Five-Minute Friday: Connected

This Friday I am not writing from teatime.  We’ve been busy at tea; today was a Christmas tea, with quite a feast and quite a crowd.  It was a good day to reflect on and think about being connected.

I am connected to this community.  Connected to these friends, to my church, to my workplace, to my business team, to the stores where I shop, to the orange clay that sometimes hides beneath the grass and sometimes sticks to my shoes and comes up the stairs into my condo.

Connected to my family, each branch and sub-category and group and definition of it.

Connected to my children with invisible ropes that are tested but always, always strong.

Connected to my sweetheart in ways I cannot articulate except in trite phrases that don’t stand up to the reality of him knowing what I’m thinking about three seconds before I do.

Connected to Spirit, and just only in recent years getting that and losing it and getting it again and thanking God for always extending the offer of connection.

Following the Mailman

I was lucky to have been what’s now called by hipsters a “free-range kid”: raised in the parenting style of the ’60s, which has also been labeled  benign neglect.  Basically, we were fed and clothed and taught basic manners and academic skills for as long as our parents could stand it, and allowed to play the rest of the time.  We lived in the suburbs and the neighborhood was ours for the rambling, even at four and five years of age.  Other mothers stood on their front porches and called to their children to come in for dinner; my mother was much too dignified for that sort of thing, but somehow we just knew when it was time to go home … most of the time.

My best friend Karen – who acquired that position by being the only other child my age on our street – had allergies.  I never saw any evidence of this, but her mother would shriek at the thought of the tamest of excursions and she would happily submit to her mother’s restrictions.  Karen couldn’t go out for picnics in the woods behind our house with my sister and me because of the pine pollen; she couldn’t go rolling down the hill across the street because of the grass; most of the time, she wanted to stay indoors at her house and color.  I felt some contempt for her; even then I knew a child was not supposed to be so spiritless.  She was, however, my only choice for a same-age playmate, and she did have an enviable collection of Barbie furniture and accessories.   If my sister wasn’t available, spending time with Karen was better than playing by myself.

She did come up with one good idea for an adventure, a game we called, “Follow the Mailman.”   The rules were simple: we followed our pleasant and very tolerant mailman as he walked his route until Karen got tired of it, and then we went home.  Our short legs could keep up with his long ones only because we stayed on the street as he walked up each driveway and front porch to place letters and small packages into a box mounted next to the front door.  Karen usually got tired of the game around the end of our street.

One day when she was indoors coloring, no doubt within the lines, I decided to play Follow the Mailman alone.  Our mailman had white hair and looked rather jaunty in his blue uniform.  I liked walking along behind him.  I thought he had the greatest job in the world and that I’d like to deliver mail in a blue uniform when I grew up.  I didn’t get one bit tired of the game.

Suddenly, he turned around and spoke to me.  “Do you know your way home?”

It seemed like an odd question, but I looked around and saw a pink house with a turquoise door I’d never seen before.  I had no idea where I was.  “No,” I replied.

He sighed.  “Well, I guess I’d better give you a ride, then.”  He jerked his head towards the car in front of the pink house.  Was that his car?  Did he live in that house?

Wow, I thought.  Not only did I follow the mailman, I followed him all the way home.  I did the whole route.  I can’t wait to tell Karen about this.  He opened the car door for me and I hopped in.

What followed has been told to me, but I have no memory of any of it.  The mailman delivered me safely home and apparently my mother gave me quite a talking-to and perhaps a spanking.  A few days later, he approached her while she was outside weeding the front walkway.  He told her that I hadn’t followed him again, but had shared with him the lesson she’d tried to teach me.  I’d looked up into his cheerful face and smiled coyly.  “My mommy says some men aren’t nice – but you are,” I’d said.

That might have been the source of my mother’s first gray hair.

Christmas M&Ms

My son was born at 6:15 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day – the beginning of the holiday frenzy for some.  My parents came up to the hospital right away.  They brought a present:  a candy dispenser made of a Mason jar screwed upside-down onto a wooden stand.  It was filled with red and green M&Ms.  Mama put it on the table at the foot of the bed.

Dad slid the little wooden jigger out and caught a handful of candy and started munching.  I was too enchanted with the little guy to be very interested beyond mild amusement and the niceties of a thank-you, but the part of my brain that was addicted to chocolate wondered why they put the darned thing out of my reach. After they left, when my sweet bundle had drifted off in my arms and I could not get up, I became aware that it was a tad inconvenient.

