Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Best Christmas Gift

We found Grandma in the dining room and wheeled her back, a little, from the others. So many others. One woman--and seems like every adult home has one--spoke and laughed in a strange voice, manlier than a man's. Another spoke on auto-repeat. A third joined us back under the Christmas tree and stood over us, swaying. She nodded toward Grandma and said: "She's not an individual, yet," also something about its being a long Friday. It was Tuesday, but she never stopped smiling. I could've talked to her all day.

Grandma didn't know us, and when I told her I was Sherry's daughter, it didn't seem to register. She was happy to see us, though, and hold the baby; I could hardly wait to lie him in her arms. "How... How... How...," she said, and I knew the question for which she was grasping but forced myself to wait her out. Finally, she asked: "What's the age of the child?"

"Five weeks," I told her.

"He's really cute," she said. "I had them. Boys and girls." Later, in her room, she looked at Clementine and said: "Pretty hair. I used to have hair like that." And she did; I've seen pictures of her long curls. Those were the only two things she said, while we were together, that proved she remembered something of who she used to be.

When I hugged and kissed her goodbye, I wondered if it were for the last time, and it might've hurt me. Except I'd wondered the same thing so many times before and, suddenly, all I could see was an opened gift: how she's 94, and I'm 38, and how--even if she doesn't remember it--we've had so much time. How she's held and loved, now, all of my babies.

"Goodbye, Grandma B.," my two-year-old volunteered. "I love you, Grandma B."

And Grandma smiled and said to the wee, red-headed stranger: "I love you, too."  


**A special thank you to my friend Sharon Pleasants, who, with all the love in her heart, gave me two (more) days of her life. I couldn't have made the trip without her. Thanks, also, to Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Carolyn, who welcomed my crazy tribe in and gave us beds...and pancakes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just Be Nice

We'd planned, yesterday, to leave for Kroger after Jim's return from work, but--given the events of the day--I didn't feel up to entering the cold, the dark, or the public with our three, younger children. I know you understand, that I'm not the only one who's just wanted to hole up at home.

Jim and I went out today, though, because we'd lined up a sitter and bought movie tickets weeks ago. Baby Chip slept through our entire cinematic experience, and I have to admit: I slept through part of it, myself.

Thankfully, I didn't sleep through Galadriel's and Gandalf the Grey's exchange because--of all the words people have had to say in the last couple of days--Gandalf's were the ones I wanted. He said:

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.

I'm with Gandalf; how about you?

Back in the day when I taught argument and rhetoric, my students and I shared ideas regarding what we could do about the prevalence of violence in our society. We talked about gun control, mental health, violence on tv and in the movies, violence in video games, prayer in schools, etc. Most of these ideas had some--if not a great deal--of merit. But my favorite idea was, and is, in line with Gandalf's thinking: just be nice.

If we went out of our way to be nice--especially to those who feel angry, hurt, and/or rejected--who can guess how profound the impact on our society?

Let's be really nice, right now. Let's think carefully about what's coming out of our mouths and fingertips. Let's not--in our efforts to understand, prevent further tragedy, and even provide comfort!--be insensitive. There's a time to speak, scripture says, and a time to keep silence (Ecclesiastes 3:7); let's err on the side of keeping silence...or say safe things like: I love you. I'm here for you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sing a Song

We'd closed the door on hours' worth of bathing/dressing/ironing/diaper-changing explosion, and it seemed as though (Miracle of miracles!) we might arrive clean and on time, but--as our headlights cut through the darkness--the baby wailed even over his sisters' arguing.

The twelve-year-old in the passenger seat turned his face toward me and said: "Sing a song, Mama, and cheer us up," so I did; I opened my mouth and sang. The little ones behind me quieted, and my young man wiggled his fingers at me.

"See," he said, grinning. "You're magic."

And I am not and have never been magic. Nor long-suffering. Nor organized and scheduled. I fight for happiness, patience. I beat back the piles, never really conquering them, just making dents here and there.

What I am--that is, what I try to be--is wholly myself. I try to live up only to my own standards. That means I choose other things, often, over cleaning. I sleep as much as possible and almost always with my baby. I make time to write out the most important things so my children will know them, someday, also so I won't forget them. I might nurse like crazy, but I don't aspire to diaper in cloth or blend peas for the toothless. I doubt that homeschooling will ever be for me; my young man made it through both fifth and sixth grades without my even knowing he had study cards for SOLs.

All of it is very personal; I don't know another mom who thinks exactly as I or places the exact same emphasis on the exact same things as I. That's ok: good, even.

I'm just trying to live in such a way that I carry a song in my heart, to sing on demand.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Here are the two best prayers I know: 'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' -Anne Lamott

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11a, KJV). 

Object to Be Destroyed by Man Ray

How to pass the time between now and healing?
Little to do but wait out the suffering,
trust I've worn a path to the Throne, praying:
"Make the feathers of Your wings his covering,"
or even just by gasping: "Father. Help."

I'm still so far from understanding why.

I can tell you, though: I've been changed,
listening to the words of faith, even gratitude
he's spoken into these long, slow years of pain,
watching him carry my chestnut-haired honey
high on his shoulders, knowing well the cost of love.

 **Linking with the communities of The Mag and Imperfect Prose.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Road Rage

I was supposed to see my doctor at noon, yesterday. I bathed and dressed the girls and put shoes on their feet. I got myself ready, too, and changed and fed Baby Chip. I buckled him into his infant carrier by the front door and went to the hook where I knew I'd hung my keys.

My keys were neither on the hook nor in any of the places I could think to look for them. To add further to my frustration, I knew Jim had already left work to meet me, and--since he doesn't carry a cell phone--I couldn't call him.

It was exactly the sort of situation apt to drive me ape. I'm a terribly impatient person: do you know this about me? I've been known to yell and even--when especially provoked--throw things.

Guess what?! I have two toddlers who yell and throw things. Perhaps (since my older son has never really yelled or thrown things, also since my daughters exhibit additional bad behaviors that I don't) this has little or nothing to do with me; still, I feel convicted over my lack of control. So, yesterday, I forced myself to remain calm.

Here's an interesting truth: I exhausted myself, working so hard at remaining calm. When Jim got home, I took Baby Chip and went to bed.

Fast forward many hours (keys found, girls in bed--after a long battle--for the night). I decided to play a video game. Now, I'm not a gamer. But Jim bought me L.A Noire for Christmas, and I was excited to try it out.

Oh my word: what a terrible decision! I was supposed to be a police officer, but I couldn't drive the patrol car at all. I'm not even kidding! I kept weaving all over the road...backing into buildings...hitting other cars. My partner kept swearing over my inability to drive! Finally, I looked at Jim and said (with as much calmness as I could muster): "This isn't fun for me. I can't even deal, right now."

What I wanted from my husband was a hug. Maybe even a badge, pinned to my shirt, that said: "I KEPT MY COOL IN HELL." Instead, I got his frustration over my frustration. I continued to refrain from yelling and throwing things.

And I stopped driving that car. Obviously, I wasn't meant to drive anything with wheels, yesterday.