This morning the sun just ever so early was shining through the cloud of fog hanging low over the ridge, my view was like that of being above the clouds. Looking out. Tired. Sleepy. Debating. Coffee and writing or going back to bed? Coffee won. And finishing an advanced reading copy of a book about a boy on a quest who turns out to be an angel, and finds his wings. It's a message for all of us. Don't slouch. Don't fear. Stretch your wings. Know thyself and be true.
I walked downstairs and went out on the porch, found the one piece of sky where I could lean way out and look out at the fog. Looked back at the blocked porch where the plastic hangs to protect Mom's plants from the freeze. Where it's actually nailed in. I don't have the tools or strength to take down the contraption made to hold it. It blocks the light, blocks the view. Creates a constant shadow. The living room looks out on grey floating plastic.
Rescue Kevin looked at me sleepily, stretched from his four blankets with heating pad and rose. He favors it finally in the wee hours of the dawn when the cold earth has stirred up the pain in his bones. An old accident. A run in with a car that was never tended. I can tell when it's stiff, when it pains him.
Mama's got a green thumb that Saint Peter would envy. She can bring the dead to life. Grow anything. Transplant. Transfigure. She has tried her best to bring cuttings of her plants to Tennessee. A rose bush she planted thirty years ago. It bloomed this summer. It's still potted and too heavy for me to move. It attacks me when I walk on the porch. The vines now wrapping around and clinging to me. Prick, prick, prick. Probably trying to tell me something in her absence as she visits Cousin Deb. Feed us. Sun us. Trim us. Fertilize. I tell them to hush. That I have words to write. That I have decided to never plant, feed, or nurture anything that will make me bleed. I'm beyond it.
I applaud my mother's gift. I recognize it for what it is. Something incredible. Wondrous. Magical. My entire life, her plants, the yard, the roses, the tulips. My entire life - my mother outside at the end of the day watering, watering. Tending and trimming. Summer grass, winter grass, pear trees. Beauty and bounty. Running roses all along the fence. Daffodils, Azaleas, Iris's, And those really big, huge, orange, Florida flowers. A bush six feet tall full of them.
My hands are better on the keys than in the dirt. I have come to accept this. Truly. Just now.
This morning I turned my palm up, held it in a ray of sunshine falling on my desk. Was mesmerized by the complex beauty of the lines it holds. How many stories residing there. Years ago, many many years ago, cousin Deb and I would visit a palm reader on occasion. Teenagers. Bored with car keys and five dollars to burn. Let's get our fortunes told today, we'd say. Then we would make the dark eyed woman living in some small rental shelter read our palms at the same time together. Refusing to separate and take our turns. We got no secrets, we would say. My life line was never long. Deb's stretches around the world.
I've outlived many friends. I thought of that this morning as I turned my palm this way and that. The lines form crossroads upon crossroads. Which brought to mind my grandmother as I whispered two lines of a prayer. Or maybe it was a country song.
Already old when I was born. Me her late-life grace. Her smiling and saying, I'm just a wrinkled, old woman now, as she rubbed Noxema cream on her face. Me standing beside her all of five looking up and saying, You are beautiful. Knowing it to be true. She of rocking chairs and chocolate cakes, of long fingers, bending my hair gently behind my ear, being pure magic in my universe. Like Mom's green thumb, She nourished me. I was watered by her presence.
Today they say it will climb to fifty and beyond. How my bones crave the sun! A long, bake like a lizard on a rock. I need tending to. My soul.
Lent. It's my season. One I normally feel most akin to. A season to languish and lament. The melancholy and denial. Artist shadow, writer heart. Everything I gave up I've given into. Perhaps this is a different kind of lent. One that shows me something yet anew. Perhaps God's hand holds out a new request of me.
This week. The shootings. No words still. No words. I looked at the photos of those now lost. Slowly. Reading about their lives. Crying. Later that day I took myself to the movie. My medicine to be lost in story and reset.
The Shape of Water.
It. Wrecked. Me.
Reminded me of Big Fish in some stylistic ways. I warn you here. There is nudity and a kind of sex. Should you take offense. I haven't read Fifty Shades and never will. That is not my cup of tea. But the movie is not about these things. I won't say what it's about. But love and monsters, maybe. But to each his own. The story that comes home the one you were mean to see or read.
I sat down alone. Seven other people scattered about in the dark. The movie started. One third way through I started crying. By the end I was a mess. Waited for the theatre to empty. The last to leave I passed the one, lone young girl standing there with a broom to clean who looked at me concerned. "That movie just broke my heart," I said in some kind of gulps. She said something, like, take care. I passed the restroom but didn't stop. I exited through emergency, went straight to my car, drove home to Ashland City sobbing. Went to bed.
