The Lofty Chronicles: 11 — The Turning Tide

The Turning Tide

Lauren with cousin Pepper
Lauren with cousin Pepper

Autumn 1992

The Turning Tide (Tuesday, 1 September 1992) The tide of this crisis seems to be turning. Several days ago, Lofty and Rose spent most of a day dressing up in fancy dresses. Lofty borrowed one of Rose’s hair bands and later got some for herself. She’s also taken to painting her finger nails again. And yesterday she took along a backpack full of dresses when she went to play with Claire.

Tonight, as we’re finishing up the book about Abbie Burgess, we come to the chapter in which Abbie is courted by and falls in love with Isaac. This elicits some girlish giggles from Lofty. Joyce and I glance at each other, amused and rather surprised by her reaction.

Later she says to Joyce, “Do you know what I’ve been thinking about?”

“What’s that?”

“I’m considering becoming a girl again.”

Three Balancing Acts (Tuesday, 1 September 1992) I’m engaged in three critical balancing acts when it comes to Adam. The first is between issue and dynamic. We are obviously caught up in the issue of his abusive behavior and the ensuing crisis. Yet we can’t allow our preoccupation with the issue to obscure the underlying dynamic of his chronic stress and alienation, which has been active for quite a while, well before it gave birth to the behavior. Issue and dynamic are intimately related, like twig and root.

The second delicate balance is between the literal and the non-literal Adam. I can’t afford to simply focus on one or the other–either the person standing before me, or that aspect of myself which he mirrors back to me. I must pay attention to both.

The third balancing act concerns my beliefs about change. While believing in the potential for radical personal transformation, a belief right at the core of Light Morning’s reason for being, I must also acknowledge the heavy, sluggish power of inertia. Can Adam actually transmute the deep twists that led to his damnable involvement the girls? Or is this like hoping for a leopard to change its spots?

Important questions, for both of us.

A Missed Visit (Tuesday, 1 September 1992) Lauren recently had a dream in which Adam came by and we all sat around talking together. She felt good about the dream and has been looking forward to seeing Adam on his next visit from his therapy program in Washington, D.C. When he actually comes to visit, however, and sits around talking, we’re in Roanoke and miss seeing him. Lauren is very disappointed.

Dream Song (Thursday, 3 September 1992) We’re talking over breakfast about how our life’s circumstances are like a powerful dream.

“If only we can stay awake to it,” I say. “It’s so seductively easy to get sucked into the vortex of the literal drama and fall asleep to its deeper significance.”

Then someone mentions the biblical reference about Christ being “the first fruits of them that slept.”

During this brief conversation, Lauren’s off in a corner of the community shelter, busily involved in a project and not paying the slightest attention to our metaphysical speculations. Or so it seemed.

Later in the morning, Lauren and I are down at the house. I’m ensconced in one of the big chairs in the living room, proofing the outgoing edition of The Lofty Chronicles. Lauren’s at the treadle sewing machine, in a bright mood.

“Zippety doo-dah, zippety-ay,” she’s singing. “My oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine heading my way…”

I smile and go on with my work. She continues singing and sewing, oblivious of my presence. Then I notice that the tune of her song has veered off. The lyrics have changed, too. Soon she’s half chanting, half singing, allowing the words to come through spontaneously, as she occasionally did as a young child.

I listen more closely. She’s chanting out her questions about dreams and dreaming. Since I already have paper and pencil in hand, and can do so surreptitiously, without breaking her spell, I begin to transcribe her impromptu words.

Don’t you call it a dream.
Why don’t you call it a dream?
Does anybody know what a dream is?
Can anybody tell me what a dream is?

The slow, rhythmical cadence of the treadle sewing machine is like a shaman’s drone note, calling forth and supporting the song.

If anybody knew what a dream is…
If anybody knows what a dreamer is…
So why don’t you know
What a dream, dream, dreamer is?

Then singing and sewing are suddenly interrupted by the sound of war whoops coming down the path. Moments later several kids burst into the portico, eager to play. Both song and spell evaporate into excited kid-talk and happy laughter.

