The Lofty Chronicles: 1 — Saying Goodbye to Childhood

Prologue

The Lofty Chronicles are based on a daily journal that I was keeping for several years in the early 1990’s. The entries that were related to our daughter, Lauren (who was going by the name of Lofty at the time), were drawn from this journal and were then sent, each season, to Lauren’s geographically distant grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They were intended, as well, for a future, grownup Lauren, curious about her roots.

The reason for sharing them in Light Morning’s current Journal is that, peeking through the day-to-day concerns, wonders, and routines of parenting is a startlingly intimate view of the three core values of this community.

These three foundation stones (transformational journey, a new kind of family, living close to the Earth) have been explored earlier in this Journal. In The Lofty Chronicles, however, they come to life in a viscerally specific way. We catch surprising glimpses, for example, of what it means to “become again as a little child.” And we see just how long and arduous the path of transformation is. There’s nothing quite like parenthood for showing us our shadows and for humbling our pretensions. It’s fully as good a teacher as marriage or community!

We also see a “new kind of family” taking shape as we read the following journal entries. Light Morning is a multi-generational experiment, in both senses of these words. With the arrival of Tom (who came to live with us when he was 60-something) and the birth of Lauren, the generational diversity of the community was greatly enhanced, and the myopic world-view of the 30- and 40-year-olds was correspondingly tempered.

We see forming, then, a predominantly non-genetic, self-chosen family of friends and “traveling companions,” who are likewise serving as surrogate grandparents, aunts, and uncles for a little girl who is also their surrogate granddaughter, child, and niece. We watch this family work and eat and play together, hurt each other (sometimes deeply), problem-solve together, and learn, slowly, to truly care for one another.

Finally, we see an emerging lifestyle that is being lived close to the Earth. We observe the adults trying to live simply, to work close to home, and to become more self-sufficient. We watch parents grope their way toward an understanding of home education and child-led learning. And we begin to sense how a simple life, lived in close proximity to nature and within the context of a new kind of family, helps make real the dream of a transformational journey. We see, in other words, how these three core values are inherently interdependent.

And now it’s time to let the stories speak for themselves. The Lofty Chronicles will span several seasons of this Journal. We turn to Part One (when Lauren is six years old) after first setting the stage with a few journal entries and images from her younger years.

* * *

 

Joyce with her new-born daughter
Joyce with her new-born daughter

 

First Breath (Friday, 20 April 1984) Lauren Wilder takes her first breath this morning at 11:05.

Inner-Directedness (Monday, 12 November 1984) I’m moved by a passage from an article about super-babies, called “Pushing Too Hard?” by Martin V. Cohen (American Baby, November 1984, page 20).

“Finally, and most importantly, make sure that your actions, as well as your words, convey the feeling that your child’s spontaneous interests and curiosities are of real value and interest to you. This kind of acceptance will help your young child begin to trust his or her intuitions, feelings and personal visions as the basis for future decision-making and actions. Psychologists have referred to this quality as inner-directedness, and it has been found to be related to creativity, ego strength, and feelings of self-worth.”

Take Your Spills (Tuesday, 18 November 1986) I happen to overhear Lauren singing or chanting to herself the following little song:

“Take your spills in life, And send us a happy tune for the world.”

Sad Angels (Monday, 15 December 1986) Here’s another one of Lauren’s impromptu songs:

“Sad angels, sad angels,
God send the Lord to fix up the sad angels.”

Later, when I ask who the sad angels are, she replies, “Men.”

Invite Your New Day (Sunday, 28 December 1986) I’m writing a letter to Tom, who’s in California helping his sister. I ask Lauren if there’s anything she wants to tell him. She speaks the following sentences, which I transcribe:

“We hope you enjoy your afternoon. Don’t lose anything, Tom. Don’t waste anything. And don’t you lose anything, Tom. Don’t lose your mind.

“Of course you have a wonderful day on your trip. Invite your new day.

“If a turtle comes it may hurt you, Tom. The spell will be broken again. Then changed back into words again. Would you get us spelled again? Then the turkeys will die in the winter. The spell will be broken again.

“Hallelujah! Have nice weather on your compurating[?]. Nice weather on your joy!”

