Holidays on Broken Backs

Just a hint of jingle bells, the rest was rustling leaves. Just a smidge of holiday, the rest was preparation. Just a sprinkling of arguments for when Christmas music plays, but mostly welled-up hearts just waiting for the lights.

But in between this holiday, the noise we all know well, were women walking everywhere with burdens hard to bear. Hunched low with breaking backs, their Christmas trees dragged behind and little kids ran vibrant, free. Hunched low with breaking backs their Thanksgiving tables beautifully set for empty, childless homes. Hunched low with breaking backs the music plays aloud, but the loneliness beats louder.

A touch of laughter fills the air, for women are resilient. A quiet resolve fills the canyon to make full what backs found empty. A whole world of womanhood stretches among the seasons hunched low with broken backs. Hearts buried beneath the soil, pain too hard to share.

Christmas trees dragged along, Thanksgiving tables scorned silently, music plays to drown out noise. So the holidays blanketed broken backs once more. Hearts found ways to burrow deeper, and resilience doesn’t always mean strength.

I waked inside the canyon there with a broken back to prove it. I trudged along resiliently with no joy to resist it. I found the ribbon beneath the snow fresh fallen on crackling leaves. The ribbon warm to my numb hands, I held tightly to its color.

Cradling the fabric frays, I followed where it led. I barely trudged a yard before falling in a heap. Face down and filled with snow, I could not make a move. A broken back so used to breaking broke again once more. Cracked skin traced my fingers and they searched fervently for the ribbon, but frayed fabric is hard to see when you’re used to seeing nothing.

I stretched my arms, and spread my hand…perhaps the ribbon’s here, but all I found was something numb and broken just like me. Her skin was cracked and dry, her eyes closed, stiff unmoving. I exactly knew the feeling. I saw her Christmas tree dragging slow behind, the frolicking children played with backs unbroken, vibrant, free.

How could I be so close to her? My wounds were shaped so different…so opposite…so intimate! But more than our proximity, my heart was burrowed deep. And still it beat erratically when I saw a ribbon in her hand. How could our broken backs so different, find the colored ribbon just the same beneath cracking leaves and fallen snow? How could we both be fallen here when our lives were broken differently?

I pulled my burdens beside her, our big and pressing wounds, and I stared rather long and hard…not used to this confusion. Her wounds so different, so opposite, so intimate and yet…so very much the same as mine. She broke her back like me.

I took a chance and she took one too. Our cracked, dry fingers reached and holding onto more than ribbon, we found each other’s hands. Though wounds were wildly different, her blistered cracks felt just like mine. They intertwined and interweaved with the river in my hand. Her pain was not so different now, her tears fell just like mine. And a foreign feeling filled me up in canyon full of broken.

Here was understanding across miles of different pain. Here were blue eyes asking, “Can I bear this burden too?” Burrowed hearts can’t stay below when blistered hands dig deep. So up from snow and crackling leaves and dirty ground we came. Brittle joy was tentative, but still penetrated walls. And walls fell down with confidence when hope pounded through.

And on the other side with wounds shaped unlike mine, we tied our frayed thin ribbons to make a knot secure. With feet finally moving and smiles reaching far, we wrapped together all our burdens and bore the load with ease.

On the other side of me, I saw her in the snow. Numb, stiff, afraid to move, she grasped tight to a ribbon. All around me I could hear the Jingle Bells grow louder, the Thanksgiving feast filled weary hearts, the music played for pleasure. But I knew this frozen woman had a burrowed heart as mine had been, and she couldn’t hear a thing.

My cracked, dry hands reached for hers and it happened once again. Her blistered cracks felt just like mine and intertwined and interweaved with the river in my hand. Burrowed hearts can’t stay below when blistered hands dig deep. She stood up slowly, then with joy, her heart rose to the surface! My ribbon somehow frayed again, and made room for another woman.

So we tied our burdens up with hers, and we ran through fields of snow. And we danced in crunching leaves, and we sang the songs of holidays. While chairs were empty in parts of us, our homes were full of joy. So we frolicked there with backs unbroken, and we found new air to breathe.

So, I guess the canyon doesn’t mean we have to break our backs. I guess the holidays don’t have to drag even in our grief. But most of all, I guess I see that womanhood never has to be a silent place of valley bearing, a hopeless stretch of loneliness.

Bear one another, for burdens can be shared. And broken backs can stop the breaking when burrowed hearts are held by deeply blistered hands.


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