Visiting Nat (Wednesday, 9 September 1992) Anticipating our trip out west in November, Joyce was recently wondering aloud to Lauren where in California Nat lives. Nat is the ten-year-old boy Lauren met at Augusta; the one who was rather taken with her. Lauren expressed interest, so Joyce checked the zip code directory and an atlas, discovering that Nat lives quite near Point Reyes, where we’ll soon be visiting my parents. She told Lauren this and asked if she’d like to visit him while we’re in California.

Lauren said yes. So Joyce got a letter off to Nat and his father.

Tonight someone brings in the mail, including a letter from Nat, and a note from his father, saying they’d love to see us when we’re in the area.

“Oh creeps!” Lauren says, obviously embarrassed that her impulse has borne fruit.

“I mean,” she adds, correcting herself, “that will be fun.”

My Name’s Lauren (Tuesday, 22 September 1992) This morning I’m reading a long letter from my father. Lofty, passing by, peers over my shoulder.

“What’s that name ‘Lofty’ doing there?” she asks, seeing a reference to The Lofty Chronicles. “My name’s Lauren.”

“Well,” I reply, “folks are only just now getting used to calling you Lofty, so it may take a bit of adjustment to get back to Lauren again.”

“Mom,” she says, turning to Joyce, “please notify people that I’m Lauren, and I’m a girl, and I’d like girl things for Christmas.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Joyce says with a grin.

Later, over supper, several of us are hoping out loud that Lofty won’t just go away, never to return, and that there will still be a little room left in Lauren for Lofty.

“I’m about 99% Lauren and 1% Lofty,” comes the reply.

Then she allows that the split might be more like 85/15.

“Hmm,” I think to myself. “The Lauren Chronicles?”

Bike Gymnastics
Bike Gymnastics


A Bizarre Synchronicity (Saturday, 26 September 1992) I have just been nudged by another of those numinous synchronicities which have interwoven themselves into the Adam crisis. Lauren and I stopped by the little country store this afternoon, just as Ray was closing up. The three of us are on the porch–Lauren choosing a few apples to buy, Ray carrying the remaining apples inside, and me wondering whether to bring Ray up to date on Adam.

Ray and Adam have had a fairly close relationship. He knows about Adam’s situation and is both concerned and supportive. Adam, however, has not yet felt ready to talk with him about it, so all of Ray’s information is sketchy and second-hand. And for some illusive reason, I shy away from broaching the subject.

Lauren finishes selecting her apples and goes over to the outside spigot to wash them off. Ray has just about finished removing everything from the porch. I‘m still wrestling with whether or not to bring up Adam.

“Hey, Dad,” Lauren calls. “Look what I just found!”

I walk over and kneel down beside her.

“I was washing my apples and saw this on the ground.”

She holds up a tiny piece of paper, about ½” square, on the tip of her finger. Something is printed on it. Looking more closely, my body hair starts to rise. On the scrap of paper, which has either been cut or very neatly torn from something larger, is a single word in bold type–Adam.

“Strange, isn’t it?” Lauren murmurs.

I nod wordlessly. Nothing else is on the ground; Ray keeps his place well swept. Just Lauren, and her apples, and a single piece of paper with a single word on it.

I get up, feeling rather dense for needing a sign so lacking in subtlety. Going over to Ray, I tell him that Adam has moved to D.C., that he’s in a therapy program there, and that he’s due to appear in court in a few days. He thanks me for telling him, and asks me to convey his support to Adam. I nod and head back to the car. Lauren joins me, her bag of apples in one hand and the small scrap of paper in the other.

I soon have the opportunity to pass Ray’s message on to Adam, and urge him to get in touch with Ray. He later calls and talks with both Ray and his wife, Diane. All three of them feel good about the conversation. So Lauren’s “chance” finding of a bizarre little piece of paper helps to catalyze a needed sharing.

Carrying the Story Into Her Dreams (Monday, 28 September 1992) Lauren has a dream that’s a continuation of our current bedtime story, The Lord of the Rings. She tells me about it this morning. She apparently awoke several times during the night, and each time she went back to sleep the dream picked up where it had left off.

