My house smells like sharpie marker ink being baked onto ceramic. My eyes are burning. This is stage one of an hour at a time baking of sharpie marker ink onto ceramic. I don’t even know how many stages there are going to be in total. Maybe 50?
My dining room has turned into piles of boxes, all of them half-opened with stuff spilling out. Good stuff. Stuff to build a home with, like brand new dishes and blankets and crock pots. The UPS guy might hate us by now. We get at least two deliveries a day. In fact, as I’m sitting here right now in my jammies and bathrobe, all wrapped up in a cozy, not-new blanket, with my Dustin O’Halloran station playing in my headphones, preparing to write, I hear that trusty old truck making its way down our cul-de-sac once more. It stops in front of our house, like it always does and I hear two boxes being thrown on our doorstep as the doorbell rings.
“Callie! It’s for you!” I yell, unwilling to lose the comfort and warmth I have so long sought just to answer the door for yet more boxes. She comes running in the front hall, stocking feet sliding to a stop on the wooden floors, while dancing and singing “It’s my birthday….every day…”
It’s all good. It’s all so good. What a blessing to be so loved by so many, to prepare for the wedding feast of a loving daughter, to know that she is going from love into more love. Even to have burning eyes while she hand makes each of her wedding favors for all the loving people that are coming to celebrate with her.
I have always wanted to get older, hoping that one day I might feel old enough. Somehow, I never get there. I remember knowing that I didn’t look old enough to be able to read when I was little. Sometimes I would play that up, by breaking rules that were posted, thinking I had an excuse if I got in trouble. Mostly though, I just knew that I knew more than people expected me to know and that was a grave responsibility. I remember not looking old enough to be out of high school when I was married and getting dirty looks from the guy at the hotel who tried to tell us he was full when we tried to stay a night longer than planned on our honeymoon. I remember getting dirty looks from the woman at Kroger less than five years ago, when she asked to see my ID when I was buying wine. I know I’ve always looked younger than I am, which can be especially tough on a woman who started her family younger than most.
But lately, I’m really feeling not old enough. Maybe every mother of the bride feels that. I know everyone going to their 20th high school reunion feels it. I think every first-time grandmother-to-be probably feels it. Somehow, I’m feeling that same feeling I felt when I was four. Like I’ve got something to prove because I know I don’t look old enough to be reading. And it feels like a grave responsibility. And every once in awhile, I get defensive about it.
Tonight, on the elevator leaving work, a nice man that I don’t know held the door for me and asked me what floor since I had a big box of food I was bringing home. He struck up conversation on the way down and asked what the food was. I told him it was lunch leftovers, about to be dinner for my family. He mentioned he had three daughters and that he knew how much they would attack the food if he were to bring it home. I said I also have three daughters. And then came the dreaded question: how old are they? I steeled myself before answering him. In my heart, I was prepared for a fight. I don’t know if he saw the look in my eyes, daring him to say one thing. Just one thing. Bring it. I’m ready. But he didn’t even flinch when I said “19, 16, and 13.” He told me his were right behind mine and then the doors opened and he told me to enjoy my evening of good food with my daughters.
Maybe I look old enough today. Whatever. It was nice.
Someday soon these boxes will be gone from my dining room and we might actually get a table in there and invite people over for nice meals that we will eat on beautiful placemats with candles burning. Someday soon my house won’t smell like burning sharpie ink (or a guinea pig’s cage, which pretty much smells like pee ALL THE TIME).
Maybe then I will look old enough.
Feliz Gracias Dando, everybody! (I know Spanish. I used to live in Mexico.)
I feel like it’s time for a catch up through photographs. We’ll start with Halloween, where Grace and her friend, Darcy were Big Blue and Big Red:
And then, for their second Halloween, they were Grandpa and Grandma (yes, that is blue painter’s tape holding the cotton balls inside the holes of Grace’s knit cap):
Then Sadie went to the Homeschool Homecoming with some friends (no, she’s not homeschooled and yes, there is such a thing and she goes to it every year and it has the word home twice, so that’s pretty awesome):
Then Callie had some showers where love and blessings were showered on her by so many dear friends:
Then Callie and I finished up our six-week pastels course that we were taking together on Tuesday nights:
Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all Everybody!
I feel as though I’ve lived a hundred lives. Tonight, I dangle at the edge of this one, ever aware of the imminence of the next. As I twist on the end of this silken thread that can only stretch so far before it snaps, I review my past lives while trying to grasp where it is I’m going next. My memories are fuzzy at best, which makes me wonder if the life I’m living now is really just every bit as fuzzy as all the previous ones.
