The Cabin And The Cane

by Beth Ann Jedziniak

Yesterday morning on the elevator, a woman said, “I love your cane. Where did you get it?”

While my cane is made of wood and looks hand-carved, I purchased it off the shelf at Walgreens. She seemed disappointed with my answer so I added, “But perhaps I should come up with a better origin story for moments such as this.” Then the elevator doors opened and we both went on about our day.

As a child, I lived in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire with my uncle and my grandmother. For two years I lived in that cabin with no running water and a scarcity that ran deep. Though there was plenty of good food to go around and leftovers to spare, my younger brother and I weren’t allowed to eat any of it. Cornflakes and unpasteurized milk was our daily breakfast. No sugar allowed. The sugar was for them. Bologna and bread for lunch. Rinse and repeat, day after day.

I had known times of scarcity before the cabin, but, whatever my family had lacked in basic human needs, my mother had made up for with an abundance of love. Here, in this cabin in the woods with my grandmother and uncle, there was no love. Your name was screamed and screeched as though you were an offense that could not be forgiven. With each touch, a toll was exacted on my mind, body, and innocence. The extent of the loss would not be discovered until much later. It is a debt that I am still paying.

They’re all dead now, my mother, grandmother, and uncle though the scarcity created in that cabin still lives in me even as abundance calls my name.

This morning, the same woman who asked about my cane ran onto the elevator just before the doors closed. She said, “So, what is the story of your cane?” She was searching for that improved origin story but I had completely forgotten our conversation from the day before until that very moment.

Off the top of my head I said, “As a child, I lived in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire, and I would sit under a huge tree by the pond and read my favorite books over and over again. When I injured my leg, my uncle took a branch from that tree and carved this cane for me. My healing and wholeness was that important to him.”

I continued, “As a matter of fact, I recently returned to that cabin in the woods of New Hampshire and sat under that tree, my cane by my side, and reread one of my favorite childhood books.” She asked for the name of the book so that she could read it. I looked at her and smiled. She had completely forgotten, for a moment, that this was a story made up for her benefit and, perhaps, for mine.

""Beth Ann Jedziniak has a passion for the written and spoken word. Her speech entitled “My VaJourney” was recorded for Claim the Stage podcast. Previously, she was the founder of Operation Fat Monkey. Most evenings you will find her in her loft playing, writing, painting, and drinking copious amounts of tea.

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