Most of us do not have much memory of the first several years of our life. What I remember is the stories my parents, my aunt, and my grandmother told me. It is not my memory. I doesn’t make sense that I have kept somebody else’s story as mine for my entire life. The story of my first years set a narrative of my life and colored every story I told myself.
“You were a scrawny little baby. You looked like a little monkey. You didn’t want to suck formula from the bottle. We had to squeeze formula into your mouth and when it was full you were forced to swallow. Your grandmother thought you wouldn’t survive.” It was the story I was told again and again by my aunt.
In that narrative I was a runt, who didn’t have a strong will to live and the story of my life was colored by it. I didn’t have strong attachment to life, or so I thought.
And it was not my story.
I took a workshop, “Write Your Way to Deeper Consciousness: A Guided Journey Through the Chakra” by my dear friend, Rev. Freddie Kluth. In the First Chakra class, I was told to write my birth story. So I called my mum. This is her story of my birth.
According to my mother, I was born around 10:00 ~11:00 pm on the day before the winter solstice. She started getting mild contractions. She left home to go to the dormitory for nurses by herself. The dormitory was close to the hospital she worked, and I guess she lived there before she married. She arrived there around 6:00 pm and rested in the dormitory until she was in labor. Nobody from the family was there. Only the matron of the dormitory accompanied her and stayed with her during the labor. It was a normal, rather easy birth, almost on the due date.
“Was there anything unordinary?” I asked. “No. You were normal. Your brother was small,” she said.
That’s all. Do you think it’s normal? I was the first baby she and her husband had. And there were two other women in the family with childbirth experiences. Why did she go to the hospital by herself? I understand that the hospital was like home for her. She spent most of her life working there. All the friends she has worked there as nurses. And it was in 1950s. We were poor and they didn’t have a telephone. There was no way to call a taxi. But my father had a bicycle. He could have biked.
My family is weird…
Freddie asked me to re-write the story to celebrate the birth of myself. This is my birth story I rewrote:
A young woman walked toward the woods. When the day started to wane, she heard the call of woods in her belly. In a hut she shared with a man and his kin, she dropped a bamboo sieve she was using to sort beans from husks. Some beans were spilt on the dirt floor, whispering cold dry words of …shame…shame… W omen folks working in silence looked up and gave a wry face. The fireplace held no fire to save firewood.
“I gotta go,” the woman said to herself and she rooted herself up from the silent cold hearth. The women folks went back to their chore. The woman put her straw boots on and picked up her straw coat.
The day was waning. “I gotta go,” she said and walked out of the hut her man’s kin lived. The night was reaching out for her. There was no daylight left to cast a shadow. The woman walked slowly but steadily toward the woods. “I know where to go,” the woman thought. The woods in her belly were calling.
When she saw a light in the woods, it was already dark. She knew who lived there and knocked at the door. An older woman greeted her. Warm air embraced her. The young woman rooted herself down and rested on a cot by the warmth of fire. The moon slid across the winter sky. It was the longest night of the year, when all the night’s spirits would come out and celebrate. Dead leaves danced with the wind, following the steps of the night spirits, whispering…she is coming, she is coming.
In the cabin on the cot by the hearth the woman moved. The call of woods were getting louder and stronger. The older woman came to her and said, “It’s time to go into the woods.” The young woman rooted herself deeper into the earth under the cot. Her roots ran beyond the boundary of the cabin and spread deeper and wider into the wood. Underground mycelium started to send signals all over the woods, to every tree, to every creature, and to every night spirits. The longest night was alive with full of spirits cerebrating the awakening. Before the midnight, the night spirits heard a baby cry. “I am … I am… I am…”
The next morning, a man came to the medicine woman’s cabin looking for his woman. There was no sign of the young woman. Instead he found a tree where the cabin used to stand. At the foot of the tree, a baby girl was sleeping wrapped in a straw coat. After the longest night of the year, the sun shined on the ground white with frost, warming everything it touched. He picked the baby up and walked out of the woods. The spirits of the woods whispered, “she’s ours… she’s ours… she’s ours.”
The man didn’t know the baby was marked by the spirits of the night woods. The baby is connected with the woods through luminous mycelium. She will be able to hear stories untold and to see spirits unseen. She will carry the luminous mycelium far away, spreading the whisper of the woods, spreading the life of the night sprits on everything she will touch.
She will be back.
We don’t have to accept the story we were told. We can rewrite and change the narrative. After all it’s your story. Not theirs.