The Birds at Dawn (Monday, 15 May 1989) Lauren awoke to a loud chorus of birdsong. Over breakfast, she casually mentions that, “I heard the birds telling their dreams this morning.”

A Father Song (Tuesday, 27 June 1989) Once again, Lauren is chanting or singing softly to herself. “I love you, father, for being so kind.”

Out of the Mouths of Babes (Tuesday, 25 July 1989) Two of Lauren’s recent comments, to no one in particular:

“Take a chance on yourself!”

“It’s all in your dreams.”

Lauren with her dad (summer 1984)
Lauren with her dad (summer 1984)

Saying Goodbye to Childhood

Summer 1990

Saying Goodbye to Childhood (Tuesday, 24 July 1990) Lauren has been reverting to some affected baby talk lately, which has elicited varying degrees of annoyance from the adults around her, including me. Yesterday, however, an insight dissolved my irritation. I suddenly saw that Lauren is poised on the edge of leaving early childhood, and that she is almost consciously pausing, stepping back, and lingering on this threshold for a moment before saying goodbye.

Perhaps it’s watching her lose her first two teeth. Or perhaps some hazy but profound memories of my own early childhood in Arden, and those magical summers on Mount Desert Island, are re-surfacing. Or maybe I’m passing through a similar threshold in my life, and have been indulging in something comparable to baby talk. Whatever the linkage, I had an immediate and poignant reversal of attitude. My annoyance vanished and was replaced by a deep compassion for Lauren at this stage of her life.

Lofty/Lauren with toad
Lofty/Lauren with toad

 

“Ancient Fawn” (Thursday, 30 August 1990) I awaken this morning out of an intense dream. Viewed through one window, it serves to temper the complacency of an adult casually observing a young child.

I am walking down a nearby road early in the morning. Suddenly I notice a deer drinking from a stream. He has a large rack of antlers. I stop to watch, thinking how unusual it is to see a deer with antlers in this area.

He senses something out of the ordinary and looks around, shaking his head from side to side and pawing the ground several times. Then he climbs up from the stream-bed and starts to walk away. Almost immediately, however, he reverses directions and joins 10 or 12 other deer, which I haven’t noticed before.

My attention is drawn to one of these other deer, a fawn. My first feelings are tenderness and wonder at the beauty and innocence of the little creature. Several jolting perceptions, however, come hard on the heels of this feeling. I notice that the fawn has a very unusual coloration: mottled black and white against a background of gray. Then, to my astonishment and dismay, I realize that the fawn has a huge rack of antlers. They seem more like those of an elk rather than a deer.

At this point my stomach begins to knot up, as my mind tries desperately to reconcile the presence of massive antlers on what is so obviously a very young fawn. Finally, I notice the fawn’s face. It is ancient; the oldest face I have ever seen. And this ancient fawn is gazing back at me impassively, almost as though he is trying to stretch into some comprehension of the inconceivably young creature that stands dumbstruck before him.

My mind short-circuits, my gut twists into a painful spasm of disbelief, and I awake, trembling, out of the dream.

Later, as I’m sharing the dream with the community over breakfast, I mention an association between the fawn’s youthful innocence and ancient experience, on the one hand, and the right and left hemispheres of our brain, on the other. The conversation then moves on to other associations and impressions.

Lauren, meanwhile, has been roaming around the living room, seemingly disinterested in our talk about the dream. She comes over and sits beside me, however, and almost absent-mindedly began chanting softly in my ear, “Where is my right brain, if this is my left brain? Where is my right brain, if this is my left brain?”

Autumn 1990

Thinking About My Mind Thinking (Sunday, 2 September 1990) Lauren is getting her hair washed. She has water in her ears. “I can hear my mind thinking,” she says. Then, after a pause, “Now I’m thinking about my mind thinking.” Another, longer pause. “Now I’m thinking about my mind thinking about my mind thinking about my mind thinking.” She giggles. “It’s like two mirrors looking into each other.”

Empathy for the Trees (Thursday, 4 October 1990) Lauren has been having recurring bouts of difficulty with the approaching logging of the Free State valley below our community. This evening, as we’re walking out the driveway to visit our elderly farmer neighbor Dan on his birthday, Lauren looks up at the beautiful sunset spanning the sky overhead and says, “I’m glad the sky won’t be logged.”

