When the English & Communications Department
at Pensacola State College realized
that they needed a break from the professors & their syllabi,
from the students & their grievances,
& from the yellow water that came out of the tap,
they decided that a change of face would help.
When the red-nosed brigade came marching on
their stomping grounds,
they were like a breath of fresher air,
& so these denizens of Bldg. 4
became Rudolph for a day–
with noses that outshined their smiles.
When she looked back,
she saw all the mistakes she’d made,
but in the future,
she saw all the mistakes she wouldn’t make
because of what she had learned
from the ones she’d already made.
Because she believed
that she wasn’t smart enough for college,
toiling away in dead-end restaurant & retail work,
soaking up life experience,
which was often greasy.
When a little bun was placed in her oven,
she found it in herself
to believe in herself
or maybe even for the first time,
for being little more than the miller’s daughter
who turned words into gold.
Life had gotten hard
when her husband had gotten sick,
& their gender roles had,
out of necessity,
There were the days
that he felt like he was
withering away in isolation,
becoming Mr. Mom & Mr. Dad;
there were the days
she felt like she was stuck somewhere between
Office Space & Groundhog Day.
But when they saw how far they had come
from almost becoming
of the cardboard box brigade,
saved only because they were not
alone in the world,
they knew they were each doing
what they had to do
to have the life they wanted—
not just for themselves
but for the daughter who walked between them.
When Sarah went back in time,
she faced herself at age 17,
but the young Sarah
didn’t recognize the older Sarah.
The older Sarah,
now Sarah R.,
wanted to tell the young Sarah
that it would be 20 years
before she figured it all out.
She wanted to tell her not to wait—
to do what she’d missed out on the first time
all those years ago,
until she realized that to change a minute
might change everything.
Had her child not been born,
she could’ve done just that,
but she had to let then Sarah B.
find her own way—
just as she had.
This old Sarah who was the young Sarah
looked her way once more,
& the newer but older Sarah saw
a gleam of admiration in that brown-eyed girl
she once was.
And it was then
that the 37-year-old Sarah
seeing a woman who looked like her
all those years ago.
She lived her life not in absolutes
but in maybies,
She never knew where she was going to be
5 or 10 years from now;
all she knew was that her daily decisions
kept her going in the right direction.
With a cheery pink pen,
she performed a free editing service
for her friends’ papers—
adding hearts & smileys to the parts she liked
& “How about this?” to the parts she did not.
She didn’t hemorrhage all over the paper
but sprinkled it with love
by giving it constructive criticism.
Her college adventure ended,
only to beget another,
but wherever her life,
the ultimate adventure,
the journey made her eventual destination
Skye slept till noon & worked every evening,
missing the sun rising & setting
& sleeping through the changing of the guard.
When her work hours changed,
& she rose with the sun
& lay down with the moon,
sleeping with 1 man & waking up with the same,
she experienced the best of twilight & dawn.
She encapsulated the human interest
of everyday life
in 600 words or less
through her weekly column,
“They Do It Every Time”—
leaving behind a legacy of smiles
in the way that stand-up comics
left behind laughs.
She closed the last chapters of someone’s life–
with biographical narratives
that became reverse baby books
& treasured keepsakes by their descendants
rather than their ancestors.
When she closed the last chapter of her own life—
writing not her obituary
but a poem that was a celebration of her life–
she realized that even though her children
couldn’t tell her life story better than she could,
they could convey what she’d meant to them
better than she ever could.