I once took my dad’s alarm clock/radio to a little clearing in the middle of the bushes behind our house in California so that I could take it apart and find out once and for all what was inside that thing. I loved that clearing. It was a completely surrounded area about four times as big as I was, where I could hear and see everything going on outside the bushes, but the outside couldn’t see or hear me. I would take my mom’s broom to sweep the dirt into a perfectly beautiful, pine needle-free floor. It was magical. I’ll never forget the magic of the springs and bolts and sharp things that made up that alarm clock either. But when I discovered that I couldn’t put it back together after weeks of working on it, I left it there in my magical clearing where it would never be found again. I wonder if it’s still there.
I once would sit at the piano in my living room in Oregon for hours at a time every night, working out my emotions through music. I wouldn’t turn the lights on after the sun set. I would often open the windows, even in winter, in the hopes that the boy I was writing the songs for would be out there, in my yard, listening to me pour out my heart in song. And after he saw how true my heart was, he would come running back to me, unable to live without me for one more day. I would sing to him for hours, imagining he was out there listening. When I would go out afterward and find nobody there, I would sit in the cold grass and listen to my love songs mixed tape on my walkman and watch every single car that drove by my house, each time hoping the next one would be him. It never was.
I once had three little girls to care for while living in a 29 foot long trailer in the Sonoran desert of Mexico in the summer. Daytime temperatures would sometimes reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttimes would often not dip below 100. Every evening at 7pm I would start my attempt to get them all settled in for the night, while my husband and the local pastors and the college student team leaders and the high schoolers that came down to help us all summer went out to do the evening ministry. I would wash off the dirt that had accumulated all over my little girls’ bodies and hair, I would give them a bedtime snack, we would read, and play, and sometimes laugh and pray before bed. Other times, it was just a big cry festival between the tired and hot girls and the tired and hot mama. One way or another, they always went to bed with clean, wet hair in their fresh-off-the-clothesline laundered summer jammies. On the lucky nights when it was easy, they would all three fall asleep while there was still light outside. I would go get some frozen M&M’s and a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola from the kitchen and sit outside my trailer in my lawn chair in the dirt. As the sun set, the nightly lightning show would fill the entire expanse of that desert sky. I would drink in the silence and the bigness along with my Coca-Cola and contemplate all that I had and all that I was thankful for.
Tonight I dangle. I feel as though I’m under that massive desert sky once again. My daughter is getting married and that changes everything. It’s all so big and I’m so small. My instinct is to start crawling back up the threads of this web I have woven and hide in the clearing. I can’t see where life goes from here, which makes it hard to prepare, but I think I have to just go ahead and let myself fall in order to find out.
“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before. ”
― Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
We live by the light of the moon.
We drive in the morning while the sun is not yet up.
The lights on the inside of our car glow a beautiful purple.
We can change the color to green or yellow or blue or red, but we always bring it back to purple because purple is where the heart is. Soft purple light makes the music that is playing in the dark mean so much more.
We put wallpapers on our back-lit screen of night scenes as the sun rises and reflects off the buildings outside the windows of the downtown building that we work in. The windows are everywhere and we can’t escape the day that drives out the night. It gives us life and we know it and we are filled with gratitude for the sun and the work and the reflection.
But we like night scenes on our computers… or almost night, like sunset or sunrise. Or day that looks like night, like when a storm is coming, or like the view of a forest path where the trees are so thick that light can only get through in single lines of sparkling gold.
Or a solitary streetlight glowing softly on abandoned winter city streets.
That’s where our heart is.
When we come home, as the light fades, you turn on twinkle lights on the back patio and you sit in the quiet and you read as the cool air fills your lungs and the glass is tipped which fills your heart with cheer.
You apologize for the smoke and you try to move upwind, but I don’t mind. I let it seep into my skin and it’s more than okay because the moon is out behind the clouds and I want it all. The smoke, the moon, the cool breeze, the clouds…
We go in and the dinner dishes are everywhere. You tell her that if she plays piano, while you do the dishes, then you’ll do the dishes.
I go for a walk by the light of the moon, with ear buds in my ears, and breath in my mouth that illuminates the night. My feet strike the concrete, around and around the cul-de-sac. Under the streetlight, away from the streetlight, all is lit up with a velvety, pale whitishness and then all is a deep midnight blue again.
As I walk back up to the house, I see all the warm colors of home through the open screen door and through the sheer, colored curtains on the living room windows. I open the door to hear her playing music that tells us she doesn’t want to waste our time with music we don’t need. Why should she autograph a book that we won’t even read? She’s got a different scar for every song and blood left still to bleed.
I see you through the open space of the home we’ve built together. You still have on your black pants, black shirt, black socks and white collar as you wipe down the counter of the kitchen that has been cleaned with love to music played with heart and I am reminded once again that this life is a prayer. All of it.
And the music continues. I won’t pray this prayer with you unless we both kneel down.
The kitchen is clean, the music is over, the lights in the house are turned off, one by one, and the quiet that we so desperately long for flows into every corner of the rooms in our house and in our minds as consciousness gives way to dreams once again.