A Taste of the Old Despair (Saturday, 6 October 1990) Last night, just before bed, I briefly touched into the old feelings of despair and depression that I wrestled with a number of years ago, but haven’t experienced for quite a long while. The trigger was Joyce talking about Lauren’s need for playmates her own age, and the possibility of Lauren being drawn toward public school as a way of meeting this need. Maybe I was tired, or maybe Joyce’s mood was contagious, but I felt myself sinking into an enticing vortex of hopelessness about this situation in particular and then about life in general.

I catch myself, surprised at the onset of the mood, and wonder if perhaps it’s the dead of the moon (which it isn’t). Fortunately I have enough presence of mind to suggest that we do a brainstorming session on the problem when our energy is higher. So we go to bed and I awake in the morning feeling fine, the remembered mood like a barely recalled dream. Strange.

I Am Fire-Splitter (Monday, 8 October 1990) The morning work project is firewood. Lauren has been learning to split kindling. After she has demonstrated some proficiency with one of the community’s small axes, I say that she can go down to our house and get the mid-sized ax with the red handle which we bought for her when she was little and which has been waiting in our portico for just this moment.

Lauren Fire-Splitter
Lauren Fire-Splitter

She is thrilled and runs down to get it. A few moments later she comes marching back up the path with her very own ax in her hands, singing as she comes. Later in the morning, having taken her pile of firewood into the kitchen to help feed the cook-stove on which Marlene is canning some potatoes, I hear her singing again. “I am fire-splitter. I am fire-splitter. I am the firewood splitter!”

How vitally important it is to sing our own praises. In the Sparrow Hawk book which we’re currently reading to Lauren, the Native American boy sings, “I am the corn youth. I am he…” Most of us have an unfortunate tendency to not celebrate our personal uniqueness and values and accomplishments loudly enough or often enough, both to ourselves and to others. Perhaps a fear of appearing boastful or braggartly deadens what must be a natural impulse to celebrate ourselves; an impulse which Lauren, with the grace of childhood, has demonstrated for us today with her spontaneous fire-splitter song.

The Story-Telling Stars (Friday, 26 October 1990) I’m finding my interest in star gazing being re-kindled. Took H.A. Rey’s book out of the library and have been studying it. There’s a wonderful opportunity to study the constellations every clear morning on my pre-dawn walks, and I’m wanting to learn more about the stories or myths behind them. It will be a wonderful home-schooling bridge with Lauren as well.

Halloween Magic (Thursday, 1 November 1990) We went trick-or-treating with Lauren in Roanoke last night, following a full day of errands during which both Joyce and Lauren wore their costumes in and out of the stores. The daytime costuming and the evening trick-or-treating moved me deeply, the former because of the way in which it playfully disrupts deeply ingrained cultural routines and expectations, and the latter because of how magical it is to have one special night of the year during which kids can go up and down the streets of a strange neighborhood and be welcomed with smiles and treats at the homes of complete strangers. Powerful magic indeed.

Black Hawk & Abe Lincoln (Wednesday, 7 November 1990) Lauren got tangled up in a painful confusion of heroes yesterday. Not too long ago, we read Sparrow Hawk together, an historical fiction about a young Indian boy in Black Hawk’s tribe. It’s a harrowing account of the destruction of his tribe by the inexorable wave of European settlers that was flooding westward across the continent, sweeping away all the indigenous peoples that got in the way. The book is a viscerally difficult read.

A few days ago, Lauren got a book about Abe Lincoln out of the library, and has been enjoying hearing about his upbringing in the wilderness of Kentucky and Indiana. Yesterday, however, we got to the place in the story where, as a young man, Lincoln “volunteered to fight in the Black Hawk war.” He never went, because by that time Black Hawk had been captured and imprisoned, and his tribe ruthlessly driven across the Mississippi.

Lauren is stunned and dismayed. The story lines of her two current “heroes” have suddenly crossed in an unexpected and deeply disturbing way. She doesn’t quite know what to make of it. Her blacks and whites have dissolved into a confusing mosaic of gray.

