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Archive for the ‘My Children, My Gifts’ Category

She read this morning the words of Pearl Cleage and the gist clung unflinchable like a stray hair. Mothers have deep and rich interior worlds. What daughter doesn’t want to know the deep lessons learned while navigating?

Her own children believe she is magic. That homemade dresses, meals and clean floors simply appear. That she is Glenda the Good Witch and they are Dorothies in red converse and flip flops – sparkles optional.

There is no magic here, only life in its great clawing rawness. She wonders if sharing the how’s and why’s will help strengthen the wing feathers and strong roots she is creating. Will it provide a bigger vision?

She shovels clothes into the rush of water, pulling the bright pink t-shirt from the white of socks and summer dresses.

Are these quiet details as important as the recipe for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls? Or instructions to properly load a dishwasher? Or honing the skill of finding the perfect Katherine Hepburn pants that have good drape?

She chuckles “Or this?” and reaches for lavender scented Downy so mundane chores smell like fields of memory and dream.

Pearl Cleage’s daughter didn’t think so. She believed they needed to remain intimate to those who participated in them.

She sits quietly at the kitchen table. Outside the window, a honey bee searches the blossoms of the wilting Ballerina Roses for missed satisfaction. Inside light piano music mixes with screams of “Ow-ow-ow” and “Stop.”

She picks up the pen next to the day’s list.

Dear Children,

Once upon a time is the way the most fantastic stories open. Those of good and evil, of great love, loss and big skies. This one has the added bonus that it is true or as we say around here: “I’m for Real.”

Once upon a time, a man came after many prayers were lifted. He liked the way I twirled in dresses and didn’t mind how my laugh unfurled in a room as if on wings. We became friends. And the air and light began to move differently.”

****

A nod goes to Story A Day for the prompt Epistolary Stories. Also to Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lessons, Lies & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage.

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There’s a certain subtley I think we’ve not mastered yet.

That of this moonlight falling around and inbetween and through these tall trees on I-20/59. So ethereal soft and delicate like eyelashes that nothing is disturbed, not even the papery veins of oak leaves or the web built between.

I hear the children centered up tightly safe in mounds of blankets, a homespun quilt nest. They rustle like small birds adjusting feathers against cool air and skin. Their impulsive sighs and dream words mark the road stronger than the dashes that lead me home.

I think I could do that – of course I always think I can. I always think I can learn that right there. To touch like that.

With the right tension of muscle and mind, with the correct poise of hand and body like that of a crane over water, I believe I could discover the way of this moonlight.

I know with this open hand I would suddenly feel the very pulse of growth from deep white root to dark leather leaf. I would slide along gentle the gossamer threads and weave in and through the grasses and twigs of a nest built of tiny things found and carried there one flight at a time.

With this gentleness found in fingertip, I know I could fall into that shadow of arm crook and permeate the emptiness between those eyelashes and rest in the tightness of that wrinkle to become fully bound and contained in the dreams and thoughts the moment they rise like that misty haze at the wood’s edge. I wonder if I even would be able to see myself in reverse from here inside, as if in a mirror, through those eyes, their blue as wide and clear as sky.

This is too thick, I admonish, watching my left blinker flash bright before moving from behind the truck into the empty lane. Ordinary people are turning off televisions, locking doors and perhaps preparing the coffee pot for the next morning. They don’t think of this. They don’t wonder at the hows to make such a consideration like this possible. They don’t consider this a kind of perfection.

But I long to touch this way. Without harm or alteration or consumption, I know my hand placed just right could do it.

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I asked myself after such a long absence, why I should return? Why write out loud on the Internet, where pontificating and peacock strutting is the norm? I could continue with my scraps of phrases and images stuck in random drawers and my purse. I have done this for years regardless of this space so why on a glowing screen should I type my stories?

To gather praise? I asked hard.  To battle loneliness? To be heard? I asked more harshly.

I tossed the questions out and twisted up my mouth familiar with the slithering voice that sees rough questions as an opening to settle in.

I rested in the phrase “I don’t know.” I made the lists of reasons for doing and reasons for not doing. I did nothing out loud. Inaction sometimes can be more powerful than action. This I know.

On the phone, I listen to the chirping girl voice tell her story of diving. It is a goal she’s set for herself. To slip into smooth water with her tiny body pointed and lean. She longs for that sleekness, I know. I’ve seen her move.

“I guess it’s getting better but I think I still suck.”

I laugh in response, offer encouragement.

She sighs and whines in a way I know well. “Well, Mama, I look like a cat jumping into the water. You know how their front paws and head are all pulled in and tight but their back legs are straight with fear? That’s what I look like, Mama. I look like a cat and feel like that cat.”

