A Safe Place & Time
July 15, 2010 § 2 Comments
I was reading a novel the other day (big surprise huh) and the main character was attending a yoga class. The class leader, clad in an electric blue leotard, asked all the people to think of their safe, happy place as they meditated. When the character thought of her snug, comfortable bedroom at home, it started me wondering. Where would I think of if I had to come up with a safe place?
The first image that popped into my mind was instantaneous. I didn’t even have to pause. It was a mental picture of home. Me, sitting on the green carpet in the living room, with some of my siblings sprawling around me as we play a board game. The windows are open to catch the breeze and it’s summertime, I can tell even in my mind. There are lights glowing brightly, snacks in the fridge, Mom and Dad are around somewhere. We are laughing hysterically, Jul and Angela and I, as we play whatever game it is, and I know why this laughter is so tangible in my thoughts of a safe place. It’s because I have always been lucky enough to know that my family shares the exact same sense of humor, one that is witty, sometimes intelligent, heavy emphasis on puns (thanks Dad), and none of the crudity that passes for comedy these days. We make word plays, make fun of each other, exaggerate, fire off quick retorts. We are close, we love one another. There is a baby in a bouncy seat nearby, watching our play with bright eyes. There are couch cushions scattered on the floor and books everywhere. This is a safe place, I know. At home, in the living room, laughing with my sisters and brothers.
Then I started to really think about the safe places in my life and I came up with another one almost immediately. This might be an older snapshot but it still held the same feeling of security as my home did. I was in the Holy Family Center chapel, surrounded by flickering candles and sharp spears of light from the stained glass windows and door. All my friends were there, all the families I had grown up with and seen at Friday night Mass every week for years. All the community members I remembered from my childhood. I was kneeling towards the altar and a priest with a blurry face was elevating the Eucharist. Even now, writing this, I can feel the nubby red carpet under my knees and see the red candlelight behind the altar. There is Grandpa Hudak’s kind smile as he offers me the consecrated cup. I can feel the little tug of nervousness in my stomach as I stepped up to the lectern for the readings even though I must have read at Mass over a hundred times. The little kids shuffle and nudge, waiting for it to end so they can burst onto the lawn of the Center and run off all their energy. This is the place where I learned that a prayer can move your soul and make you a little bit of a different person than you were before you heard it. I learned that a song can make you cry, that God can be heard and seen and touched by my hand. Maybe some people went to Friday night football games. I went to Mass with my family, every Friday for years. It’s a truly safe place.
A third mental snapshot, a third safe place: Longport, New Jersey, a beach town. I’ve been vacationing in this town every summer since I can remember. It’s not a specific memory of a time in my mind though, or an image of my relatives’ beach house. It’s not even really the beach itself. What makes me think of Longport as a safe place is because it’s like magic. Nothing bad ever happens there. It’s so full of memories with places and people from my childhood all the way through now. Ghosts of me and my cousins run through the streets, hop along the burning sand, throw our bodies in childish abandonment out into the rolling green waves. We chase each other in tag around the beach playground, and then whirl into our teenage years, putting on the green at mini-golf, cruising around town at night to get ice cream at the Dairy Bar on Ventnor. We’re too cool; we saunter in the humid night air, the salt sticking to our clothes. We stroll right into (almost?) adulthood, newly 21, and there we’re cradling wine glasses on the front porch, we chug from sweating beer cans on the beach. We start going out to fancy dinners and then a bar afterwards; we stop thinking those mini-cereal boxes are way cooler than regular size ones. Before I know it, I’m 24 years old and Longport is still magic. A safe place.
After reflecting for a few more minutes, I realized just how incredibly lucky I am. To have so many places where I know I can feel secure and loved is amazing. I don’t know which one I would choose to think about, should I ever be instructed to find my safe place from a leotard-clad yoga instructor. I suppose I’ll just have to hope it’s a long meditation period.