The next morning instead of writing I built a fire. Ate creamed goat cheese with strong coffee Went to lunch where a friend said, Well, you must have needed a good cry. I guess. That and something more. Something I'm still pondering.
This mornings reading for Sunday Lent in the prayer book, 2 Corinthians, 6. After a long list of the patience and kindness and unfeigned love of those seeking out and serving God the list continues: "By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
And, it. wrecks. me.
It is something about the fragility of this human life. The beauty and horror of it. The longing to be loved. The desperation to be seen, to be heard. To be known. The tender improbability that any of us have made it. That we are still here, alive this morning.
There's a lone hawk circling. I watch him ride the airwaves. I am above him. This is what I can see from my office window. The brown of the bare trees, the distant ridge. I am high above the little valley. I have room enough for wisdom and understanding. For discernment. I pray for these things in the midst of my troubles and my triumphs.
Last night I had three littles - 9, 5, 3. My sister had given them two brand new BIG lego trucks to play with. I had envisioned a quiet, happy dinner then some snuggles on the couch while we watched a movie. Perhaps pajamas and sleep overs. Fighting over who was playing with what truck and how they were playing with it ensued. Zaza made dinner. Truck parts lay all over the room. The nine year old realized I kept fast forwarding through the movie. Skipping parts. The other two did not. They were still fighting over trucks. Two more ounces of energy I would have put up trucks, passed out baths. With a splitting headache I made their little bowls of strawberries, grapes and blueberries with yogurt on top. The one that Damon little calls his regular mix. Like he's ordering at a restaurant. I'll have my regular mix. Sure kid. Anything for you. As soon as they ate them I was saying, 'Get in the car. All of you. You are going home.' Love, love, love you. Gotta say bye, bye now. Kisses, kisses.
They. wrecked. me.
We don't always know what may show up that hurts or hinders. A bad medical test. News of a shooting. Weonly know that we have the moment at hand. That we are not perfect or far from it. That we will achieve some goals and miss others. That seasons come, stay, leave, change.
We can only hope that little by little we evolve as human beings. That like the complex lines across our palms we thread the moments of our days into the brutal, beautiful realities of our lives with all grace and mercy.
May the force be with each of us as we undertake such a monumental, tiny task.
What do you get when you cross Dennis the Menace with Calvin aka Calvin and Hobbs and ramp up the cute factor by 1000 degrees - You get the Damon.
I've been with this kid since the day of his birth. Rocked him, fed him, cooed to him and played the role of ZAZA for all of his just turned five years? And still, when I suggested to his Dad that I could take him with me on a road trip for 2 weeks while I went to see the adorables he looked at me and asked, "Two weeks? Are you sure?" I thought he was worried about the kid. Now, I realize he was worried about me.
I'm thinking well, of course. I took the Adorables with me every summer for a road trip. Now, I'm going to see them and he has reached the magic age of five - he should come along. It's like a tradition now. Road trip with Zaza. The Adorables have reached the savvy years of Ten (almost 11) and Fifteen (almost 25). They have been irritated (just my guess), exasperated (just a guess), shell-shocked (who wouldn't be) and occasionally charmed by the kid they adored when he was a babe. It's that charming few seconds that he works that keeps him from being sent to his room until he is 45.
He is just - all boy? Is that a real thing any more? I guess it is since I went to his pre-k 4 year old graduation - yes. It's a thing. And I don't think it should be a thing. But I went anyway and when the kids eyes lit up when I walked into the auditorium I wouldn't have been anywhere else in the world. He was the first kid to make it to the 100 club last year (counting to 100) and letting me know the rest of the kids were coming along and giving it their best shot. He also let me know he sat by Miss Wendy everyday at lunch. I thought maybe he was her favorite or something. Now, I realize she was trying to keep the school from being burned down. Accidently. The kid is not malicious. He is - - - - curious. Like a scientist. Which is what led to our 911 call.
So this is how it happened . . .
Maybe it started with a trip to the dollar store. This is where we bought bath fizzes and little capsules that turn into sponge shapes. The kid happens to be faster than flash. As evidenced in photo where I turned my back and he had located a sword and stuck it down his shirt, prepared to fight demons and dragons I suppose. Only before he made it back to the sword isle to replace it he had drawn it on a woman who might have been in her 70s. I was rushing to snatch it away and apologize when she whipped out an imaginary sword and begin defending herself. I went back to what I was doing. Obviously she was in control of the situation.