My laughter rang loud because this I understood. Yes, I got it. I told her that was the perfect word painting, that I could see it without being present.

She giggles awkward under such light because she wasn’t thinking of painting, certainly not with words, and the praise is unexpected.

“Hey Mama, it was weird to say it out loud, you know. I’ve been thinking it but I just didn’t say it because you know people look at you funny sometimes.”

“Yep, Sweet Princess, I get that too. I get it totally.” I pause, picturing her face so small with a heart so big. “I think you’re amazing and brave for telling me in those words. And I think you just might have found one of your God gifts.”

We talk of other things like new hair bands and swings. I tell her to keep practicing to dive. We say we miss and love each other and then she dives in expertly leaving only ripples.

“Hey Mama, I think you’re amazing and brave too. I love you heavensful. And hey Mama, I love your words too.”

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We were eating Easter eggs over the trash can. Tiny cracked shells formed a halo around our feet. We passed the salt and pepper after each couple of bites. Delaney is talking a steady stream about a big test tomorrow. Big.

“Ah, no worries, Princess. You can do this. You’re a smart girl,” I reply taking the pepper. Jack says something too, but no one can understand him because his mouth is full of egg. Some of it falls out of his mouth.

“Hey, Jack, that’s gross.”

It is quiet for a moment. Each chewing slowly on eggs and own thoughts. Our finger tips are blue and yellow and orange. I smile.

“Mama, it just has to be perfect. There’s a contest too. Our counselor said we could win a $25 gift certificate if we show up on time, eat a good breakfast…”

I point my finger at Jack, raising eyebrows high. He has just shoved over half a hard boiled egg in his mouth. I watch him chew large with bloated cheeks. I don’t know how it doesn’t rise up out his nose like some sort of zombie. It would definitely look like maggits, which unfortunately would delight him in that boy way of his.

Delaney hasn’t missed a syllable.

“Okay so it’s all about perfection and competition, right?”

“Well, yeah, and doing well for myself,” she sort of dances that part out.

“Competition and being the best and the greatest isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” I look at Jack. “Get it? All cracked up?” and hold an egg in front of my face. He laughs and drops shell onto the floor.

“Doing your best is a good thing, but being perfect isn’t the goal. Only God is perfect, you know? I booger stuff up all the time. Think about God and the people he chose. You guys know Noah, right?”

“Yeah, he’s the one with the arc and the flood and stuff.” Jack says. He’s shaking salt onto his egg and onto the floor.

“Yep and he was an alcoholic. Far from perfect, but he obeys God. And gosh, people made fun of him probably for all the dumb stuff he did when he was drunk and then building that outrageous big boat.” Jack says something that again we can’t understand. “And Adam just stood by when Satan was lieing to Eve and didn’t protect them both. And Peter, sweet Peter, was a coward, a chicken. He denied he knew Jesus three times on the night the Pharisees took Jesus to court. And Jesus told him he would do it so he could you know have realized that ‘hey I might mess this up,’ but he didn’t and guess what?” Both of their mouths are filled with egg now so the room is quiet. “The church is built on Peter. His name means rock, you know? So God uses our imperfect parts to show his perfection.”

We quietly eat eggs. He and the phrase baddest dudes come to mind. He said he drug his tail in defeat. I smile, lifting him as I stoop to pick up bits of shell.

Failure and imperfection is the theme of the day, I sigh. The lines dividing black and white, success and failure, happiness and true joy have been nipping my ankles and smacking me around for days. Today is the strongest and the line feels like a noose for me too.

The image of my dear friend cracking an egg like Jesus’ body was broken for us drifts in. I’m trying to remember her exact words about the Holy Spirit and the egg inside the bottle when Delaney whines.

“But Mama, I have to do my best.”

“Delaney, doing your best is different from being perfect. You’ll do well not because you’re perfect, but because God made you to do well in this kind of situation – testing and stuff. Remember the hairs on your head? And it’s all from him and for him, Girl. All.” I stand, brushing broken shell in the trash, and kiss the top of her head. “And if you stink it up really bad. God still loves you and I’ll make cake or something.”

Jack huffs, “No fair. I want cake for being a loser like Delaney.”

I smile at the tease, ” Okay, jammie time, Guys,” I shoo them out of the kitchen. Delaney drawls Jack’s name into three syllables.

___

Sidenotes:

Deepest gratitude to David and Tami. I truly carry your words with me.

