is recorded in the fabric of Time.
Every gun shot
Rips through Dark Mother.
Fear is the basis of all injury.
Love constructs the heart, not just your heart,
But the heart of Source.
You are not alone.
Fear not.
Separation creates isolation creates animosity,
Borne of fear.
Love connects and binds,
Healing torn hearts.
Fear and Love cannot reside in the same House.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.        1 John 4:18

Fear not.
Worry not.
Hate not.
Love those that fear, worry, and hate.
This is the great challenge
Put forth by Source.
It is your choice –
In fact, the most important choice,
To Love with all your heart
Regardless of fear of harm,
Which is fear of separation and isolation.
Forgive and love.
This is the lesson borne on the Cross.
Love is not blind.
Love teaches those who fear.
Love is the Great Mother and Great Father,
Who teach the course not with hate,
But with Love.
Love teaches moral tether and integrity
Not with whips, but with Compassion.
Love is gentle; Love is kind.
This is your choice,
To Love and to love with all your heart.
Those who Love heal All.

Copyright© August 18, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

image: pixabay

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Audio · Ekphrastic Poetry · Poem · Poetry

The Mirror of Fear

The Mirror of Fear

What is fear?

Fear is not an itsy bitsy spider or a snake.

It is in this mirror, so look inside.

See yourself as thoughts.

Thoughts can have claws

That grasp your eyes,

Forcing you to see

Only shadows and suspicions as Truth.

 

Fears can lay claim to you –

If you are in wakeful slumber –

And discolor the Light

Streaming from your eyes,

Blinding you to

What is Law,

What is Truth

What is Blessed

Unless you awaken to the knowing that

 

Fearful thoughts may birth a Monster,

Growing eight legs,

Crawling into your Self,

And making webs

That bind your heart to

Trap vermin, for at the very least,

Fear will make a feast of you.

 

Fear mouths caustic and corrosive words

Spiraling into smoke upwards from fire,

Becoming tentacles of lightning

Splitting your House in half and

Consuming your Buddha Soul.

But Fear will claim you had set this blaze, not she,

For she is the Great Manipulator.

 

Fear is Ego, the Beast,

Fed by her friends who are

Complicit in heinous actions and betrayals of you

Regardless of color, station, or creed.

Though in words the Beast is the Richest,

The Biggest, the Best, the Most High.

 

Ego is deaf to all but to her own voice.

She clamors with empty notes of grandiosity,

Unblessed streams of cacophonous disharmony

Wailed in false-etto.

She mesmerizes you into chanting her name, for

Ego loves her own soul and possibly

Those dressed in her image, for

Who else could she trust?

 

And if you see Ego’s crimes,

She is but the victim

Of your malpractice, right?

She projects her doings onto you.

You are unholy, not her.

Get It? You’re the loser.

You are the problem.

You are the disaster.

You are to be scorned.

You are to be defiled.

You are to be ridiculed

For exposing this Great Wonder.

 

Ego is kin of the Wicked Witch,

Who banished Snow White

For being the Fairest in the Land.

Ego loves those she can trample or smear,

For you are but a minion in her eyes

And worthy of her ridicule and shame.

As long as she is able to diminish you,

No one will be The One, but Ego.

 

Through the bravado,

Ego consumes all creation.

What can be forged by this Fear Beast

But a cold sweat?

There is no art in Fear,

Only incoherence in forms

And rambling tales,

As told by the choking tweets

Of dying birds.

 

Ego lies and deceives,

Making a wedding of

Nightmares and presentiments,

Muddling order and

Tangling lives into a bramble of thorns,

Suffocating souls, and

Drowning them under mushrooming thoughts

Of toxic orange horror

Unleashed by the despotic Sisters of Fear, for

They love your screams and pleas for salvation!

As long as you are in disharmony,

These ghouls have your soul.

 

So take heed.

Wake up to knowing.

Fear is Ego; Ego is Fear.

The antithesis of Love.

