Something at First Sight

At the end of the major street that split the subdivision, was a lake.  Next to the lake, were ball parks, a playground with picnic areas, a golf course and a sailing club.  When school was out, ball was on.  So, being healthy 15 and 16 year-old girls, we climbed in Mikayla’s massive family wagon (In my new color block top that had the tie on the side.) and headed down to the ball park.

All the usual suspects were there.  And someone new to me.

He was taking our dollar at the gate and selling the cokes.  Red hair, exceptional medium build.  Eyes.  Eyes forever. My heart still squeezes.

We hadn’t even been seated in the bleachers for five minutes, when someone told Mikayla he wanted to talk to me.

Being so young and so unused to that kind of attention, I didn’t leap right up and run over.

The game had barely gotten underway, but Mikayla was soooooo boy-crazy, she wouldn’t even leave me alone.  So it was get up the nerve or be gnawed to death by Mik, I had my choice.  I went with getting up and walking over there.

I went to the concession stand and waited quietly; while a BUNCH of our friends bought candy, interspersed with people who weren’t nosy; they wanted a snack.

Then some people came and needed to pay their dollars to get in.

Then he had to go unlock something.

Finally, he was free to chat a bit.

I stood there in the shade of the concession stand.  Our eyes met and held.  It felt promise-y and comfortable as broken in jeans.  Not silly or self-conscious.  Seen.

We’d barely started to talk, when Mikayla had to leave.

When we got in the car, she jabbered away in her usual style.  Completely unaware.  You didn’t tell her anything remotely confidential.

His family was moving.

That week.

I guess they must have.

That was 1982.

 

 

 

The Heartbreak Imperative

I imagine Adam and Eve must have discussed  news, weather, and sports, before they began hiding from God and each other and speaking in vaguenesses and riddles.  No cooking or cleaning or who’s going to take the kids to practice.  Just how many goats were born and how many peaches in a pie.

*yawn*

I can’t imagine a world without conflict.  A job to do; no problems to solve.  How would that even work?

It’s immaterial.

Adam ate the fruit.  (Eve was deceived.  Adam went willingly.  No Buick necessary.)  The world and the human race were altered forever.

What we have now is a broken world full of people who, while created in the image of God, hunger and thirst and grasp for things that are not offered. Refusing the bounty before them, they seek more.  More power. More pleasure. More promise.  Just more.

It isn’t ugly most of the time.  Often it’s pitiful.  Sometimes it’s poetic. Mainly, it is a pedestrian pursuit of equality or “fairness”in comparison with our peers.  Ick.

Once we were broken.  Once we were ashamed.  Once we were isolated from God and each other, life became a battle to reclaim the unbroken and unashamed.  To know and be fully known.  To rest satisfied and to trust intimately.

More frightening and thrilling than extreme sports or stalking celebrities, is the practice of some odd souls to seek a deeply satisfying everyday existence.  Working to live…not living to work.  Being present for their kids.  Teaching those kids what they believe.  Telling them what’s right and wrong.  Trying to set an example of living graciously and by grace.  Loving their spouses–dare I say, sacrificially.

The risk is not, typically, being dashed on the rocks below or a felony conviction.

The risk is heartbreak.

From the cradle to the grave.  There are those who seem always to be doing it right and getting handed both ends of a too short stick.

Too much pain.  Too much loss.  Too much grief.

Too much.

There are those who are fearlessly, bravely, recklessly, deliberately, obediently walking onto the battlefield.

We look at them and wonder if we could handle that kind of heartbreak.

There have been times in my life, I’ve wondered if God creates certain people to be vessels to carry pain.  They grieve on behalf of many. They are to feel the pain, so that those who couldn’t handle it can pass by unscathed.

It’s been clear to me for many years, that God also trusts some of us with trials that would crush another.

He trusts me with these trials.  No need to be jealous of another’s…I couldn’t handle them.  In reality, there isn’t anyone else’s I know well enough to make that kind of call anyway.

Rambling?  Sorry.

We have hearts.

Before the fall, no biggie. Unbroken fellowship.  Nekkid intimacy.

After the fall, an eternal quest to plug into an ever-craving heart, anything and everything that doesn’t satisfy. It feels good and slowly kills us (like me and a nice Rx).  When we do figure out it’s only relational intimacy that will do, we then face the challenge of behaving for the other’s best without getting hurt.  A version of football’s “Prevent Defense”.