The Light Morning family (Front row: Joyce, Lauren, Marlene Back row: Kent, Ron, Tom, Robert)
The Light Morning family (Front row: Joyce, Lauren, Marlene Back row: Kent, Ron, Tom, Robert)

 

What If I Were the Only Adult? (Saturday, 10 November 1990) Sometimes I get brief, haunting glimpses of what it must be like to walk through life in this community in Lauren’s shoes. It’s clearly a wonderful and magical place in which to grow up. But she is the only child here. What if I were the only adult living with 5 or 6 children. And what if their interests and needs, their version of reality and sense of order, largely determined what I could or couldn’t do, when I could do it, and when I could go out on those occasional visits to interact with other adults.

What brutal empathy it is when an oppressor (however loving and well-intentioned) is able to catch even a glimmer of the world-view of the oppressed. And how seldom we even pause to savor the extent of our parental oppression.

I’ve Listened to You Many a Year (Tuesday, 13 November 1990) We are all splitting firewood this morning. It’s poplar, and there’s some beautiful coloration in the grain of the wood. Lauren is rooting through the pile of split pieces, picking out the prettiest ones. She accumulates quite a collection, and doesn’t want them to be stacked in the woodshed.

“This pile is for ornaments!” she insists.

When I and the other adults protest the impracticality of her impulse, she turns to me with great indignation. “I’ve listened to you many a year,” she intones. “Now you listen to me!”

I smile a chastened smile and we find a compatible compromise.

Winter 1990

Just For the Joy of It (Saturday, 15 December 1990 ) My six-year-old teacher and I are heading out to the parking lot to get the truck for a trip to Smith’s Store. “Now why are we going to Smith’s?” she asks.

“For two reasons,” I reply. “Half of the trip is to take the trash out. The other half is to pick up the U.P.S. packages.”

“No,” she corrects me. “There are three reasons. A third for the trash, a third for the packages, and a third just for the joy of it.”

Jesus and the Snakes (Sunday, 16 December 1990) While talking about the Christmas tree, Lauren comes up with a laughing suggestion. “Let’s put Jesus having snakes all over him at the top of the tree.” She means it as a tease of Joyce, who, as Lauren knows, is somewhat shy of snakes. For me, however, the image feels charged with allegorical significance.

I Think I’ll Like Dying (Monday, 17 December 1990) Lauren and I are out in the woods, cutting a small white pine for the community shelter’s Christmas tree. She wants to dig it up live instead of cut it down. We compromise, deciding to cut this one and dig the one for our house. Just as I am completing the cut, Lauren says, “I think I’ll like dying.” Somewhat startled, I ask why. “I think I’ll like being in my ghost,” she replies.

If I Become a Scientist (Wednesday, 19 December 1990) Lauren, bent over one of her “chemistry experiments,” asks if I remember where we found the litmus paper for her.

“You mean the lab at Virginia Western?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says. “If I become a scientist I’m going to study there.”

The 703 Patrol (Monday, 24 December 1990) Quite a while ago some of the neighborhood kids formed a “703 Patrol,” named for the route number of the county road which ends at Light Morning’s driveway. This was back before the need for the 911 technology transformed Route 703 into Autumn Drive. Lately I’ve unofficially adopted the name myself as I pick up beer cans and other clutter from the side of the road during my morning walks.

At first, I had some angst about having to pick up other people’s trash. Later it came to feel not too dissimilar from changing Lauren’s diapers when she was an infant. “It’s no different,” I would remind myself. “The folks tossing these empty beer cans out of their windows don’t know any better. It’s just a stage of development. A natural immaturity.”

Still later I became aware of what a powerful subliminal statement my litter removal is. By keeping the roadside immaculately clear of clutter, a certain type of person and behavior is drawn to this neighborhood and another type is subtly repelled.

Today my morning clean-up is reeled in still further, becoming a striking metaphor for an ongoing need for inner maintenance. Keeping a close watch for trash alongside my own well-traveled mental and emotional roadways, knowing that like attracts like. A gradual claiming of the dream.