Ego bears her creed and

Her shield of ghouls masked as

Bowing Saints ready to do her bidding or

As the Winged Monkeys in Dorothy’s nightmare,

Flying forth from the tower to apprehend

The Tin Man, Scare Crow, and Cowardly Lion,

So you have worse to fear

In this your shiny mirror

Than tiny spiders and snakes.

 

Copyright© August 17, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: http://fantazia.centerblog.net/rub-gifs-animes-miroirs-.html

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Audio · Poem · Poetry · Uncategorized

Oh What a Beautiful Day!

Oh What a Beautiful Day!

Oh what a beautiful day

To lie awake by

The Sea of Sorrows with

Each cold wave

Hitting the shore

Laced with drifting

Wood of time as

Gulls dine on Light with

The Keeper of Words.

The skiff awaits.

 

Copyright© August 16, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: Pixabay

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Audio · Ekphrastic Poetry · Haiku · Poem · Poetry

Coons

Coons

To share with a coon

can cause others to curse you

and nature to smile

 

Copyright © August 11, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image:  facebook.com  and  http://wealleatpizza.tumblr.com/post/74385980103/raccoons-eat-pizza-raccoons-are-noted-for-their

Audio · My Family · My Father · My Mother · Poem · Poetry

The House of Souls

 

The abode on the lake

Has housed many souls

From my lineage and anew

And survived many fates.

 

Dad, Earle of the manor,

An only child, his own best friend,

Took to adventures on the sandy beach of Lake Michigan,

His playground for swimming and skating.

 

Nature can be a foe and muster legends, as

The winter snow almost ate him when

He stumbled into a hole and was buried up to the neck, no siblings for his rescue.

And another boy wearing Dad’s skates fell through the ice.

 

Our pilgrimages there to see the sages,

Our faces burned by whiskers

After Granddad arrived home from the bank.

He built the house; it was also a Harris.

 

Our tummies filled with cherry pie

At the little round kid table by the nook.

Grandma Hattie’s apron and her

Kind, dark, deep-set eyes.

 

Our games and play for hours

On the sandy beach with the sun bearing down

To make blisters so big that

Bandages became our body armor.

 

Still, Sweet Grandma would hug so hard

The blisters would break open,

Soothed only by time and more cherry pie.

Lessons unlearned as we raced back to the shore.

 

Years passed with generations gone.

We moved there with Mom, for Dad went away to school.

How she survived is a testament to her resolve

As the Handmaid, the Mother, and the Queen.

 

This was our adventure, owning the castle.

Seven kids loving mischief,

Feeding Mom’s jewelry down the heating vent, and

Spreading around a bag of flour before the guests arrived.

 

Once the house almost died

As lightning struck it while Mom was away,

Having trusted the house and nature

To guard the seven treasures.

 

The house was hungry in the winter

Fed by coal delivered to the creepy bin in the basement.

How the house shook like a mighty beast when fed,

Satiated and ready for slumber.

 

Once I found Mom by the furnace.

How she looked wed to the fire.

Her eyes were blazing as she stoked the coals

And turned to glare at me. Of course, I ran.

 

The Lake had receded, so that year,

We only had waves of grass as our shore.

But the garage still had Granddad’s tools as toys,

And we could still smell him there.

 

This house was Dad’s soul and anchor,

Our refuge on vacations,

Our residence in a life transition.

I still hang my curtains the same way now,

 

Though I really can’t linger there

As was shown in a dream.

I saw myself as a young girl on the shore,

Dad and his parents inside at the nook.

 

Follow us, they said, leading me to the water’s edge

Though I feared the water and dared not venture too deep,

I followed and we became as frogs

Twisting with the current and swimming on the lake bottom.

 

Out we came to new ground

And I was made to walk on hot coals.

How I blazed on this path,

Glistening into my new fine diamond body

 

Until reborn into the Now.

For the past is but a house of memories

That cannot survive present winds or future travail.

And now the house that once held our souls has new occupants.

 

Copyright © August 11, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: Our House of Souls, which we had on Lake Michigan in Escanaba, Michigan

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