Eventually, we find that doesn’t work.

We have hearts.  If we are to be obedient stewards of them, we must step into life without our armor.  In order to fully live, we must have our eyes open.  Follow the rules of the game, no matter how hard it gets.  When we suffer a break, we know we are moving towards victory.

Yes, you heard me.

When we do right and get hurt, it’s a sign we’re using this heart, created in God’s image, the way it was designed to be used.

God doesn’t let on much about His heartbreaks.  His kids are a continual source of pain.  We throw his gifts in His face.  We disobey and get hurt.   He wants more for us. He wants unbroken intimacy with us and gets foolishness from us instead. He doesn’t put the focus on His desire, but on our safety, quite frankly. Even, more, on the security and satisfaction of our souls.

There is not a heartbreak we bear that doesn’t display His image on us.  His plan from the beginning has been for us to illustrate Him to those around us.

Remember photo negatives?  When you held them to the light, you could see a distorted vision of the actual.  After the developing process, the real picture was revealed.

One moment in time held up to the light.  Still, indistinct until the process is complete.

Ugly, until then.

Potentially exquisite.

What do they call it then?

Proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Mind If I Pass?

The girls are in a production about the Civil Rights Movement.  I learned what ‘passing’ was.  It’s when a light-skinned African-American person used ‘white-only’ facilities.  Quietly, respectfully.  Not drawing attention.  Hoping just to sit on a train, for example, if they could.

Oh.

Like me?

I heard my mother and grandmother discussing an event that happened a generation or two ago.  In the process of breaking up housekeeping of one of my great-great-grandparents, a photo was found.  It was a photo of a black woman.  On the back, it said one word…

“Mama.”

At the time, I said nothing.  Sometime later, I referred to that event.  Mother just stared. It was anger and “I-don’t-know-what-you-mean?” at the same time.  Had she forgotten?  Was it a secret?

Nevertheless.

Whose mother? The answer is lost. Only Mother is alive to know it and, she isn’t talking.  There were the great-greats who both died, leaving the little girl who’d be my great grandmother, an orphan.  There is also the great-great who smoked cigars and only changed underwear twice a year–when she put on the winter underwear and when she took them off.  Her son would live 76 years, only to decide to end his life.

Someone kept a photo labeled, ‘Mama’.

My mother was born in the 40s.  My grandmother in the 20s. My great-grandmother died in 2005 at age 93.  If she was still alive, she’d be 101.  Given forty years for the two previous generations, that would place her grandmother’s birth in the year 1867.  Five years after the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation.  If by some chance my forebears in both those generations were older than 20 when my great-great was born, ‘Mama’ could have been born a slave.

It’s possible that the woman in the photo isn’t actually a relative at all, but a nanny.  Someone may have found a photo labeled ‘Mama’, and just never disposed of it.

Neither of those seem terribly likely, as this de-cluttering would have taken place before my grandmother was born.  Would it have been extremely likely that a white person, living in the 1920s in America, would keep a portrait of a black woman labeled ‘Mama”, if it held no personal meaning?

The photo, if kept, wasn’t kept by my branch of the family.  Of whom I am the only descendent.

May I pass?

Feel free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween

She knew she had to work hard.  Not just any freshman was going to be able to hang with that crowd or keep Mike Mathis as a boyfriend unless she showed she belonged there.

Mom was gone to a work function and dad was…  Well, who cared where he was?  His new wife must care.  In his new life.  On the other side of the continent.  By the time Mom got home, she would have changed buses and might just be stepping off at the stop before Cannington Enclave, where the domestics would be stepping on.

She smeared her 14 year-old lips Cherry red. Deep black liner and accidentally perfect purple shadow formed the backdrop for false eyelashes. The hair she couldn’t appreciate shined perfectly, tragically, black, and down to her shoulder blades.  A tight black blouse with princess seams making curves where God had not, topped jeans that wouldn’t have been too tight when school started, but were tonight.  Because she was still growing, just a little.  There was a peaked cap and a long black cape of crushed velvet on the outside lined with satin of the darkest red.  In her black nails, she held a flat, corn broom stolen from the custodian’s closet. Her thrill, though, was the shoes.  Boots.  Laced up, pointed toe black leather in the foot, fabric in the barrel, a kitten heel gave the illusion of height without making her feel she’d fall down.  She had some walking to do tonight.

