unpacking 2


i am a committee, and my committee is currently on a wee bit of a roller coaster ride . . .

i’m going through photos albums, you see, prying photos from those albums with sticky-back/cellophane overlay pages. the emotional roller coaster ride it takes me on comes as quite a surprise.

one committee member is enjoying the ride . . . as much as you can enjoy experiencing laughter that starts in the stomach; heartbreak so intense it immobilizes; moments of insight and realization; and unanswerable questions that start with what-if or if-only all in the space of a minute. another committee member sets forth a plan of three albums a day and constantly admonishes me to stick to the plan, even over the objections of the committee member who encourages me to plow my way through all of the remaining albums today so i can put everything back in the cabinet and close the door.

okay, those last two – they’re identical twins.

or not.

perhaps one is trying to get me to finish up so i can write what’s really on my heart while the other is trying to set a pace that allows for processing, totally disregarding the fact that i just don’t do well living in physical chaos for more than say three minutes.

my albums aren’t labeled on the spine, so i never know who or what time period will greet me when i open the cover. the waterfall sings its song in the background. the dog snores quietly in the corner.

some of the photos are blurry, some have faded beyond recognition. others – like the ones i took with my little brownie camera – were taken from so far away (and without benefit of a telephoto lens), i’m not even sure if the dots are people or specks of dust on the lens.

i go through albums of my chiclets, and i want more time to spend more time with them. i want to keep them at home instead of sending them to 3 and 4 year old kindergarten. i want to hold them close, hug them tightly, feel their head on my shoulder. i look at the photos of my parents with my children and i long to hold a grandchild in my arms, to have a second chance to make up for anything i might have done better with alison and kipp. it could be my hormones talking, but i don’t really think so, and who cares, anyway, chimes in the committee member i want to hear more from.

in daddy’s album, i see the face of a young man who had the world by the tail, a smiling face that eventually becomes a blank stare. it takes my breath away when i come upon the picture of him in the hospital, his face covered with tubes and tapes attached to machines to keep him alive just a few more days. i spend a few quiet minutes with photos obviously taken of me, but there, in the background, sits my daddy looking at me, and i wonder what he was thinking. was he proud of me? did he think me a good mother? did he wish i’d become a professional something-or-other instead of a career mom? did he wish he could go back and do my childhood over and if so, what would he have done differently?

believe what you will, but my dad still watches me quietly. when my car slid down the icy, curvy, hilly driveway, i turned the steering wheel over to daddy who apparently didn’t want me coming to visit quite yet because he guided the car safely down to where the ice was thin enough to allow the gravel to reach up and stop my tires. when i don’t have a clear sense of what to do, i ask daddy. and because i don’t want to wear him out or use him up, i also tell him stories about things that have happened so we can laugh regularly.

a wise friend once asked me to write to daddy and ask him what advise he’d like to give me. “be as specific as you want,” she said. but of course i never did that, for reasons that escape me now except to say that the committee member who measures herself worthy by measurable accomplishment and productivity has a very loud and convincing voice.

when i look at the photos of a jeanne gone by, try as i might, i just i don’t see the litany of flaws i once did. i look at photos of me and see that i was not fat, and trust me when i say that i’m sorry i wasted a single nanosecond belittling myself for being overweight. when i come upon the photo taken about a month before i was raped, i cry a bit while stroking the black and white photo, remembering the smooth blouse of red, white, blue, and yellow stripes with an eggshell sheen under the somewhat-scratchy navy v-neck pullover sweater. i was beautiful, and now i am loathe to tell you that it makes me sad that i begin to resemble my paternal grandmother. don’t get me wrong – i love(d) her hugely, but she did not have what society would call a beautiful countenance. a series of strokes rendered her mute, unable to care for herself, and eventually dead at a point in her life that’s now considered young, and a quieter committee member wonders if my resemblance to grandmother hewell is only skin deep or if i, too, will die young.

i don’t want to die an unlived life – i seriously do not. i want to live into my life, and i want to start yesterday (but, shoot, i guess today will do just fine).


  1. DycheDesigns

    This post touched a part of me . . . . those trips down memory lane can be tough but sometimes necessary. Hugs.

  2. Brenda

    Wow, Just Wow! You have written words from my heart–and you have brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!

  3. Karen Sharp

    You are living into your life. This period of interiority, introspection, reflection, committee discussion… This all counts. It’s what creates the ripening spaces for what will come next.

    And I’ll tell you, sweetie, sometimes the sheer authenticity of your tender beauty makes my breath catch and my eyes fill with tears.

    I’m honored to know you and love you. History and all.

  4. Acoyotefeathers

    well you know I am no stranger to introspection or deeply felt activities others might view as time-wasting and/or failing to embody my potential. About two months ago I realized I was nearly the age my mother was when she quite suddenly and QUITE unexpectedly died. So I got to thinking about unresolved emotion and unanswered questions. Approached my son to ask if he would like to trust me enough to begin a process of resolution. I know what *I* think I did wrong, or failed to acknowledge but why does/should any of that matter to *him*. So I invited him to share what *did* matter to him. What intense, sometimes tearful, and always healing conversations we have had ever since. Much changing and rearranging for both of us. And a new, somehow deeper love. But quite the challenge. NOT to interrupt, reframe, cajole, or seek to turnaround in order to showcase my own opinions and observations. no. Just listening. Quiet, no dramatic, perfectly calm “you’re absolutely right. I had no business saying/doing whatever-it-was.

    somehow what you wrote prompted me to share this. Something I have not done yet. terribly private yet twice as universal in connotation and context, I should think …

  5. Alana

    Oh Jeanne. You are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the most shiningly gorgeous humans I know. I cannot wait to tell you that in person…

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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