Eventually, a nurse peeked in.  “How are we doing?” she asked, glancing at the festive new decoration in the room.  She slid out a few M&Ms for herself.

“Fine,” I replied.  “Sleepy.”  I didn’t ask for things from doctors and nurses back then.  I figured they were in charge.

She took my sleeping angel and tucked him into the clear acrylic bassinette next to my bed.  “Better get some rest now,” she said.  “You won’t get much when you leave here.”

“When will that be?  When will the doctor come in to release us?”  I was itchy to get home to my little girl and my own bed.

“Not until tomorrow,” she replied.  “You need to be here for a full 24 hours.”  I didn’t want to stay the night.  What was the point in that?  I didn’t know I could decline the hospital’s services, so I didn’t argue.  She left and I drifted off.

A short while later, another nurse peeked in.  “We doing okay?” she inquired.  Fine, fine, I indicated with a nod.  She helped herself to some M&Ms.  Just then, my son woke up, so she quickly got him out and handed him to me so I could nurse him.  She left quietly and after his meal, we both dozed off.

Nurse #1 came in and advised me I wasn’t allowed to sleep with the baby in my bed.  She took him from my arms, swaddled him tightly and put him back in the bassinette.  She grabbed a few more M&Ms on her way out of the room.

The day developed a pattern: a little bit of separate sleeping, a cry of hunger-loneliness-whatever, I would get him out and cuddle him and we’d fall asleep again, then a nurse would come in and tell me that wasn’t allowed, and get some M&Ms on her way out of the room. While I thought it was silly for them to not let me sleep with my baby, he seemed to like being swaddled just fine and I did sleep more soundly when I wasn’t holding him, so their attentions weren’t unwelcome.

It dawned on me that Mama had placed that jar as she did so it could be seen from the hallway.

I think I had more staff visitors that day than anyone else on the hall.

My mama is a very smart woman.

El Camino

I was driving to an appointment at Neesa’s today and I saw out of the corner of my eye coming out of a parking lot on the left side of the road an abomination.

It was an El Camino.

I’m sorry if you own an El Camino.  I’m not sorry that I just called your car an abomination, because it is.  I am truly sorry THAT YOU OWN AN EL CAMINO.  What were you thinking?  Did you really believe that hideous excuse for a fake truck/car would be practical?  Guess you found out otherwise, huh?  Now you’re just stuck driving around a godawful ugly-ass car that only seats two, three people max and really doesn’t fit any more in the back than you could have stuck in the trunk of a normal, decent car, especially one in which the back of the back seat can flip forward to make more room.  Next time I hope you’ll think things through a little better.

That being said, the driver of the Godawful El Camino, which incidentally could seriously have used a paint job – I mean the El Camino, not the driver – pulled out about five cars ahead of me and then drove at a steady clip, approximately 20 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone.

I was not terribly pleased.

I did have an appointment to make, after all.  Never mind that I am often late to appointments with Neesa and when I’m not, she is, and in fact, today when I reached her house, she was on the phone, but that was fine because I went to her treatment room and sat on the carpet and examined the bruise on my foot that had resulted from a nearly-full bottle of vinegar falling on it in the shower this morning.  Thanks to an immediate dose of sublingual arnica and another dose a couple of hours later, the bruise was almost gone.  Arnica rocks.  But that is not what this story is about.

So I’m driving along and I’m thinking that the driver of the El Camino had made not one but at least two bad choices in his life, when the driver behind me laid on his horn.  Well, that was irritating.  I looked up in my rear view mirror and he was glaring at me, so I kind of glared back, even though I knew he probably couldn’t see me doing it.

And then I thought about how useless it was to be annoyed right then.  I decided it would be more fun to pretend I was in a parade.  I turned slowly to my left and to my right, while of course keeping my eyes on the road, because I didn’t want to die playing this little game, and I alternated waving my left and right hands to the imaginary people lining the road watching the parade go by.

Elbow, elbow, wrist-wrist-wrist.  Elbow, elbow, wrist-wrist-wrist.

I was having a grand time, and I glanced again in my rearview mirror to see the man behind me DOING THE SAME THING, which was nothing short of awesome.  I felt a surge of pride at having sent out fun energy to another person I didn’t even know and helping him not be mad even at an El Camino driver.