A check of the mirror pleased her.  A perfectly wicked witch.

The mirror lied.  It didn’t even mention the sadness behind the smile.  Or the beautiful, impatient, woman-in-waiting.

Mike had been anxious to take their relationship to the next level. He told her he’d have to be single rather than continue to be attracted to her like he was.  They had an agreement.  If she dressed as an angel she wanted to wait.  If she dressed as a witch…  She didn’t.

In the purple dusk, cape swirling, hair flying, boots clacking on the pavement; she could have been a character in a movie.  The bus was no joke tonight.  The usual cast of down and outers was seedy. The exhausted working poor were collected in a transport bin and dozing or reading or looking at her.  For the first time, her eyes were opened.  This, was no place for a little girl.

No one knew where she was.  She was dressed to magnetize and her mother thought he drove to pick her up and he thought her mom was dropping her at the gate house.

She felt very, very “vincible”.  Visible.  It was a two-edged sword.  Wanting so desperately to be seen, then realizing you are.  Not just by whom you would like to be seen, but by whom you did not choose.  She felt sick.

There was no escape.  She could only ride it out.  Enclave was the first stop on the other side of  the long, harrow corridor of urban decay dividing the city between the exclusive suburb and the middle class midtown.

When she rose from her seat for the first Enclave stop, she noted that a man and a woman also rose.  The woman she knew from taking this route since she’d been seeing Mike.  The man, she’d never seen, but then, she wasn’t in the habit of noticing men she wasn’t aiming her powers at.

Both of them made the stop with her, yet she forgot them immediately, as she focused on the evening before her.  A Halloween party.  The biggest moment in her relationship with Mike Mathis, National Merit Scholar, President of the Chess Club.  Valedictorian.

Tonight would change everything.

At last, she could no longer miss the looks.  Appreciation from boys who were there with other girls.  Jealousy from girls who were there with other boys.  And something strange from Mike’s Mom.  It didn’t look like the friendship she’d thought they had.

Mike didn’t look at her at all.  He really didn’t speak much.  To her.  He passed out refreshments.  Made sure everyone was comfortable.  Answered the door.  Passed out candy.  He was a great host.  A great guy.

She gazed silently out the breakfast room window, through her reflection to the waterfront. The last line of deep purple light was about to disappear behind a shimmering lake.

“It won’t be long now ’til we can be alone,” came the whisper.

She hadn’t seen or felt his approach.  She lifted her eyes to the reflection of his.  Drank it in with her heart.  Trying to buoy this heaviness.

“Why don’t you walk with me to carry this bag to the can?”

“How could I possibly resist helping you serve your guests?”

An intelligent man knows when he’s been chastened.

“I wanted to show you the dock.  It’s the same way.  Bad planning by the architect.”

She raised her face to see every change in his smile.  His eyes.

“I’ve seen it in the daytime.  What more could I possibly learn in the dark?”

“It’s an entirely new experience in the dark. I promise.”

Throwing a laugh over her shoulder, she ducked for the kitchen door, her boots leaving black scuffs and her hair a flying ebony stain in the thick party air.

In a minute, the cabana on the dock was swaying unsteadily.  She could sense it in the mirror dimly reflecting the half light.

She did love him.  He was smart.  And, God, was he good-looking.

She waited.

“The reflection of the moon on the water is a result of refraction.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Our ability to see things we aren’t facing always is.”

“What?  I don’t think that’s right.”

“You know, I love you.”

“Of course, I dressed as a witch.”

“What do you mean? Glenda, the good witch?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re an angel.”

“No, I’m not.  I’m a witch.”

“Well, the wings and the halo make that a tough sell.  Not to mention the Clarence from A Wonderful Life that’s followed us everywhere all night.  Why didn’t you tell me you were bringing your uncle? Mom’s way bent.”

“Mike, You’re scaring me.  I am a witch with a broom.  Red lips, black nails.  I don’t have an uncle.”

He reached for the light and turned her shoulders to face the mirror.

 

In the mirror’s reflection, she saw herself.  A witch with terror streaming down her cheeks.

