What Do You Feel?

Summer of 2007 I visited my brother and his band in California. They were playing on The Tonight Show and I wanted to be there to share in the excitement with him.Two years earlier I realized my little brother was a mystery to me and I set out to discover the man that little BJ had become.

Little (BJ), I remember the day he was born. I walked out to the bus stop and was greeted by our father returning from the hospital. “You have a little brother…Bryan Joseph.” I was elated! It didn’t take long before I became his second mother. I can still picture him crawling up our apartment stairs and the Luv’s commercial appearing on TV. Bryan stopped and immedietly began backing down the carpeted stairs. He had to be near the music. It was calling to him.

I spent several days in California with Bryan and during that time I had an insiders view of life on the road with a band. It was very different from my life as a wife, mom, busy teacher and weekend writer. I kept hearing the phrase “What do you feel?” Every moment seemed to be lived by “What do you feel?” I think we stood outside our hotel for forty five minutes waiting for someone to make a decision about which bar we were going to for drinks. The teacher in me was dumbfounded. The mom in me wanted to take over and tell everyone what to do. Instead I watched and listened. When I noticed the police car approaching ready to give the band manager a ticket for illegal parking, I spoke up and said he might want to drive away. This crazy phrase, “What do you feel?” I scoffed and said to myself that if they lived in the real world with real responsibilities they would never be able to live every moment by what they feel. Perhaps there was a part of me that was jealous. Jealous of their freedom.

I hugged my brother after his performance on The Tonight Show and told him how proud I was of him. I will never forget that moment. I came home and jumped back into my busy life. Every once in awhile I would hear this nagging phrase whisper to me as I drifted off to sleep exhausted,”What do you feel?”

Nine months later while walking my class to lunch, I suddenly stopped, just like Bryan on the stairs. I told my fourth graders to go ahead without me. They knew the way. I walked into our principal’s office and told her I wouldn’t be back next year. I acted in the moment and listened to my inner voice that had been calling to me. “What do you feel?” “I feel it’s time for a change.”

Another nine months has gone by and my hectic days of teaching responsibility are fading from my memory. A part of me still feels like teaching so every Wednesday I help a small group of children at my son’s school. I go in, get my hugs, teach a short lesson, listen to them read, listen to their tales and come home refreshed.

To my surprise it turns out I don’t hate cooking as much as I thought I did. I think about what I feel like making every night and it is no longer a chore. In fact everything I do, I feel like doing. With that comes freedom and joy. It turns out my little brother taught me an important lesson. Listen to yourself. That voice that allowed you to see the wonder in the world when you were little. It’s still there.

Today, this is what I wrote. It’s what was created as I sat in my grandmother’s chair wondering what was I feeling. Alone in my room staring at the sparkles of sunlight bouncing off the canal and feeling the breeze and light on my face. I thought I had nothing to say. It turns out I did.

If I Had Something To Say

If I had something to say, I would say escape to silence and close your eyes.
Remember someone that made you feel safe.
Think of your favorite food and how it tastes.
Picture a fragile infant snuggled in your arms.
Feel the heat of the sun filling you with light.
Touch the soft fur of a dog and gaze into his telling eyes.
Watch a bird glide through the sky, its wings like a seesaw tilting side to side.
See the old man and old woman standing alone.
Do they love or do they hate when it’s time to say goodbye?


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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