If roses were blue
If violets were red
If dogs were cats spotted instead
If fish had wings and very long tails
If the sky was yellow and jiggled like jello
If the grass was orange
Bright, bright orange….
Would it bother me?
Not a bit.
Melissa Knackmuhs, Age 8
My dad found this poem while digging through old photographs for his father’s funeral. I doubt he found many photos because I don’t remember the gruff old man smiling much (or ever speaking to me). I also don’t remember writing this poem.
But maybe these lines are more than nonsense because I was probably pretty deep and wise at the ripe age of eight. I don’t remember any anxiety at eight-years-old. I was probably my truest self. I’d like to somehow get back to her.
At some age older than eight, I began to have trouble distinguishing the right things I felt in my heart vs. judgment and opinions and wanting to constantly please people. The little girl who didn’t care what color sky and animals and grass are (because all colors are beautiful) turned into a control freak with worries and rituals and attacks of total dread.
I grew up hearing statements such as: They are too young to start a family. He shouldn’t buy that. She shouldn’t have changed her hair. They shouldn’t live there. She shouldn’t marry outside her race. He shouldn’t work there. She shouldn’t quit college. They shouldn’t do that.
Granted, some of these statements were very true. Some were not. Regardless, people get to do whatever they want to do with their own lives. Why should we care if roses aren’t red? And who are we to judge a yellow sky, a spotted dog-cat?
I try to retrain my brain, wash it clean from parent opinions and good intentions and people’s expectations and stone-throwers and dirty looks and disapproving thoughts and narrow minds.
And I keep thinking of myself, shut off, communication cut, curled in ball. Sick in stomach. Droplets bleeding down my legs. Because the flowers were late. The roses not red. Angry stranger screaming. Banging down door. It’s Valentine’s Day. Not pleased. The flowers were late. The roses not red.
My parents never listened to me. They said, “If we don’t like him, you can’t love him.” They said, “Honor your father and mother.” They claimed God told them we shouldn’t be together. I told them God shows me daily why he was chosen for me.
My dad said he thinks I’m not being myself, who I was raised to be. He says he thinks I’m going through a hard time. He will “pray for me.”
I want to tell him there’s a big difference between You’re being a bad girl so Lord Jesus let us pray
and what a precious friends asks when she gets out her notebook, asks how are you doing spiritually? How can I pray for you while you pray for me?
I want to tell him he’s never understood my relationship with my Jesus. And I don’t like when people think they know more about that relationship than I do. And I’d like to let him listen to this husband of mine with all of his faults as he holds my hands firmly and stops the screaming world and bows his head while I stare with all my faults into my plate and relearn how to at least be thankful for daily bread.
I have to tell myself it’s okay not to drive to a stranger-grandfather’s funeral because I don’t want to. It’s okay to feel no emotion at the news of his death.
I have to tell myself, Melissa, writer-woman-warrior, it’s okay to write the honeyed harmony of life and also life unsweetened. And they are both truths. Truths. Your birthright. You write. You’ve done it since you were eight. Child, be not afraid.
I have to hush their deafening voices as I squeak to my doctor about trying therapy because as moods shift and plans change and seasons swing and moves occur and the noise starts and relationships alter and violets go red and roses turn blue, I want to get to the point where I can say…
Would it bother me? If His plan is not my plan? If I simply cannot please them. If not everyone agrees, is pleased? If grass was bright, bright orange? Would it bother me?
Not a bit.