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June 2005
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August 2005

Rite of passage

We took the kids and our dog, Carmelita, to the dog park this afternoon. The dog park is a picture of heaven if you happen to be a dog or a grubby little boy. Carmi raced around us, skimming the ground in great leaps, pure joy coated in dog hair. This particular dog park is a part of the nearby park service land. It has a lovely wide path that we sometimes ride our bikes through, wide expanses of fields for romping, and a stream.

At a wide point in the stream there is a huge old cottonwood tree hugging one bank, and under its branches are some benches. People gather here to watch their dogs splash through the water.

Tre, as usual, scrambled down the steep banks to the water. He was followed close behind by Max. Raphael climbed the tree, looking for a small snake he’d spotted there last week. It was gone, and so he stood there, pensively staring down at Tre and Max as they tromped through the water.

Now, it really is too gross to think about, the boys playing in all that dog water, but we are a fairly earthy family, so I don’t try to stop them. They squish through the mud on the edge of the stream, wade into the water, and collect stray tennis balls to fling for the dogs. Raphael has never gone with the big boys into the water, because the bank is a little too steep for his liking, and the water looks a little too unknown. But today, after ten minutes or so of observing his brothers, he decided it was time for him to try to join them. He wanted to get over to the other side of the stream, to a wide sandy bank. So he gathered Clay for assistance, and proceeded to pick his way gingerly down the slope to the water.

I stood at the top of the bank, where I could see Tre (practicing his rock climbing skills on a crumbly steep dirt cliff), and Max (trotting about in the midst of a churning sea of dogs, full of delight and unable to decide which direction to go), and Raphi (on his quest with Clay). Carmelita ran in ever widening circles around us. My brother, Josh, thinks Carmi has some cattle dog in her, and she did seem to be trying to gather all the far-flung dogs in the park. I could also keep an eye on Mom, who was sitting on a bench. I had poured a tiny bit of water down her back on the ride over, and she was childishly plotting to return the favor. Honestly.

After much slow, shrieking progress, Clay and Raphael reached the water’s edge. Raphi watched Tre and Max splash back and forth a few times, then reached out to put one foot in the stream. That went well enough, so he stepped out with the other foot. He looked back at Clay, who grinned and waved him on, so he minced slowly across. It was only a few feet, and he soon had both feet in the sand of the opposite shore. He spun around and looked back, to see what he’d done, and crowed for joy.

“MAMA! COME SEE ME!”

I made my way down the bank to stand beside Clay.

“WATCH THIS!” Raphael bellowed. He stepped into the water, his chin proudly held high. He marched across, too proud to even watch his feet. The minute he reached our side, he turned around and marched back. On the sandy shore again, he bounced and leapt happily.

“DID YOO SEE THAT? AH JUST GREW UP!”

Right before our very eyes.

Tre and Max gathered to pat him on the back in congratulations, and the three of them headed off to explore together.

I leaned against Clay and watched my baby join his brothers in their little gang. They are the sort of boys who cross water without any grown ups at all, and find their own adventures.

I guess he just grew up.


Things will get better

A friend recently wrote in her blog about the sensation of slipping into a depression. She described it eloquently, and I sat at my computer in the sun room, light streaming in all around me, and remembered feeling that kind of hopelessness.

I saw a counselor in the aftermath of my divorce, but I did it as I did everything those days. I moved leadenly through my checklist of things I figured a responsible divorcee should do, but without hope.

One day I was describing to this counselor the sensation I’d had while driving. I’d looked down a sharp drop to my left, at the water below, and seriously considered driving my van right through the guard rail. When I thought about my life, and the lives of my boys, all I could imagine stretching out ahead of us was pain and loss. I couldn’t for the life of me think of why I should make us all live through that. In the end I didn’t do it (obviously), but only out of a puzzled sense of, “huh. I don’t think that’s normal.”

The counselor asked me if I could look forward in my life and imagine a time when life would be ok again. I thought about that for a moment.

“At the end of time, I believe God will gather all the strands of his creation together. He will disassemble the universe and reassemble it as He intended it. Wrongs will be righted, wounds will be healed, and we’ll finally understand. Then things will be right.”

He gave me the look. You know the look, right? The one that says, hey, that thing you just said? Not as sane as you thought it was.

“Well…can you think of any time when things will be ok BEFORE the end of time?”

“No.”
”That’s a long time from now.”

“Yes.” Duh.

He went on to give me a promise. “I know you can’t imagine it now, but things will get better. In your lifetime, I mean.” I nodded politely. At the end of the session he gave me his card, and on the back he’d written, “Things will get better.” I looked at it like it was Sanskrit, and tossed it aside when I got in the van.