After a little while, the El Camino turned onto a road that veered off to the right, and slowed down even more.  The driver might have just gotten off the main road to let all of the cars behind him go by, but I’m not sure.  When I passed him, he looked kind of sheepish.  I wondered if drivers in front of me were also doing the elbow, elbow, wrist-wrist-wrist and if he realized we were having a parade just because of him.  Probably not.

I suppose someone who gives other people a reason to have a parade deserves a little grace, even if he does drive an El Camino.  There’s probably a lesson in that.

Five-Minute Friday:

Writing from tea again – we started today’s party with a reading of Go the F*ck to Sleep.  I am so grateful for this group of friends … now the word is COLOR.

Which is so cool, because I just went to Lisette’s house for the first time today and it is FULL of color.  She told the story of getting it painted from vanilla into this amazing combo of TWELVE colors by a paint crew who got the job done in two days’ time.  The parlor is vivid blue; the staircase is magenta on one wall and gold on the others … it’s astonishing and beautiful.  The tour made me of course think about the house we hope to buy soon soon soonity soon … boy, I hope the man can stand the colors I’ll be slapping up on the wall.   Heh heh heh. 

Lisette is color … wait.  If she were a color (besides, like, her regular skin color) she would maybe be fuschia.  Heidi would be … ummm … rainbow.  Rhonda would be blue, but maybe I’m just saying that because I know it’s her favorite.  Doug would be green.  I would be orange.  Michelle would be purple.  Deborah would be – is – pink.  Kaydi, red.  Robin, brown.  Linda … she’s hard.  She’s a painter, for heaven’s sake.  She can be whatever color she wants.

Crossing Over

The word “widow” didn’t fit. It was obvious that Carole and Bob were only temporarily apart, not unlike when he’d been on the submarine in the Korean War.  While she acknowledged she missed him terribly, she still referred to herself as “we.”  At his memorial service, she was dressed like an angel, barefoot in a long white dress.  The dances she did during the service – were they what is meant by the term “liturgical dance,” or were they something else entirely? – were joyful.  She was completely connected with her God.

The music went on for quite some time; it was praise music played with electric guitars and drumming to back up the singing, not the hymns and piano accompaniment I’m used to.  It felt like other concerts I’ve attended, and similarly, after a lttle while children were drawn to the front to join in the spinning.  They got their own flags, purple and gold, to wave and twirl.  A little girl with red hair in a denim jumper and pink crocs who looked like my daughter at the age of five danced and twirled in the aisle next to where her parents sat.

Carole became tired but wasn’t ready to stop, so she looked out into the congregation and found a friend who knew what to do.  She approached the front of the church and supported Carole with a hand on either side of her waist as the dancing continued.

Two days later, Bob’s ashes were buried at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Salisbury.  After brief sermon by the pastor, the family walked out to the grave sites to witness the burial.  Two men in coveralls had brought shovels and rakes to the spot with a small tractor.  They completed their task in silence as we watched.  When they finished, Carole went to each man in turn and hugged him, thanking him for continuing the care of the love of her life with such dignity.  They started up the tractor and drove away, and Bob and Carole’s daughters began to sing “Amazing Grace.”

Five-Minute Friday Two Days Late: Tired

How very fitting.

Two days late because I was too busy to write on Friday.  Being busy results in becoming … tired.  If you don’t watch out.

Sometimes busy-ness can be invigorating, but balance is required.

Busy-ness isn’t the only thing that makes one tired, though … there have been times when I’ve been bone-tired and it was from doing nothing all day, or at least, nothing out of the ordinary.

There are two types of tired, I think – no, three.

The first is when one is tired OF something – like tired OF the bigotry one hears and sees and smells and feels and just can’t quite address in a way that makes it go away, POOF. Or tired of trying to explain one’s self to a group of people who just can’t get it. Or tired of rudeness or arguments or sarcasm or biting remarks to which there can never be the right answer.

I hate that kind of tired.  Just bludgeon me to death and get it over with, please.

There’s tired from working for a really long time on something one is not terribly invested in, but it has to be done and it’s the job and so there you go.

Then there’s tired from doing things one loves … tired from a day of being outdoors or swimming or being in a group of ordinary people having extraordinary conversations or digging in the dirt or holding babies or reading to children or building something amazing.

That kind of tired lets one go to bed and sleep good sleep.  That’s the kind of tired I want to feel at the end of my day.

I hope I can feel that kind of tired at the end of my life.