What Are Your Gifts? (Wednesday, 26 December 1990) Lauren and I somehow get talking about gifts. “What are your gifts?” she asks. I respond that I am a good listener, that I can usually see a situation from different sides, and that I can often discern patterns in seemingly unconnected occurrences. Then I ask what her gifts are. She says that she’s good at being two people at the same time. But she isn’t able to explain just what she means by that, or perhaps I’m not able to understand her explanation.

The Critical/Constructive Ratio (Sunday, 6 January 1991) I came across a disturbing statistic the other day. Some graduate students in Iowa observed the daily interactions between kids and parents. They found a 12-to-1 ratio between the critical remarks that parents direct at their children and the constructive remarks. Twelve criticisms, in other words, for every token of support, encouragement, and appreciation.

It’s so disturbing because it rings so true. My ratio with Lauren isn’t that high, but I know for sure the ratio’s not equal, let alone reversed. And what the graduate students found when they followed the kids into their school environment was even more appalling. Instead of 12-to-1, the ratio was closer to 18-to-one.

And since all adults have passed through the crucible of childhood, this is a potent reflection for us as well. Our criticize/appreciate ratios toward other people, and toward ourselves, must surely be equally lopsided. This is where the work lies and where we can fairly easily monitor our personal growth and maturation. What is our Criticize Appreciate Ratio? What kind of C.A.R. are we driving? If we pay attention to our predominant attitudes, both toward others and toward ourselves, and we see this ratio changing for the better, we can be sure that we are growing. It’s like using a hydrometer to monitor the fermentation process of homemade wine.

Transforming a Scary Dream (Tuesday, 8 January 1991) Lauren had a beautiful experience last night. She’s been working with some fears lately. Afraid of being alone in the dark; even going into her room at night to turn on the light. The fear was stimulated by watching a frightening mummy movie at the Days yesterday. But she was wrestling with it prior to that. We’re not sure what she’s really afraid of, or why now.

Getting ready for bed last night, she was definitely uneasy. “Do you think the mummy could fit into my room?” she asks. And sure enough, sometime after midnight she bolted awake with a terrifying dream. She, Joyce and I, and some others were at a conference. A big arm came out from behind a curtain and clawed at her. It didn’t hurt her, but it frightened her badly.

She awakened us, not knowing what to do with the fearful images. Joyce suggested that she sing to herself. (We’ve been telling her that monsters simply hate laughter and singing and people wishing them well. They just can’t abide that.) So she started singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” to herself, over and over again, until she finally fell back to sleep.

This morning she reports that, after singing herself to sleep, she went back into the same dream. “Was it a good dream this time?” I ask.

“It wasn’t just good,” she exudes, “it was wonderful!”

In the second part of the dream she discovered that the arm reaching out for her was actually the arm of a Ninja turtle, her current heroes, in disguise. She says that I then went into the kitchen and made two pizzas (the Ninjas’ favorite food), one for her and one for the Ninjas. She was so happy, though, that she gave both of them to the Ninjas.

Long Handle! Long Handle! (Monday, 14 January 1991) We’re working firewood. Joyce, Ron, Tom, and I are talking quietly as we split the chunks of poplar. Lauren is off in the woods, a good distance away, busily involved in some project of her own. Joyce asks Ron, in a matter-of-fact tone, “Isn’t there one of those long-handled axes in the tool shed?”

Instantly, from Lauren’s corner of the woods, comes a quiet chant, “Long handle! Long handle!”

I am stunned. For her to be so immersed in her own activities and, at the same time, to be monitoring our conversation so precisely, gives me a sobering respect for how powerful we adults are as role models for our children, and how far-reaching the effects of example and imitation are in general.

The Mound Builders (Friday, 8 February 1991) During my Thursday afternoon session with Douglas, I read aloud the following passage from The Seth Material:

Each individual, from birth, forms his own counterpart from built-up, individual, continuous electrical signals that include his dreams, thoughts, desires, and experiences. At physical death his personality then exists detached from its physical form.

While reading it I associate to the Mound Builders civilization and their strong focus on death. Then I feel a connection between the nine months period of gestation of the human embryo in the womb, during which the human body takes form, and the gradual formation of the “counterpart” that Seth refers to in the above passage.

