“THE SAFE WAY
Never relinquish your childhood,
Your devotion to dolls,
to dressing them, pouring their tea,
bathing them, combing their hair,
tucking them into a nursery.
For they will teach you their way:
that there’s safety in numbers,
in tasks with beginnings and ends;
they will make you believe
in the tightness of sleep.
You are not too old,
you are never too old
to unpack them from boxes,
lift them up, one by one,
catching each moment
when eyes blink open, blink wide,
lining them up on your unmade bed—
a chorus of wonder
at your return.
Emily Beam, March 15, 1995”
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard is the story of Paul and Emily. On December 12th, 1994, Paul walked in to the library at school looking for his girlfriend Emily Beam. What they said to each other, only Emily will ever know, because Paul fired 3 shots that day and one landed true in him. Now Emily will tell us her story and what became of Paul before the tragic event of his suicide.
Trying to adjust after this event, Emily finds herself alone (her parents made her move away) and guilt ridden. It is hard to explain what happens in the book without explaining away the reason behind Paul’s misery, that the author did a good job of peeling away layer by layer. What we find out as readers is that life is unexpected, growing up is scary and thrilling, and first love is never as clear as you think it would be. The book is also littered with Emily’s new poems, this is one of her ways of coping with what happened, and also inviting people in to her closed of secretive world. At first I thought this was going to be a high school shooting story with a twist, a haunting from Emily Dickenson—this of course sounded crazy, so I am glad it did not end up being like this. It wasn’t really a high school shooting, and Emily Dickenson is present, but just as a poet who inspires Emily to get out all her feelings… one of her poems also hits close to home with Paul before he pulls the trigger. I hated Emily’s parents, and I really can’t stand “because it the best decision for you…” explanations that parents give their children, when in reality it’s the least embarrassing option for the parent. However, it’s reality and this story is just trying to show readers the reality of our choices, and that we cannot always predict or direct others to react in a particular way, in a way that benefits us.
This story is about pain, grief, love, and the lies we tell ourselves. I wish I could tell kids that they should slow down with their actions; they will have plenty of time to make mistakes and have to make big decisions, that being a teenager should be light and fun, but no one will listen and the mistakes will roll and the growing up fast will happen. That is the reason I picked the particular poem from the book above, Emily is finally seeing that she’s a child with too many adult issues and decisions laid out on her.