Another day is over.
Another day lived by the light of the moon begins.
When I was young, I would sing songs to my friends about being young and listening to the radio. When I was young, I dreamed and I planned and I created. When I was young people told me all the things I should be. A writer, they said. A singer. A scientist. Be a strong woman. Don’t let the men get all the good jobs. You’re good at math. Go to college and do mathy/computery things with the big boys. It’s a woman’s world now; the women who came before you sacrificed greatly to open these doors for you. Don’t let it go to waste. Women can be fighter pilots now. Join the air force and bullet the blue sky just like the men do.
When I was young I met a boy that I knew I wanted to spend my life with. Don’t do it, they said. You’re too young. You have so much to offer. You’ll regret it someday.
When they get to the part where he’s breaking her heart, it can really make me cry.
I’m pretty sure my high school counselor is still mad at me. He worked hard to get me that presidential scholarship. I had a free ride to a place where other people’s parents paid bootie-loads of money for super-smart people to shove crap down their kids’ throats.
I lasted one semester and two weeks. I cried every day. I didn’t like the taste of crap.
People still think they know all the things I should do and they still try to tell me and I still don’t want to do any of it. Or if I did before, I don’t once they tell me I should. But I still dream. I still plan. And I still DO. My whole life, I have done things. REALLY done things. Someone put this thing inside of me that pushes me to excel and I rarely settle for less than the realization of my dream exactly how I imagined it. Other people look at that drive and they say “You should DO something with that!” and I always think, “……but I am……doing something…..”
It’s a quiet drive that I have. Like a luxury vehicle.
Is contentment with a small world a waste of a life? I think of the parable of the talents and sometimes I just don’t know. But I have had dreams and I do have dreams and I will have more dreams. They always consume me and I work at fulfilling them and when they are fulfilled, I am content for the moment. They mostly don’t involve performing on stages, winning grand prizes, dancing with royalty, or breaking world records. They are mostly private and I don’t talk much about them. One of them was to be a mother at a time when so many others were telling me I could accomplish so much more. I have watched a mountain grow in my belly (three times) and I have groaned and writhed with the agony of the curse and I have known the joy of a mother’s love when that wriggling, squawking, angry little thing has been placed at my breast and known contentment. What a blessing. What an immeasurable blessing.
I have nurtured (and wriggled) and guided (and squawked) and loved (and hen-pecked) those three young things to the places they are now, with the tender, loving help of their father. I don’t think I’ve wasted much. But then again, I don’t think anyone else would say I’ve wasted much either. But I don’t like to talk about it.
All my best memories come back clearly to me….some can even make me cry.
On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
After Jeremy proposed last Friday night, he brought Callie back to our house where we had a surprise engagement party waiting for them. What a celebration we had!
It started with her running out of the car into her daddy’s arms, crying with joy and probably all other kinds of emotions. Chris had been waiting in the front yard to warn those of us in the house that she was coming. I am thankful that our friend Jason was there to capture this moment on his phone.
So when she came in the house, where we were all waiting, she was already crying.
Which made all of us cry.
I even saw tears in Jeremy’s eyes.
And when all the tears and congratulations and telling and retelling of the story and what Jeremy did and said and what Callie suspected and didn’t suspect were over…
Well, that’s when we sort of went crazy. We danced, baby. Boy, did we dance.
One thing my family knows how to do is to celebrate good times. Come on.
Some of my nephews thought the music was too loud.
But my niece was partying it up with the rest of us crazy women.
My sisters-in-law and my mama are cuh-ray-zy.
I could possibly be a tiny bit crazy too. Especially when Bon Jovi comes on.
We even pulled some of the men in eventually.
One of the highlights of the evening was when we showed Babe, the guinea pig, the engagement ring. She was thrilled, as you can see.
We’re all thrilled. So thrilled. So glad to be surrounded by so much family who can be thrilled with us. So thankful that Jeremy has known us in all our craziness for four years now and has not been scared off. So thankful for his beautiful family that will now be forever linked with ours.
Last night, a wonderful young man asked our daughter for her hand in marriage.
We are thrilled.
eastmountainsouth – “So You Are To Me”
This song has been running through my head a lot these days as I have been pondering the life we’ve been given. The love we get to experience. The three daughters who were ours for a time. The love that they have with each other. The future which will surely be filled with even more love. The memories we will cherish forever. And what we all mean to each other…how can it be put into words?
It’s all so very big and today I am filled with thankfulness. Jeremy and Callie, we love you more than you could know. You have filled our hearts with joy as we have watched your relationship grow into what it is today. It is with quite a full heart that I prepare to let my daughter go to start her own family. I am amazed that we are here. Amazed and thankful and full of love.
P.S. Thank you to Stephanie (Callie’s future sister-in-law and long-time best of friends) for these wonderful pictures. What a blessing.