Perhaps there’s a parallel between the time of gestation in the womb to prepare for birth, and the time of physical life on Earth to prepare for death. Maybe the Mound Builders, and other ancient, death-oriented civilizations like the Egyptians, recognized this truth and consciously utilized the span of human life in order to prepare for a strong and conscious transition at death, in much the same way as prospective parents now utilize gestation in order to prepare for a strong and conscious birth.

Joyce, in other words, paid careful attention to her diet, as well as to her thoughts, emotions, hopes, and desires, while Lauren was in utero. We also practiced breathing and relaxation techniques and studied the stages of labor so that we would be as prepared as possible for the birthing. It may well be that some former civilizations approached the end of life with the same care and awareness.

Coming In Helicopters (Thursday, 21 February 1991) Lauren wakes up early this morning, sobbing, out of a nightmare. Joyce asks her about it. All I hear of their sharing is something about “soldiers coming in helicopters.”

This immediately triggers the memory of how petrified Lauren used to be as an infant at the faintest distant approach of one of those large army helicopters that occasionally fly overhead. Lacking any other plausible explanation for her phobia, which would send her screaming for her parents, we speculated about it possibly being a “past life” trauma, perhaps in someplace like Vietnam. Eventually, as the years passed, the terror lessened and finally disappeared.

When Lauren awakens a second time, I ask her about the dream. She tells me that she, Joyce, and I were living in a very small cottage, with one window and one door, in a small village. She and her mom are on a grassy slope. There are clumps of trees nearby, and a single-lane road. Joyce is dressed in simple off-color white clothes, with some kind of turban.

Two large army helicopters, painted in camouflage colors, suddenly approach. Lauren knows that they are coming to kill her mom, and is terrified. She sees a truck pass by on the road, but it doesn’t stop. The truck is painted yellow and has black and red letters on it.

The helicopters come down and hover just above the slope. Soldiers jump out of the open door. They’re also dressed in camouflage. Joyce tells Lauren to run back to the cottage and tell me what has happened. She does so, crying as she runs, and finds me in the cottage. At this point the dream became so terrifying that she wakes up crying.

Evocative, to say the least!

Spring 1991

Born With A Lot of Jump (Friday, 22 March 1991) We’re coming down to our house from the community shelter this evening. Lauren is prancing around, running off some of her prodigious energy. “I must have been born with a lot of jump in me,” she says, ” because I love to jump and run around so much.”

Pitch Black or Brightly Lighted (Saturday, 23 March 1991) We arrive home tonight and Lauren asks us to keep all the lights off, close the curtains, and move around in the darkness. She’s wanting to explore what it’s like to be blind. It’s a fascination that was stimulated while we were reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books aloud. Laura’s sister Mary was blind. She’s also wanting to see if the library has any books in Braille.

Tonight she says, “I like it pitch black or brightly lighted; none of this spooky gray.”

Wanting To Be a Boy (Friday, 29 March 1991) Lauren has been fervently wishing that she were a boy. Doesn’t want to wear dresses. Wants to be a cowboy rather than a cowgirl. Her comment tonight is, “I wish I was born a boy!”

We can’t quite get to where she’s coming from. Maybe too many of the books we’ve been reading aloud have boys as the main characters: Black Hawk, Sparrow Hawk, Abe Lincoln, Tom Jefferson, Will Fargo, Morgon, Robin Hood, Frodo…

Quite a while ago we read The Little House series, with Laura as the main character. And Patricia McKillip’s The Riddle Master trilogy focuses on Raederle in the second volume. But other than that, it’s been pretty masculine. Perhaps that has something to do with it. Or maybe it’s something entirely unrelated. I’ll try to find some more girl-oriented stories, hopefully adventurous ones, and we’ll also keep trying to read beneath the surface of her words.

Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful (Saturday, 30 March, 1991) After helping Kent in the orchard this afternoon, Lauren muses to me during supper, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the fruit comes in this year, and I get my braces off, and I learn to read? Then I can sit under a peach tree, eating peaches, and reading Tom Sawyer!”

Lauren’s Stories (Monday, 1 April 1991) It occurs to me to make a note of the books we’ve been reading aloud in the evenings before bedtime. Joyce and I have been enjoying this ritual for most of our married years, but the following list (hopefully close to complete) are those we’ve shared since Lauren has been old enough to be involved with them, probably since around age 3. This list doesn’t include the multitude of other books that different ones of us have read to her individually. These are only the bedtime stories.

