Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just Write: Drum beat

He moved us to the beat of his drum, and so for us, that took us from Phoenix to Portland; from Portland to Richland; from Richland to St. Helens; from St. Helens back to Portland, where we landed when I was fifteen.  I joked that military kids weren't so different from us pastor kids, what with all the moving about.  And so I learned to say goodbye, and how to say hello with one eye open. 

I learned to make friends but not need anyone.  

I fancied myself a gypsy sort, a free spirit in the wind, a kite whose strings could not be fastened to the earth.  I knew no Place as home.

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Except, the day after Christmas when we moved from Richland, I closed my eyes to file every nook and cranny of the town and neighborhood, every spot that held a memory in its chest, and I vowed to remember.   

The tire swing hanging from our Sycamore tree.  My bedroom overlooking the Strickland home where I'd spent hours playing and performing theater productions in the living room window with my two friends.  The basketball hoop over the garage where Papa and I practiced H-O-R-S-E.  The public pool where I continued my transformation from girl to mermaid, the one that began in Phoenix before I could walk.  The library where I hauled mounds of books to and fro with Mom.  The bike path that led our family on adventures and sometimes to Baskin Robbins for my grape ice cream.  Jefferson Elementary School where I left new friends and a fifth grade teacher I adored and a pet hamster named Gorgeous.  Carmichael Hill where we sped down snow on plastic discs in the winter, our legs locking to form a train.  The grassy green island down the street from us with the best climbing trees around.  My very best friend in all the world.  

Of all places I'd lived, this was the closest to home.  For months after moving, I would go to sleep at night retracing this map in my head, with eyes closed, and my heart ached.  I didn't want to feel this again.  And so I didn't.  

Even when I moved from Portland to Seattle, and neighborhood-bounced around the city, I still moved to the beat of his drum.  And when he followed me here, with Mom, and then his drum ceased to beat and I shuffled around with no music at all, it took me while.  To believe that his heartbeat in me was enough, that I didn't need to march to the beat of a drum I never chose for myself.  A beat that held captive even him. 

I could stop running in search of a new rhythm.  I could begin, here, to cast a net from my heart and set an anchor in the waters.  

And I'm still marching that old beat out of my heart, the one that says that nothing lasts, not even friendships.  That it's safer not to need, better not to depend on anyone.  The one with restless legs and a hunger for adventure that is not here.  The one that holds in stories deemed mundane and cries alone and fears the pain of a love that ruins.  

In the quiet now of several years, I'm learning to listen for the beat that is my own.  The one that opens me wide to courage.  

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Linking up with Heather and the community at Just Write for another Tuesday free write. 



  1. Oh Amber, this crushes me. How poignant and painful, gorgeous and true. Thank you for taking us down the roads of this map, of beloved places, for helping me hear your drum beat and then feel the pain of the beat stopped. This is so sensory, so ethereal, so mysterious, so honest, so you. You are such a gifted writer, my friend! Please don't stop. (By the way, I'm so glad to call you my friend.)

    1. Ash, when you read my words, I always feel you "get" me, even below what I directly say, and I have to tell you, it's such a gift. YOU are such a gift. Thank you for hearing my heart and reading its layers with such grace and insight. I really can't wait to meet you.

  2. Hi dear Amber
    Your post reminds me so much of something Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said. He said that you can kiss your family, your friends and your loved ones behind. But you take them with you for a world lives in you!! Beautiful post. Over via Just Write.
    Much love

    1. Oh, I so admire Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Beautiful words, Mia. Thank you.