“I wanted a perfect ending…
Now, I’ve learned the hard way that some poems
don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear
beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing,
having to change, taking the moment and
making the best of it,without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity.” Gilda Radner, 1946-1989
The braids in my hair were intertwined so tight that one strand would never unlink to unravel the whole. Every morning when I was in elementary school, the braiding of my hair was part of the morning ritual. In one hand I grasped the black comb, its teeth made small indents on the palm because I held it so tight, while the other hand held a glass of milk. I sat down on the floor and crossed my legs Indian style, while my Mother braided my hair. There were usually no words exchanged while she braided, the television did most of the conversing for us. As soon as she finished fastening the rubber band at the end of my braid, I grabbed my backpack and darted toward the door. My Mom walked with me on the sidewalk as I tried to step on every crack, counting each one before I reached the end of my street, Bosque Drive.
As I reflect on that memory today, I understand that in some way that walk to my elementary school became my point of reference and a reliable framework, my glance always fixated on that green Bosque Drive sign, a symbol of a beginning I didn’t understand until I was older. The ordinary filled my days, I woke up, went to school, played with my friends, ate dinner with my parents, harassed my little sister, and went to sleep. The same routine happened over and over again for so many years. The street sign always in my purview, no reason to interfere with this rhythm because it provided direction and happiness. There was a finite beginning and ending to my days because guidelines of my life was a task entrusted to my parents.
The thought of leaving that street, not visiting my childhood home on a regular basis became a source of discontent to me, especially when my husband and I decided to move to Arizona. The idea of living in a town, where everything was wholly unfamiliar, where I had no roots, where my parents or sister never lived, unravelled the braid I created in my head. I wouldn’t be walking on that sidewalk to my elementary school.
It’s the separating, the disengaging from the reality I held on to in my mind which unsettled me. Because in that unravelling lies ambiguity. My life, before moving to a new city, existed in beginnings and endings of milestones of any typical person’s life: childhood, college, marriage and having a baby. Now I’ve learned that in the unravelling, there isn’t a finite entry or exit, that there is a continuum. And the most important part of the living is done in the ambiguity. It’s what lies when the braid unravels and how you go on despite what you believe is a beginning or ending.
How do you feel about ambiguity? Does it bother you when you are not at a beginning or ending? What particular beginnings or endings are memorable for you or have made the most impact?