The Hobbit, Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings (trilogy), Tolkien
The Little House Series (6 or 7 volumes), Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Jungle Book, Kipling
Sparrow Hawk, Le Soeur
Nancy Hanks of Wilderness Road, Le Soeur
A Wind in the Door, L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle
The Riddle Master trilogy, McKillip
The Incredible Journey, Burnford
The Wind in the Willows, Grahame
The Sign of the Beaver, Speare
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain

While we’re at it, I may as well note the audio tape stories that she’s fond of and listens to over and over again. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and The Lord of the Rings were the first two that she devoured. We taped them off of N.P.R. years ago and she took to them like a fish to water.

Then we found others at the library, which we also copied: The Wind in the Willows, Robin Hood, The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland. She listens to all of them repeatedly.

Pondering the wish before blowing out the candles
Pondering the wish before blowing out the candles

One In Each Ear (Monday, 22 April 1991) Joyce is marveling at how wonderful the new hardwood floors in our living room are, saying that we’ll never regret the time or money we invested in them. Lauren, standing next to her, replies, “I already regret them! You have to always be careful not to drop anything heavy on them, or scratch them, or mess them up. You’re both always reminding me, one in each ear!”

Yippee Shoes (Saturday, 27 April 1991) Joyce bought Lauren a pair of Ninja Turtle shoes the last time we were in town. She loves them. It was the first time in Lauren’s seven years that Joyce has bought a new pair of shoes for her. All the others have either been presents or have come from thrift stores.

So tonight, as Joyce and Lauren are getting ready to go to a post-workday drumming and chanting session, Lauren starts to put on one of her older pairs of shoes. Joyce asks if she doesn’t want to wear her new Ninjas.

“No,” Lauren replies, “they’re my Yippee shoes.”

“Yippee shoes?” says Joyce. “What are Yippee shoes?”

“Oh, they’re the shoes I wear when I’m going someplace fancy.”

Lofty Brown (Thursday, 2 May 1991) Lauren is still very much into wanting to be considered a boy. Right now, specifically, she’s a cowboy. Not a cowgirl; a cowboy! She comes up to the community shelter for breakfast dressed the part. Old faded jeans with a hole in the knee, a brightly colored shirt, a western style belt, her high-top black rubber boots serving as cowboy boots, a wide-brimmed straw hat, and a bandanna tied around her neck.

She’s also looking for another name. At first she considered Lawrence instead of Lauren. But the other day she announced that her name is now Lofty. Lofty Brown. And she has requested that we all try to remember to address her as Lofty.

Ambleeance and Extracise (Saturday, 4 May 1991) Lauren keeps stumbling over two words. Her pronunciations are so cute, however, that we’re not making much of an effort to correct them. Ambulance comes out ambleeance; exercise is rendered as extracise.

The Mind Never Really Knows For Sure (Thursday, 16 May 1991) With alternative healing, or maybe with any kind of healing, you never know whether or not there’s a causal relationship between a particular therapy and a particular result. We learned several month’s ago, for example, that two of Lauren’s incoming teeth were hung up and would probably require some significant orthodontic work.

So I started to do sound and color sessions for her. As the situation unfolded, we ended up choosing an orthodontist who made an encouraging assessment, applied some non-drastic techniques, and helped bring the problem teeth down. Now to what extent, if any, did the sound and color work set up an energy field around Lauren’s teeth which promoted the healing directly (by helping her teeth slide more easily into place) and/or indirectly (through our choice of this particular orthodontist)?

The heart senses a connection and feels strengthened by it. But the mind never really knows for sure. And perhaps there’s grace, wisdom, and even safety in that uncertainty.

Here You Are, Sir (Tuesday, 21 May 1991) We’re at the Roanoke public library. I’m in the reference area. Lauren takes her library card over to the counter to check out some books. She’s in Lofty mode: pants and a short haircut. A few minutes later she returns beaming and tells me that the librarian handed the books back to her with the comment, “Here you are, sir.” Lauren was as tickled as could be to have been mistaken for a boy.