Last night while reading through half open eyes, the words below pulled me from near slumber to write on a scrap and whisper yes…

Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, “In the world to come I shall not be asked: Why were you not Moses? I shall be asked: Why were you not Zusya?” ~ Martin Buber, Tales of Hasidism

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The night is warm and windy. I think of childhood mid-May nights when the first signs came in gentle lilacs. Here it is late February and early March. Here it is bold orange quince against the backdrop of gray sticks.

“Mama, is it gonna storm?” he asks sitting next to me on our steep drive.

“I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure.”

“Look Mama! The moon looks like that cat’s smile from the book and then the movie!” He is pointing high above the pines.

“Yep. I see it. The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.”

I tell him of the stars. I tell him that long ago it was the only way to tell direction at night and that people connected their brightness to make pictures of heroes from stories told and retold. I told him they had to tell stories because there was no TV or Internet. He exaggerates shock and I laugh. Then he jumps up and begins pointing from one to another to make his own pictures, to find his own direction. The scent of sweet olive wraps gently around the house, around us.

“That’s not a star, Silly. That’s a plane.”

“Is that a plane you fly in?”

“No, I fly in bigger planes from Birmingham.”

He asks about size, about color, about speed. He says that he wants to fly in a plane high like I do. I smile and say he will probably some day.

“Mama, do you fly in the rain?”

“Yes, sometimes. I flew through the rain clouds leaving Tampa. The plane flies bumpy like we’re going through big puddles in the sky. Like when the truck is pulled by those big puddles in the road. In the air, it’s called turbulence.”

“Do you see the rain like on the windows and stuff?”

“Yep, I do sometimes. Sometimes it looks like the end of the day even though it’s the morning because the clouds are so thick you can’t see the sun. But the cool thing is that after all of those bumps through the clouds, when the plane climbs so so high above them, you can see the sun. It’s like a double sunrise.”

“Really?” He leans into me with his head tilted up towards the sky into the wind.

“Uh-huh. The sun is shining so bright and strong that I forget it was storming just a minute ago.” He is still, silent. I know he’s put himself in that climbing plane rising through clouds. I know his nose pressed against the window feels the coldness of clouds and his eyes are searching for the second sunrise. Because mine do too.

“Hey Mama, God makes the sun shine, right?”

“Yep.”

“So when it’s raining and stuff here it’s still shining over us?”

“Yep.”

“You just have to fly high to see it, right? Like in a plane or something?”

“Yep.”

“So it’s there every day? You know the sun?” He twists his face searching the sky for words. I wait. His foot mashes into the concrete to push his growing body closer against mine. “I mean, Mama, God makes the sun shine everyday but some days we can’t see it from the ground. But it’s there, right? We just gotta look for it. Right?”

“Yes, Baby. We just have to look,” I whisper.

Then he jumps away from me quick and races down the steep drive with outstretched arms, yelling as he goes.

“I feel like I could fly right now, Mama!”

And I laugh loud and long, watching him fly circles, jumping invisible cloud puddles, in the cul-de-sac.

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“And as I watch your chest rise and fall, my hands tremble at the miracle of life I am witness to every single day.

I have both raged at God and fallen before Him in thanksgiving in the midst of this journey and my love for you has taught me that faith is undefinable, that love is the cornerstone in all the great mysteries of this life. I do not have any more answers than when we began…”
~Kayla Aimee,  From A Letter to My Daughter @ kaylaaimee.com

“The children are a part of my sanctification,” I said to a girl last week. “They have taught me so much – about anger and sadness, about healing and forgiveness, about being a part of love deeper than oceans and wider than skies.” I remember looking up, wondering if I had gone too far with words labeled lofty and cerebral.

“I just don’t know if I’d be a good mom right now,” she said.

“That’s crazy talk,” I said, remembering the words slung at a twenty something me late one night at work. We were putting merchandise from a cart back into place on the shelves. She turned, holding two nerf balls, and looked at me hard over the cart – “I just don’t think the words ‘Mom’ and ‘Cindy’ go together.” Her words crept in when I was first pregnant. And when I lost that child, I fought the idea that they might be true. I fought hard.

I looked at this girl then into the sky with its scant clouds and fast wind. “I think you are,” I shrugged. “I mean you know the basics – diapers, feeding, and stuff. The rest you learn as you go so you’re always the best mom for your children at that time. You grow together, you know?”

When I walked into the building, holding the door for her, these words slipped in about a faith and a love that are mystery. I have raged at God, too, I remember whispering into the glowing screen. I have bent low in repentance, bent lower with gratitude. I, too, know little more now than I did when I first held my new sticky babies and when I finally wrapped my arms around two taller walking boys gifted to me over Easter eggs and rising bread.

