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the path back is the path forward


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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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impact. the smallest among us. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

impact 2 copy

my aunt texted me a link to an article that was published in a long island news source.  the state of ny recently enacted the child victims act, extending the statute of limitations for a survivor of child sexual abuse in criminal and civil cases.

the article she sent was about a woman, now 58, who alleges sexual abuse by a music teacher in her middle school years that extended into her high school years, a young woman whose first sexual experience was forced upon her by a man twice her age.

i just re-read the article online, which had 70 comments by readers, a mixed bag of revulsion, outright indignation and seething condemnation.  people who claimed this woman was lax in her non-reporting way-back-when and was now after the money in a civil suit.  people who knew that this music teacher had been assaulting young girls for years and years, whose pedophilia was ignored by the administration and who were now cheering for the uncloaking of the mantle of silence, a journey to possible justice.  people who were sickened.

i alternatively sobbed and couldn’t breathe trying to click on this article on my phone when i got the text.  i needed to download an app, couldn’t think straight to remember my apple sign-in; i was not at home and was anxious to get there and read in the safety of our kitchen.  i was sure that i knew who this un-named alleged perpetrator/rapist/pedophile was.

when we got home, i was able to download the app and read the article aloud.  no name was mentioned of the man-who-was-accused-of-heinous-acts-with-little-girls, but a school location was and it was then i realized that – in two different towns, side-by-side, in the late 70s – there were at least two men who made it their mission to prey, to take the virginity of young women and forever change those young women’s lives.  the man who stole my innocence and the innocence of girls i tried in vain to protect was a different man than the one in this article.

there was no victim-witness division in the prosecutor’s office back then. in an all-too-common story, not one of the assaulted pressed charges.  as far as i know, both of these men walk freely about, wherever they live.  the smallest among us may still be suffering their disgusting acts.  i can vouch for the fact that the fallout of the act does not end; this breach of trust, this contemptible forcing of will, the abhorrent power-wielding by another leaves fossils in every cell.

we stumble into small-but-profound acts of impact.  people donating used mascara wands to aid in the cleansing, and thus, healing, of small wild animals in need of care.  donations of suitcases to foster care agencies to give children a place, besides a plastic bag, to keep their tiny collection of belongings.

it may not balance out the atrocities, but these gestures, these initiatives help.  we are responsible for each other.

protecting the smallest among us.  the children.  the creatures.  why can’t this be the most important?

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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