Don’t Fall on Me

There’s a problem, feathers, iron/ Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky
Don’t fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it’s there for long) (it’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (it’s over, it’s over me) (it’s gonna fall)
There’s the progress we have found/ A way to talk around the problem
Building towered foresight (keep your conscience in the dark)
Isn’t anything at all (melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky

Don’t fall on me

R.E.M “Fall on Me”

During my Junior year of high school, my mother and I went to live with my grandparents in Spokane Washington. My Dad had gotten laid off. We had to sell our house in Beavercreek Ohio. I had lived there for five years, and it was the longest that I had ever lived anywhere. Dad stayed back and focused on his job search. Grandpa George and Grandma Jol were welcoming, but at the same time I was keenly aware that they were not used to having a teenager live with them and careful not to impose. Did I raid the caninets too much? Eat too much food?

It was a full school year of witnessing my mother around her parents. That year she seemed happy, at least by her standards. She fell far more into the role of daughter than as mother, and as always, I was a prop. I was the kid who wasn’t as much of a disappointment. She fell in line as best friends with her mother and with pleasing Grandpa George. They could drink, he could not, having already come to terms with himself as an alcoholic.

Grandpa George was a retired Lt Col and pilot in Vietnam, and he was sharp as a tack. He had a big, charming personality and an ability to build or fix anything, just by sizing it up. My grandmother was a beauty, and always had been. Her hair, when let down went all the way down her back. But she always wore it up, in a big, full bun. Grandma and Grandpa adored each other. Grandpa’s parents were Scottish immigrants. Grandma’s family was from Norway. She was as full of wit and spunk as he was in her own covert way. To their children (my mother and her siblings), and to the local community there was a degree of folklore about them. I never quite bridged it or understood it, but suspected that there was a bit more to the story beneath the surface. I knew that growing up with a military parent meant high standards of imagery to be met. I knew there were lots of moves. I knew that Grandpa could be difficult to please. I knew that the war was rough on him, and his children.

I was a guest in a strange land that year. I was on the conservative side of the state, but nevertheless found the high school to be fairly progressive. It was still Washington State and still the 90s, so maybe that was the overriding factor. I fell in with a (very) small group of friends, two of whom were in the band. One of them, a six-foot-three trombonist named Eric would become my first boyfriend and teenage love. Another girl, a redhead named Kim had juvenile diabetes and lived life recklessly at 16 like she wouldn’t live past 25. And she wouldn’t.

The year was fall of 1994 to spring of 1995. I had a subscription to Spin magazine, and was heavily into grunge music (especially Pearl Jam) Live, Buffalo Tom, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tori Amos, and REM. I was making my way through REM’s discography and found myself obsessed with the beauty of “Life’s Rich Pageant” and had it on constant repeat. I think that Grandpa approved of that one, because it had a rich folk/country sound. I tried my best to be a good kid that year. But really I felt out of place. I needed a space to be away from place of how I was supposed to be.

Eastern Washington is full of evergreen forests. Everywhere. Grandma and Grandpa’s housing complex was within walking distance of one of them. When I wanted to get away? That is where I went.

Nobody ever went back there. I had it all to myself. And nothing soaks up sound like pine needles. Nothing quite smells like a pine forest. In the bath of sunshine, or the wake of a rain shower. It didn’t matter. It smelled perfect. It smelled like freedom. It smelled like peace.

This morning I woke up with the weight of the world draped over me. The air in my lungs felt just as heavy and pushing my way up and out of bed was more effort than I’d like to admit. Hope has a lightness like helium that fills you up and lifts you forward into life. And these last couple of days? That tank has been punctured and drained. But I did get up, went downstairs and made my way through the cold grey morning.

I decided to go out to pick up some prescriptions at the pharmacy, and the clouds began to clear. With the clearing, came a warming of the air. I realized that I hadn’t gone out walking through the nature trails near my house since the fall. So I put on my dirty shoes and a light jacket and headed out in that direction. The sun warmed my skin. My shoes got muddy, and the weight began to lift. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

When I reached the bridge that goes over the creek, I sat down to look at the water bubbling past. I kicked my legs back and forth to swing the bridge like a child. Getting back up, I wandered back further, balancing on the logs of fallen trees and using them as lauchpads to catapult me across mud puddles. I climbed a few of them stacked on each other like a fort and leaned back to breathe it all in.

It is a perfect day, and there is nobody back here to make me feel self-conscious. I have it all to myself.

The sky has fallen, but I am still here for now.

I am still able to walk through these trails, and enjoy this sunshine and enjoy this day. Today, and tomorrow, I am still alive, until one day- several months or several years from now- I won’t be.

The sky has fallen but the curtain hasn’t.

Some days will be cold and dark. Some days will have the smell of recent rain. Others will be full of sunshine. I hope that in each of these days I can continue to seek out my space of freedom in this strange new world, and that I can find in every day a moment of peace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s