Behind Mike, through the screen she could see the man from the bus.

Who had wings.

“Mike, I am a witch.  I have no uncle. That is a man who got off the bus at the stop with me.”

“You are an angel. And I talked to him myself before he left.”

And he kissed her.

 

~Happy Halloween.  Since we don’t have a big celebration to share for #Blogtober, I hope I gave you a scare.  One way or another.~

 

 

 

 

 

If It Were That Simple; Everyone Would Do It

Anyone who’s known my blog for awhile may have noticed I don’t mention parents, in-laws or extended family.  I always affirm others in those relationships, but haven’t shared my own story.

Lately, I have felt prompted about simple obedience.  No matter that the world around me is having a full on revolution of selfish self-seeking rude violent lawlessness.  What leads to happiness is what always has.

“Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy…”

Elisabeth Eliot, once teaching on finding rest, said,”The happiest students on any college campus are the athletes and musicians, because they have voluntarily come under discipline.”

We’ve had a lot of change going on.  Change can bring discomfort.  If you want to know about trusting God, I can’t tell you, because the minute we got a little money in the house, I started having trouble listening to Him.  I know what I ought to do.  I would prefer to do something else.  So, I am living the philosophy that I have always hated most

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Um, no.  It isn’t.

At any rate, along with EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE, the topic of extended family relationships began to nag at me.  What is my role? Do I want to lose them forever?

Two years ago, my dad’s stepdaughter publicly eviscerated me on facebook.  I promptly called him to say I didn’t say anything that warranted that response and in the course of the conversation said, “I understand that you may have found your second family and might not need a relationship with me, but…”

And while I paused to search for the right words to ask that I not be bawled out by people who don’t know me for things I have never expressed or implied, he said, “Yep.”

He didn’t clarify and ended the conversation by saying he’d talk to me in a few days.

I never heard his voice again.

And no one else’s in the family either.

Based on the thinking of the last couple of weeks, which coincide exactly with the original event, I moved forward, tentatively; with an email to the cousin closest to me in age. My cousin responded to my email by saying:

“I don’t know about it, or want to take sides.   I just think it is sad for all involved.”

If they don’t know, how can they think it’s sad.  Isn’t it taking sides to not hear both and not speak to the person whose side you haven’t heard?

To my blame, writing this has made me realize, if I’ve been having a hard time listening to God, I shouldn’t initiate processes without His approval.  Will all things work together for good?  Sure.  Did it have to be this way? No. This is uncomfortable.  I can explain my side, but if they didn’t care about it last week, it’s difficult to imagine they’d change now.  I don’t feel ashamed of the way I have handled it up to now. The Bible does say, “Seek peace and pursue it.”  It doesn’t follow up with, “because it’s your job to make it happen.”

I don’t have to be the one to pursue God, My Father.  He pursues me, crazy, rebellious, black sheep that I am. And all I have to do to seek peace is obey Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribing Up

I was describing a relationship the other day.

“I really love and care about this person and I know they care about me.  But if the apocalypse came and I got to choose who to rebuild civilization with, I wouldn’t pick her for my…”

At this point,  the light came on.  This is what a tribe is.

(And that my imagination is apt to run away with me at any point.  If I am in charge of rebuilding civilization, our problems may be larger than just the apocalypse.)

I absolutely hate catch phrases.

Remember “Paradigm Shift”?  Ick.

I guess that makes me lucky not to work in an office of any size.

I digress.

There’s a difference between loving someone and needing them in your life when you need someone you can trust.  When you need someone whose strengths and weaknesses complement yours.  With whom you can march forward, encouraging and pulling each other towards your respective goals. (If you hear sirens, it’s because the Grammar Police are coming to lock me up.)

Tribe gets used all in a business-y sense.

It wasn’t there first.  It was real life first.

There’s my actual Native American tribe.

My family tribe.

My high school tribe.

My adulthood tribe.  Interesting.

The other day, this took place in a matter of just a couple of minutes.  I realized there is a huge difference in the relationships that I have to have to survive and be safe and create a life worth living, and those I love, but I feel secure in the knowledge they wouldn’t choose me either.

I have a little work to do in maintaining some of these relationships. But now, I have a sense of freedom to work on those without worrying about a thousand acquaintances.