I walked the stairs up and smiled to myself because I watch, not only my children breathe dreams in beds, but also my husband.

“Maybe the words ‘Wife’ and ‘Cindy’ don’t go together,” comes the thought. I sigh heavy, hearing the echo of my footfall in the stairwell. I think of Jesus and Peter, on whom the church was built. I think of how Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block.”

When my sweet husband sleeps, his eyes don’t close completely. It’s as if he’s watching out through amazingly thick, long lashes to make certain nothing sneaks up on him. His arms are crooked on his chest like bird wings in that fast wind and his legs are long, stretched straight and taunt. His chin is always tilted up and out from the mound of pillows. My hands tremble here too.

I sat and sighed hard, thinking of us and lifting high while bowed low in that deep wordless sort of prayer a wife has for her husband only.

Now I think of the story told last night about the mason. He was picking up pieces from the pile my husband was clearing to use as the guides for the corners. He said in broken English that this was his job, to let my husband know he was supposed to be there. I fully listened to the story of how my husband nodded reassurance, how the broken pieces that most considered were trash were used to bolster the corners of the new house for tomorrow’s work of laying brick, how the brick has to be laid straight and level with the foundation.

I carried that story to bed with me. I laid there thinking of the mason’s hands and these words. I could feel them swim in blood, pump through my heart and rest into white bone.

___
Thank you for swinging by this week’s In Other Words. If you would like to link up, simply slip your link in the comment box below. I am traveling home today so my response will be slow. Thank you for your mercy and grace.
All thru Him,
Cin

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I learned to let go early. To let go of these children that entered through me then moved with me and through me some more.

I say it honest and hard like rock. “I wasn’t given much of a choice. I couldn’t lay down and die with my first son, but I wanted to. I had to let go, surrender, in order to move forward, to relearn faith and laughter.”

But it’s more than that, I think some days when the sky is clear blue and temperature is irrelevant because I go out anyway. In so many ways, this was easier because it was cut and dry, black and white. He wasn’t going to move into this world whose winds can mislead and topple all.

It’s the everyday letting go, giving more room for wing to lift wide, watering roots white light firmness.

I always picture it the same. Us at the kitchen table, where things of importance are discussed, remedied, decided upon. And I always quiet say “Now you are a woman or a man. You know the difference between right and wrong, between love and hate, between moment and eternal. You know that God makes goodness out of all, even the weird stuff. And that to Him you owe deepest gratitude for all including the weird stuff and especially the bad stuff and the hard stuff. Always be grateful. You’re not perfect. And I’m not either nor is anyone else and you will booger up and misstep and others will too so always forgive. Yourself and others. And love deep and wide especially when you’re afraid of being hurt. Fight to stay open to receive all that comes your way. It’s the best fight.”

Then in grand movie fashion, I will whip out my light saber and christen each as is passage. Then we’ll eat festive food and cake and maybe wear party hats because that’s a great denoument to dream.

I ask the littlest one when he points out a car by make and bellows he’s gonna get him one of those. I ask when he does get this car, if he’ll take me for a ride. I ask if we could have a date at McDonald’s or TCBY. He always nods, smiling wide with dimples. And I am nodding too, towards the future I know is coming.

Our middle son, wiggles his eyebrows in that “duh” kind of way and answers in the same tone, “Sure.” Here it is me who chuckles and brims full.

The oldest shrugs sure on his way to do other things, but I think it will be only if I’m doing exactly what he’s doing at that time. I always smile pride at his stride towards manhood.

I’ve said to the girl that when she flies off to become the world’s best missionary, teacher, artist, singer (it truly depends upon the week) that she call me or come fetch me so that I can see and do and feel that dirt under my nails too. She too always nods.

And I’ve always wondered where I would be taken. If I would jump into the passenger seat, beaming smiles, like a school girl with a friend. Because isn’t that what is supposed to happen? Aren’t they these children I’m raising supposed to go forth, armed with all the good and the bad I’ve taught them by lip and by hip then return to teach me?

I say these things aloud to them all, whose dinner I still cook and clothes I still fold. I want them to dream bigger than this kitchen table, to go further than this address.

But I’ve only thought quiet deep inside the muscles, that brought them all forth, these things about my first son. I’ve not been able to ask, to listen, to dream aloud with him for many years. But still I wonder where I’ll be taken, if he’ll pull up in a topless jeep with rust on the fender and the one door that doesn’t close square. I wonder if I’ll recognize his face when I finally do see him again.

It takes bravery and open vulnerability to say and hear and type them out loud. There is healing too profound for words when they are spoken and a wide freedom like piling expectantly into that open door like a young girl.

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