THE BATHTUB EQUATION
The Adorables have a friend staying over. They are watching one of my favorite movies. Moonrise Kingdom. Everyone has eaten. The television is about six feet from the bathtub. I put The Damon in the bathtub with magic shapes and bubble fizzes. I stand up and watch part of the movie. He yells Zaza. I go back to the bathroom. Yes, That's a t-rex. Good job. Back to the movie. I love this movie. He yells Zaza. Back to the bathtub. This goes on for a long time. I never, ever sit down to watch even five minutes of the movie. I never sit down. The girls are my witnesses. All the spongy things have turned into shapes and I am about to supervise the out of the tub and into the Mickey Mouse pajamas when I go back to the tub and in the six feet five minutes break the kid has - Gotten out of the tub, found a GLOWSTICK like they sell at fairs and for 4th of july - gotten back into the tub and decided to maybe bend the glow stick until it breaks to see what is inside, have it leak into the tub.
THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED PROCEDURE!
When I step back into the bathroom I immediately realize something has gone wrong in the last 2 and half minutes. There is a horrible chemical smell, the bath water is not the right fizzy color and I pull child from tub, tell him I need to wash him in clean water, start to drain the tub and then the kid starts to SCREAM. No parent or grandparent or nice neighbor next door wants to hear a kid scream like this. The fact that he is holding his privates with a look of pure panic and screaming is a serious CLUE that glow-sticks broken in tub do not mix well with boy parts. The screaming GET'S LOUDER AS I AM DRAINING THE TUB TELLING THE KID IT'S GONNA BE OK. Pouring cold water over him and over him and over him and the screaming get's louder and all of this in maybe sixty long seconds and I have two thoughts -
Call poison control but I can't turn loose of the water and screaming kid. Tell the fifteen year old to look up the number for poison control and call them - or - insert blood curdling screams and visions in my head of the child burning from the inside out here - call 911.
Adorable One calls 911.
What is the emergency?
There is a screaming kid in the bathtub.
Can you go to a room where I can hear you?
Yes. There is a screaming kid in the bathtub.
Why is he screaming?
I don't know. Zaza said call 911.
I am trying to explain why he is screaming but he is screaming. The lady on 911 is asking questions. The fifteen year old is trying to ask me questions. The kid is screaming don't touch me and clutching himself and I'm pouring water on him.
By Minute number 4 there is an officer standing in the door of the bathroom. I don't think I've ever been happier to see a guy in uniform. Officer sees the kids eyes get eversowide and calmly tells the kid - You are not in trouble. I say two words. Glow-stick. Bathtub. My eyes as wide as the kids. He looks at my wide eyes and says - Not Toxic. These are two of the sweetest words I've ever heard.
INSERT a little backstory.
At the grocery store the day before a police officer was standing next to some people taking a report when Damon asked -what are the police doing at the store? and a certain Zaza MIGHT have said - looking for little boys running through the store that don't mind their Zaza's. Then the kid wouldn't get out of his carseat. When I asked why. He said -Are you kidding?! I can't go in there! The police are looking for me!
(Don't lecture me on proper parenting and telling kids police are their friends. I've been on the road for weeks)
BACK TO BATHTUB -
I explain to the kid in my calm it's not toxic voice - This man has all the same body parts you do. I'm sure he'll know exactly what we need to do.
(I think this is pretty brilliant reasoning tactics. If you ever have to deal with boys of any age I suggest it. They seem to take this part seriously.)
At which point the screaming subsides, I'm still pouring cold water and the kid is calming down. Then there is all that detailed stuff like - another officer is guarding the door outside (not sure why) I have to explain that yes, I am the guardian and look - I have witnesses - i've been in this bathroom all night - minus those 2 minutes.
The fire rescue guy arrives. I must show my id, sign a form, and do all the things one does to help the emergency a) determine nothing wicked is going on and b) people wrap up this visit and go off to help people in danger from worse things than a glow stick.
When they leave the kid is wearing his Mickey Mouse jammies and eating watermelon. But he doesn't let the Rescue guy leave until ---
"Do you like slime? Do you have any slime? Here, see my slime? I have blue slime. Touch it, go ahead just touch it! "
Rescue guy touches slime. Says he's got his own slime he has to get back to. Says goodnight.
"Still burning?" I ask the kid when he leaves.
"Yeah, it still burns."
Four ginger ales and four trips to the bathroom later we safely call it a night. I don't want to hear my son tell me one time - "I told you so."
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