I feel like this is something I should have figured out a long time ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Emergency

I have the thing that is going around; however, because I hope to impact the world for good before I die I am keeping the life support plugged in long enough to save your Valentine’s Day and possibly your relationship.

Men, I am referring to you.

Statistically, we know there is an inverse relationship between length of time you have been in a relationship and the amount of time you spend planning Valentine’s Day.  The longer you’ve been together, the less thought you give to stoking the fire.  Is it because you get smarter, funnier, better dressed, more thoughtful, and sexier every 365 days?

I think not.

With a few glaring exceptions, you got lazy.  She takes care of everything else and you forgot this is on YOUR list.  Along with taking out the garbage and…  Well, that’s about it.

Today, you Fortunate Bassmaster, is your lucky day.

With my assistance, you will go down in history as Valentine’s Day Guy and radically increase your chances of getting lucky.

THE ACCIDENTAL GUIDE TO NOT GIVING YOURSELF THE SHAFT THIS VALENTINE’S DAY

1)Flowers.  Dear God In Heaven Above, know who you are dealing with.  There are exactly two kinds of women.
–The first type is: “Dozen Long Stem Red Roses” type.  She expects her flowers in addition to whatever else you are doing.  Like the Christmas Tree at Christmas, this is the symbolic requirement and by no means all that is expected.  You do it to show her you are paying attention. She doesn’t want daisies, carnations, or tulips.  Get. It. Right.
–Everyone else is the second type.  Our flowers must relate to who we are as a person.  If we can plant the bulb out in the yard later or if our flowers are in a framed print, flowers speak to us in our hearts.  Even if we are allergic and can’t have them in the house.  He is a lucky man, indeed, who is in a relationship with a Daisy or a Tulip girl.

2) Perfume.  We live in truly shocking times.  The classics are falling by the wayside as starlets on their way to rehab allow their name to adorn stuff that smells like a sanitary puck.

This is not your problem.

Your task is to find something that smells great and doesn’t remind you of your mom.  If you don’t know her favorite, go for a scented candle or bubble bath or a gift card to S*phora or something .  Like “Your Song”, do this right and you will make your life easier.

Forever.

No pressure.

3) Candy. Hooray for candy.  Does she love the “heart shaped box” and the crap shoot of finding a good one in the midst of the weird?  Go for it.  If you had started earlier, you might have ordered specially written candy conversation hearts. Since you didn’t, I recommend the candy store at the mall and filling a clear container with bulk candy.

Her favorite.

Not yours.

4) Jewelry.  Unless you are buying an engagement ring or already married, you are setting your self up for trouble.  Earring boxes and ring boxes look too much alike.  If she is expecting a ring and gets a bracelet…that sucks.  Seems like dangerous territory to me, but I am not a jewelry girl.

If you have a jewelry girl and have been in the relationship any length of time, your needs are beyond the scope of this blog post.

5) Practical gifts.  Depends. You want out?  My dad once bought my mom an over/under shotgun for her birthday.  He got a gun and out of the relationship.  Win-win for him.  Other gifts to avoid may include but are not limited to:  small kitchen appliances, exercise equipment, tickets to watch YOUR team, fishing tackle (even if she says it is what she wants; this is Valentine’s),  and over/under shotguns.

6) Cards, handwritten letters.  Mandatory.   READ THE CARD.  If you can cop to what is written there, you’re in business. If you can’t be bothered to read the card, hand write the letter yourself.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It has to be true. Does not include texts, email, e-cards, fb wall posts, or tweets.

If you think you rock because thousands of other people listened in to your innermost feelings, you are too young to have a valentine.

7)  Lingerie.  Only if she will be proud to wear it.  If you will never see it again, why bother?Me?  I like nice warm socks.

8)  Economy Sucks?  Time is money, Hondo.  Start earlier.  Use your imagination.  Make her life easier.  Arrange for a reliable sitter yourself.  Clean the house. Cook the dinner. Wash the dishes.  Let her hold the remote. If Hershey and Hallmark are still in business, so are you.

9) Under no circumstances should you tell her what you wanted to do but didn’t have enough time.  If there was no question of Valentine’s Day being canceled this year, you have had 365 days.  Don’t. Tell.

Hurry up, Valentine’s Day is not a day for anyone to go without.

Go.  Now.  While there is still time.




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