Deborah Henson-Conant

Telling stories with music at HipHarp.com

The piecrust lodged in my emotional throat when I was 8 and it’s been there ever since.

I was 8 and I was visiting the home of my sworn enemy.  I can’t remember her name.  I didn’t even remember she was my enemy until some relative – I can’t remember who – laughingly remembered it for me: that this girl and I were at war, and battled each other with rolled up newspapers.

We lived in the Amazon Housing project in Eugene, Oregon – and one day I visited her home. Which had some kind of shady yard – so maybe she didn’t live in the project at all, but on the outskirts.

There was at least one other child in the yard, deep in the dappling shadow of trees. I think I was already feeling like an outsider, already testing the boundaries of where I could belong when I walked through the gate – but I’m not sure how I entered the scene emotionally.  I think I may have been lonely.  I don’t know why I was there.  But if we were sworn enemies there must have been some deep connection we had.

What I remember is that her mother gave me a plate with a piece of pie on it. 

I must have eaten the pie … but not the crust.   I remember returning the plate, with the crust uneaten.  I remember trying to be a polite child by returning the plate to the kitchen, and it didn’t occur to me that the uneaten piecrust had any meaning in any way. That it was any reflection on me.  I remember her mother, in an apron, bending down to take the plate. I remember the cadence of her voice, a cadence of kindness. A sense that she was kindly overlooking some gaffe of mine?

And I remember the voice of my sworn enemy speaking to the other child: “The pie crust is the best part of the pie – don’t you think?  Anyone who doesn’t eat the crust is a loser.”  There may have been more.  Or less.  And the final noun was vague enough that I can fill in that blank with any word that wounds.

It resonated like The Gong of Eternal Truth of Isolation – and then lodged in my throat like a strangled cymbal swell. 

Even now it hurts.  How can one statement like that still hurt decades later? About PIE CRUST??? What is that resonance?  And what resonance has it collected along the way, like dust on an oily piano string?  What is the seed of human disconnect in that statement, in the soul of someone who knows – deep down – they don’t belong? Why is it that what I like and what I gave back can define me – and the definition can tag me as deeply, profoundly lacking?

And how did I get all of that from that one statement of a child, literally spoken behind my back?

And why do I feel like WIMP now when I admit it? The Wounded Wimp — which has none of the majesty and honor of a Wounded Warrior.

Was it the words?  Was it all the complex subtleties of the emotional meaning behind it?  Was it the sound that reinforced an already lurking sense of alienation, isolation, otherness, not-belonging?  Was it that there was no way to engage with it?  The deep emotional truth of why I deserve to be excluded – said in a way that left no room for engagement, no room for me to have a voice.

A question with no room for an answer.

I felt something akin again recently after the Woman’s March when I heard Trump say, “Well, why didn’t those people vote?”

Of course those people did vote – but how do you answer something that is meant to disengage, to dismiss, to devalue?  How do you untangle someone else’s definition of your ‘otherness’ and undeservingness? How do you answer a closed question?

A question is a beautiful thing.  It’s meant to open dialog and engagement.  

Unless it’s a closed question.  Like a room without a door, without a window. Without any way out. A construct of isolation.

So … this pie crust.  I think it’s about time I had a big swallow of something that washes it down. Or out. Or off the plate.

The first step is to open the question.  

To do that, I need to accept that what we like — and don’t like — to put in our bodies is one of the most beautiful and pure aspects of what makes us different, an aspect that helps us understand who we are to ourselves. What we love to taste, what textures and flavors feel beautiful.

The next step is re-playing the moment of definition and changing the character of the question, opening it up.  Imagining it spoken with LOVE.  If it was spoken with love the episode of the pie crust could have opened me up to a new experience: eating pie crust, maybe?

Or spoken a different way, “Are you not going to eat that?  Yaaaay!!!  Can I have it???” – the development of a collaborative eating relationship. The shift from enemy to partner, reveling in the advantages we each get from our different pie-eating proclivities. (yes, I looked up ‘proclivity.’  It means a ‘tendency to choose or do something regularly; an inclination or predisposition toward a particular thing.’ Funny how the right word is sometimes one you’ve never used before)

If I think about Donald Trump asking the question “Why didn’t they VOTE” as an open question I can imagine him not realizing that these people DID vote.  I could imagine him realizing that not only did they vote, but they’re continuing to vote with their actions – and that their votes count.  I can imagine that making a difference.  I can imagine it mattering to him.  I could imagine it increasing the human connection.

Is that pie-in-the-sky?   Well what’s the crust of that pie?  Would I eat it?  Would you? If I didn’t, could it connect me to my sworn enemy?  What would be the question that could unlock the connection? Could our differences add to that connection? What would that take?

What do you think?