“And the dream was different,” she says, “depending on what side I was sleeping on. When I was sleeping on my right side, the dream was really clear. But when I rolled over and was sleeping on my left side, the dream became foggy, or unclear.”

Convoluted Genealogy (Thursday, 1 October 1992) “Hey, Dad,” Lauren says. I’m working on a project. She’s on the couch, deep in thought.

“What would happen if some guy married an older woman. And that woman had a daughter. And then the guy’s father married the woman’s daughter. What would the relationship be between the guy and his father?”

I look up with a blank expression, wrenching my mental gears out of the project and into her rather convoluted genealogical question.

“Run that by me once more.”

So she repeats her scenario.

“Wouldn’t the boy be his father’s father-in-law?” she asks.

I think it out and nod.

She smiles.

“I thought so. Pretty neat, eh?”

Encouraging Feedback (Saturday, 3 October 1992) Joyce receives a letter today from a friend that she and Lauren know from Augusta, where Joyce teaches calligraphy. The woman was responding to a letter in which Joyce had shared the events of this past summer and had expressed concern about their possible impact on Lauren. The friend’s feedback, based on her relationship with Lauren during their week at Augusta, is encouraging.

“Lauren is still open and loving,” she writes, “and doesn’t flinch at the touch of strangers. I watched her relate verbally and physically to dozens of strange women and men. I’ve worked with abused kids, Joyce. They can’t do what Lofty did at Augusta. They just plain can’t. Period. So I believe you’re right. Bless her, she got off easy. Healing will take time, but you’re on that track already.”

Shaking Hands With Myself (Sunday, 11 October 1992) Lauren has a dream in which she is shaking hands with herself. She says it’s as though she is meeting herself for the first time, or congratulating herself about something well done.

Oh Creeps (Wednesday, 14 October 1992) We’re in the community shelter, standing around the cook stove. Marlene says some friends are going to be visiting this coming weekend.

“And they have two boys,” she continues, looking at Lauren, “who are coming with them.”

“How old are the boys?” someone asks.

“Around ten or eleven.”

“Oh creeps!” Lauren exclaims.

Then, seeing our smiles, she adds, “That means, ‘Oh great!'”

Girls Football (Friday, 16 October 1992) Lauren and I are throwing the football around after lunch. I’m showing her a few standard pass patterns—down and out, the button hook, hook and go. She’s having a good time running the patterns.

Later in the afternoon she comes over to where I’m working and shows me a piece of paper with some drawings on it. She explains that she has diagramed all the pass plays we had been practicing and has added a few more.

The paper has a big “GF” at the top, and other letters at the various positions. She explains that the “GF” stands for Girls Football and that “R” is Robert, “L” is Lauren, “M” is “Myra”, and “B” is Becky. She hopes everyone will get together soon and practice.

He’s Still Tom (Monday, 26 October 1992) Lauren and I go to town to see Tom, who’s recovering from skin cancer surgery. The operation removed and then reconstructed his lower right eyelid. It went well.

The surgeon also cut out two other small spots, one from next to his nose and the other from his back. He’s recuperating for a few days at Wes and Shara’s, so that his surgeon can keep an eye on his recovery without having him incur the expense of an additional hospital stay.

“Tom’s a little nervous about you coming in to see him so soon,” I mention to Lauren.


“Well, his bandages have just been removed and he’s afraid his face might look pretty messy and maybe a bit scary. He’s thinking you may not want to see him quite yet.”

“That’s silly,” she retorts. “He’s still Tom!”

“That’s true,” I agree. “I guess it’s like when Darth Vader is dying, in the last Star Wars movie. He doesn’t want Luke to see what he looks like underneath that big black mask. But Luke doesn’t care about the ugly scars. He just wants to see his father, face to face.”

“That’s right. I just want to see him.”

We have a fine visit. The reconstructive surgery was done skillfully, the healing has been rapid, and Tom and Lauren enjoy seeing each other.