I can still see the rug.

Probably 25 feet by 15. Whatever the proportions are in that range for a rug.

So many colors and shapes and blocks of activities dyed into the low pile.

I would sit, crisscross-applesauce style, on the 1 and play jacks on the 2. Then I’d move to the 2 and play tic-tac-toe on the 3 with tiny beanbags.

When I’d get to the 3, it was time to lay out dominoes and build a bridge on 4. But I always looked forward to sitting on the 4 the most. Because from the 4 block, I could choose to continue on in numerical order or branch out into letters of the alphabet. This was the pattern mirrored from the opposite corner, so some days I would start on the A and while seated on the D I could choose to shift to numbers. I preferred starting from the numbers, though, because starting with letters meant my back was exposed for the first few blocks and of course I understand that now.

The most fun was when my best friend would start at the alphabet corner and we’d work toward each other. We had to stay quiet yet we were giggling and playfully challenging one another through quick looks we’d shoot across the room.

If Mrs. Routh caught on, she’d give us demerits for sure.

As I think back about how certain I was of that, I’m amused. Surely the biggest discipline problem in the Josephine Wells Elementary library wasn’t two smart girls who’d earned free time on the activities rug.

I’m not sure that I would describe kiddo me as competitive. I mean, maybe I was but it felt way more like panic than competition. Like I didn’t know how smart I was. Didn’t know how socially skilled I was. Didn’t know how emotionally intelligent I was. I remember feeling certain that I was going to get in trouble. That I was going to BE in trouble. That maybe I always was already in trouble and they just weren’t letting me in on that fact yet.

Pressure. Panic. And on this rug for a few minutes on a Tuesday I could play. And on the BEST days — when Susan Waters and I *both* got library free-time passes for a full 10 minutes while the rest of our class diagrammed sentences or practiced their times tables — that play felt like an escape to another place.

A place where neither of us had been fondled. A place where neither of us had been hit. A place where neither of us hid or prayed to become invisible. A place where we could just progress, number by number or letter by letter, ’til we met in the center of the rug, then continued on to one another’s corner. Oh, it was such a fun RACE to that center point. I don’t think either one of us really cared who got there first. We just hoped we wouldn’t giggle about those haphazard few blocks during which we got sloppy with the task so we could cross into the other person’s territory… as if that garnered us some sort of advantage.

Putting different sized poker chips into descending order or creating little piles of dried beans in prime numbers were challenges we loved — not only because Mrs. Routh would have to get aaaaaallllllll the supplies for the activities rug from her office at the back of the library when we came in, but because we knew we were Very Trusted not to lose a bean, a jack, a domino… and it felt so nice being trusted. This was the good kind of pressure.

They say that time and place cease to exist when we’re in experiencing trauma. It’s the brain’s way of protecting us from being able to remember too many of the brutal details. And while Susan and I were on that rug in the biggest room on the second floor of Jo Wells, time ceased to exist. But for different reasons. Not to protect us from anything but to give us infinite space to be not in our bodies, not in our fears, not in our memories, not in our lives.

Luminous Void Tarot spread for Bonnie Gillespie's fifth assignment, Writing for the Tarot with Ariel Gore
Click to enbiggen.

Buttons and Blocks — by Bonnie Gillespie, 10 November 2020
assignment 5 for Ariel Gore’s Writing with the Tarot
tarot deck from The Luminous Void

Tarot Spread 5
The Card That Has Been Haunting Your Readings
single day, unexpected help
card 1 = 7 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 9 + 7 = 8. Strength (my birthdate; inner lion, righteous rage under control)
card 2 = 2 of Discs (the only card that’s come up more than once in this course; balance, partnership, earth, wealth, material, juggle on a tightrope, a lot going on but having fun doing it)
card 3 = 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 7. The Chariot (today; headed in the right direction, here’s a ride)

Whoa. Flashback to Montessori this time. But I melded it with Jo Wells. Love getting a visit with Susan Waters. We never talked about how we were violated but we both knew we had been.

I am *fascinated* with all the childhood showing up in my tarot cards and these assignments. I keep pushing myself to try and write anything adult (and I did so with assignment #4), but even that was family dynamics and a kid old enough to buy booze but not experienced enough to know how to manage his escape from the family dinner.

We’ll see where this goes… almost done with the course. And next assignment is romance, so it *should* force me a bit older and outside the family. We’ll see! I’m enjoying this work even as I find it challenging me in interesting ways.

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Enoughness is an inside job… and sometimes you need a guide to find your way there. Let Bonnie Gillespie get you started.

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