Sunday, July 24, 2011

2,000 Paper Cranes... And Counting.

I remember first learning to fold paper cranes... it was at Peace Camp 1999, in Vancouver, BC. I had justurned 10 and was BFF with Rachel who was a year older and therefore SO cool. I had sort of gotten the gist down, but I had this really shiny gold paper that was really pretty that I wanted to fold a crane with, buthat paper is a little hard to use when you are a beginner. Rachel helped me smooth out some of the mistakes I had made and together we finished that gold crane. I thought of it as our friendship crane. And though Rachel and I have not spoken since that summer (I've been trying to find her on facebook but have been unsuccessful so far...), that crane brings me memories of our friendship that summer.

here it is, twelve years later

I was in fifth grade that next school year, and we read the story of Sadako. We folded cranes, and I, of course, was already an expert. 

Sometime around age 11, I started folding teeny tiny cranes, tearing my origami paper so I could make those little cranes. I'm not sure exactly whathe draw was; perhaps the challenge? maybe I justhoughthey were cute? Anywaythe summer I turned 11, I decided I would fold a thousand cranes. Mostly justo see if I could do it. And I guess something to do with ~peace~. It was a slow start, but a pretty big undertaking for an eleven ear old. I only folded maybe a hundred that firsyear.



In seventh grade, we studied Japan in social studies class, so we approached the subject of the atom bomb & Hiroshima & Nagasaki. As a seventh grade class, we folded 1000 cranes to send to the Sadako memorial in Japan. I donated some of my teeny tiny cranes to the cause, and folded many more, because again, I was an expert athis already.

In eighth grade I was very angsty. Reading my journals from back then is just drama, drama, drama, ~feelings~, ugh my lyf sux, etc. By then, folding cranes had become a calming activity, a coping mechanism. I'd play some music (angsty, of course), and fold. Athis point, I barely needed to look down, my fingers knew exactly whato do.

It was the summer after eighth grade, the summer I turned 14, that I found out my friend Madeleine had cancer. When we departed that summer, we were confident we'd be seeing each other again. Her cancer was treatable, she was young and healthy, she'd be cancer free in no time. I'm not sure when exactly I decided thathe cranes were now Madi's. It may have been right when I came home that summer after learning she had cancer. It may not have been until a few months later when we realized thathis wouldn't be as easy as we'd thought. Nevertheless, I had folded maybe 400 cranes by that summer. And sometime in the next few months I did decide they were Madi's cranes, and it became almost urgenthat I keep folding, that I make ito a thousand.


Time passed slowly or too quickly the next few months, who can say now. Come April, I got a phone call. I answered the phone and the person on the line asked to speak with one of my parents. I shrugged it off, I didn't know who it was. A few minutes later, my mom came to me with the phone. She told me it was Madi's dad on the phone; it was going to be soon. That conversation with bob is up there in the top ten hardest conversations I've ever had. I don't remember much of what was said. I remember sobbing. And I remember bob saying: "She was a great kid, eh?"

After I hung up the phone, I went and sat on my futon. I had 900 cranes. I folded a hundred that day. I sathere sobbing and folding, while each of my family members took turns sitting with me. I made ito a thousand. Madi departed to the heavens a few days later.

I puthose cranes in a box. I couldn't be there for all of her illness, buthis had been how I was present with her, how I had thought of her every day.

Months later, much too soon for me, a classmate of mine died of heart failure while playing basketball. I had never known him well, but it was all too real to have another fifteen year old die. That first day when we heard the news, teachers hardly expected us to do anthing. We made cards for his family, we wrote him letters. I folded cranes. I sent fifteen with a letter to his mom that first week. I had every intention of folding a thousand for him as well, but somewhere in there, time passed, and while I kept folding, I got busier, it went slower, and I had never met his family, only seen them from afar at his funeral. I know that they would have still appreciated it, but I never did give his family the rest of the cranes.

The summer of 2006, it was the 60th anniversary of the bombings in Japan. My aunt and uncle's church did a commemoration, and I folded the cranes for the service.


Time passed again. I grew older, didn't fold cranes as much. I finished Aaron's thousand, had Madi's thousand in a box, and had even more. Last summer, we began packing up the house to move to TX. I didn't know whato do with all those cranes. Madi's would of course, be making the trip. But Aaron and I hadn't been as close and I felt weird keeping them even if I didn't give them to his familyThough they may have been "Aaron's cranes", the truth is thathere was a piece of my soul in every one of them. My pain, my suffering, my tears, my love, my joy, my hope.

That summer we returned to Keuka, NY for Peace Camp, which had been the last place I had seen Madeleine. I decided that I would take some of these cranes and we would have a small memorial service in the lake, giving the cranes to the water we'd had so much fun in at age fourteen. Her biological sister Genevieve, her spiritual sisters Frances, Sarah, Lydia and I puthe cranes in the water. We told stories and remembered our beautiful sister.

cranes floating in the lake
I had only taken some to NY however, so I was still faced with the issue of whato do with all these cranes. My friend Sean suggested: "Use them to make one giant crane, charge admission to see it, and then take a bath in the millions of dollars you will inevitably make. Your welcome." Other suggestions were to make a mobile or donate to a children's hospital. My mom then suggested that maybe we give them out at church. We joined Mt. Level in 1997 just before I turned 8. This church is our family, and I liked the idea of giving them something to remember us byThe last Sunday that all of us were there as people living in Durham (we have gotten to visit a few times since), I brought a basket of cranes, I believe a few hundred. They were all different sizes and colors, people took one or many. After church was over, there were still some left, and we saved them for the kids I had worked with for years in Messiah's House.

We officially moved to Texas. I still had maybe a few hundred cranes left, justhe teeny tiny ones, and I figured I would make art with them or something. My best intentions are often overcome by laziness, so mostly they have just sat in their box.

On the seventh anniversary of Madi's death, I had my own memorial service for her. I wento the grotto on St. Ed's campus, which had been a place of solace for me, especially my freshman year. I used to walk back from the photo lab pretty late, and would stop to chat with Madi a while before heading to my dorm. That day I took 22 cranes, for she would be 22 this year, and laid them athe altar. I chatted with her a while, cried a bit, and remembered my dear Madi.
This brings us to present day. Where are the cranes now? Still in a box. But I am leaving for LA soon, and have been struggling with how to say goodbyto my friends and family here.

And I came up with something to do with the cranes.

Yesterday I spent folding boxes to put cranes in. There is no significant number of cranes in each box, just sort of filled each one. My hope is thathese become prayer cranes. I am going to be especially in need of prayer in this nexyear of my life as I embark on this nexyear of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I wanto give you something tangible to remember me by, something to guide your prayers (or positive thoughts, if you prefer) for me. I have also made prayer crane boxes for my new roommates that I will meet in less than two weeks, so we can share this journey together.


If you would like one, please let me know. Don't worry about me running out, I can easily fold more. Also, if you are not nearby, I'm not sure how well these will hold up in the mail, but if you would still like a crane, I can send you a bigger one.

If you have stuck with this entry for this long, props to you. Thank you for being part of my journey.

1 comment:

  1. I have a tough two years ahead of me. I just went through a challenging summer and I would love nothing more (especially because my birthday is coming up) than a box of cranes.
    I love you Naomi.
    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers on your courageous journey.

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