A field and an old House

 

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She pauses every time she drives by the field with the sad, abandoned house.  Something about the scene causes her to wonder if she has ever been inside the little house or played in the flower strewn yard.  Perhaps she visited this place when she was very young and she cannot quite remember who lived there; but that would be impossible because she did not grow up in Georgia.    It could be that she recalls an indelibly haunting painting she once saw years ago of a girl on the ground in a field, with her head pointing and her hand reaching and her legs dragging toward a house in the distance which has to be her home.   Maybe it’s simply because something about this spot perfectly frames an emotion she cannot quite access.  Today, as she drives by she becomes the girl in the painting, suddenly plunked down in the field of yellow.

What a spring this has been and today is the most lovely of all.  The temperature is perfect and everything is in bloom.  Capture this moment, I think, soak it all in.  If I could pick a spot of total freedom, it would be a field like this, a wild, twirl-around field of yellow flowers.  I am happy – until I am not.  Something heavy washes over me and pushes me down.  I am alone.  I can finally feel what I feel.  Tears come.  My mother is dead.

I’ve been busy and I’ve been brave and she was sick for a long, long time.  She was so tired and so frail and so confused.  I actually asked God on more than one occassion to take her home.  He answered my prayer so why do I cry?  I haven’t really been able to talk with her for years though I did get glimpses of her from time to time.  I cry.  Now I can never pick up the phone and call her again.

“She lived a good long life,” people say.  She did and I know that.  It’s a comfort.  I cry.  I think about the time my grandmother told me that losing her mother was the hardest thing she ever faced.  I’ve heard that from other people too.  I cry.  Up until now I didn’t know what it was like to loose your mother or how to comfort a freind whose mother died.  I still don’t.

Jesus looked down from the cross at his mother and asked John to care of her.  I look up from my field of yellow flowers and ask Jesus to care for my mother.  I look towards the house in the distance and try to get up.  I reach for a home that no one lives in anymore.

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Painting by Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World 1948

 

 

 

The Perfect Gift

Last Monday started like most other Mondays.  Ambitions were high and I raced through my things to do list, never looking right or left but straight into the duties before me.  I wouldn’t say that I was particularly stressed, just focused.  I called the dry cleaners to clear up some confusion on my bill, put a brisket into the crock pot, looked up the recipes I wanted to bring to my daughter’s house for thanksgiving (jotting down the needed ingredients), stripped the beds and threw the sheets into the washer from our weekend guests, made an appointment with my dentist, drove to the bank, post office and grocery, went to two different places to buy Amaryllis bulbs, saving $3.00 a bulb for the extra effort, and raced home to meet the cable guy.  I retrieved as many plastic grocery bags as I could possibly hold from the back seat of my car, twisting the handles around both hands before walking up the steps to my porch.

There on the mat below the front door, was a present, an act of grace, a small gesture from an unknown someone who caused me to take a detour from the rush and clutter of my morning.  The gift was a rock, a beautiful, honey colored rock with warm marbled markings.  It was shaped like a pyramid, smooth, cool to touch and fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.  I paused.

There is nothing like an anonymous gift.  I recalled the time when I discovered one long stem red rose on the steering wheel of my car on Valentines day.   I went down all kinds of crazy rabbit trails trying to figure out who the giver was, sifting through quite a number of possibilities.  Then I thought of the Secret Santa exchange that we used to do at the office.  I was always pretty good guessing who gave what to whom.  Most of my secret gifts have come on specific holidays.  It’s exponentially better to receive an anonymous gift on an ordinary day.  I can testify that flowers sent for no special reason smell sweeter than ones sent for an anniversary (though I love those too, keep them coming).

Forgetting the groceries which were still in their bags waiting to be put away and stacked up across my kitchen counter, I walked outside to sit on my porch swing, cradling my new treasure.  I contemplated the meaning of the rock and which person in my life could have left it when Amelia walked by.  Amelia, the lovely precocious 7-year-old who lives a few doors down on my Mayberry-like Street in Serenbe.

“Amelia,”  I said.  “Do you know who may have left this rock on my porch?”

“I think it was Tristin,”  she answered.  “We got one too.  He told me he was going to give gifts of nature to people today.”

So it was Tristin.  I know who Tristin is.  I see him playing with the other kids on Selborne lane and I know which house he lives in.  We exchange friendly good mornings now and then but never much more than that.  I think my grandchildren play with him when they come to visit me.  I can’t imagine why this charming little boy would give me one of his treasures, but in doing so, he gave me a little bit of his heart.  I soon discovered that almost everyone on the block received a similar gift from said mystery person.  Was anyone else touched by this unexpected, extravagant, act of kindness?  I envision Tristin carefully placing his gifts on each porch while imagining our delightful response.  He surely didn’t expect a thank-you, his only joy being the act of giving itself.

It’s been a week now, since I found that special rock on my stoop.  We put the Christmas tree up yesterday, something we always do the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We planted the Amaryllis bulbs and they are pushing upwards.  We arranged all the Santas on their shelf and put the Christmas music on.  I’m somewhat concerned that I am just now getting to the point of pondering presents for persons of prominence.  (Well, not quite yet, I’m blogging first).  With my heels dug in, I ask myself, “what are you waiting for?”

What is the reason for my procrastination?  Is it because I hate the idea of going to the mall or spending unproductive hours searching for on-line bargains, or is it because I have bought into the idea that I can surprise my loved ones with exactly what they never knew they wanted and can find it on sale?  I’d really like to do it differently this year, give something that means something.  I’m trying to figure out, without putting rocks in all their stockings, how to pass on to each person in my family something of the truth behind every good gift.  I want a gift that whispers mystery, like the simple gift of love coming from a child.

Super Hero

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A family sat around the dining room table enjoying their dinner when the grandfather introduced a table question. “If you could have any super power, what would you choose?”
“I’d fly,” said the oldest daughter, and her cousin agreed.
“I’d be invisible,” said one of the other children. He wanted to sneak up on people and disappear at will.
“I’d like to travel back in time,” said the mother, for she had a passion for historical characters.
“I’d transport myself into and out of movies,” said the father who obviously enjoyed the cinema.
“How about you, grandfather?” asked the mother for he hadn’t answered his own question.

But before the grandfather could respond, his oldest grandson, who was only ten, suddenly burst out, “Grandfather, I know what you should choose! You should have the power to make copies of yourself, then there would be more yous and we could spread you all around the world and there would be enough yous to be president of all the countries and then there would be peace and everybody would be happy.”

And so, the grandson knew that his grandfather already had the greatest superpower of them all.