A few weeks ago I was looking for something in the van. I was digging through a flip-out compartment between the two front seats. This compartment is the sort of place that collects STUFF, and I pawed through cassette tapes, a brush, two sticky lip gloss tubes, and several straw papers. At the bottom I discovered this card, the one from the counselor. I picked it up and flipped it over and there were his words.

Things will get better.

I sat in the gloom of the garage and remembered. I can’t quite follow my own thinking from that time, so distorted was my reality. But I remembered the bleakness, the weight of my own depression. I remembered how tired and unable to rest I was. I remembered.

And now? Now there is life. I still live with the sorrow that I thought would crush me then. It’s there, a part of me, a part of my boys. But it’s just a part. There are also colors and joy and spontaneous laughter and the taste of food…all things that were just absent then.

“Whaddya know?” I said to myself. “He was right.”

So friend, as you struggle under your own burden, I wish I could help you shoulder it. I wish I could do ANYTHING, but all I can do is promise you this:

Things will get better.


I think my tagline should be "wisdom is lost on the wicked"

I have been rattled by the holiday weekend – my already shaky blogging schedule is entirely askew. I have all these things to tell you. Swimming lessons started today, for instance. And there’s the final program at VBS – a gleaming memory I’ve been cradling between thoughts of grocery shopping and laundry.

Unfortunately for us all, I’m tired. Bah.

So instead of a thought out presentation of some of the important things in my life, I present:

Some Things My Children Have Recently Said.

Because I know y’all can’t get enough of that. Right? Right?

Ok then.

Saturday I was trying to get Max and Raphael into the van. We were meeting people. We were picking up a friend and then Tre, who had spent the night at a friend’s house. Then we were meeting still more people. This translates into a certain measure of pressure to get out of the dang house on time already. Raphael, with his keen sense of timing, chose to have an odyssey of sorts on his way to put on his sandals. He got sidetracked on his way upstairs, and found himself removing the dog’s collar instead.

“Raphael, go put on your sandals.” I reminded him gently.

He blinked, looked around, and hopped up and headed off for the sandals again. A few minutes later I found him, sitting on the stairs, his sandals forgotten, a few steps above him, as he pulled up his shirt and examined the changes in his belly button as he sucked his stomach in and then pushed it out as far as it could go.

“Raphi. Sandals.”

He blinked, looked around, and laughed.

“OH YEAH! Ah was puttin’ on my sandals!”

This time I carried him to a small chair, sat him in it, and placed each sandal by the correct foot (still an issue for him, although the CONSISTANCY with which he puts the sandals on the wrong feet suggest that the issue is not inaccuracy).

“Do not get up until your sandals are on,” I ordered sternly. He nodded back with big serious eyes, and I marched off.

Five minutes later I returned to find him chortling. He lifted his arms and showed me he had a sandal strapped to each hand.

“Very funny. Now put your sandals on your FEET.” I left him shaking his head and laughing at himself. This, by the way? Would be funnier if it didn’t happy so regularly.

Five minutes later I returned to find him sitting there, left sandal in hand. He was using it as a puppet of sorts, and it was singing him a little song.

Ahem.

I may have become a touch…intense at that point. Things may have been hollered. Sandals just might have been slapped in place on tiny feet while Raphael watched in wonder at the sight of a deranged mother ranting about shoes and schedules. I ordered him into his car seat and ran upstairs to grab my purse. And possibly scream into a pillow. A little.

When I got into the car Max spoke up from the back seat.

“Do you know what Raphi said?” He sounded shocked. “He said, ‘You know who needs a nap? MAMA needs a nap.’”

I had to admit he was probably right.

Sunday Tre sprinted pell-mell into the kitchen, several seconds ahead of Max.

“MAX IS GONNA TATTLE ON ME! TELL HIM NOT TO TATTLE!”

He was wild-eyed with the desire to head off whatever doom was heading his way. This is where you will be impressed with me. I reached deep within my soul and came up with the following bit of Solomon-like wisdom.

“Are you afraid you might get into trouble?” Anxious nod. “So…do you think you did something you shouldn’t have?” Scowl. Small nod. “Hmm. I guess you’d better go make things right with Max before he gets here, huh?”

He glanced over his shoulder at Max, bearing down on the back door.

“OR I could lock the door!” was his solution.

Honestly. Wisdom is lost on the wicked.


Happy Independence Day

I know I hide it well(*snort), but I'm a huge sap, and the 4th of July is no exception. I sing the patriotic songs with a tear in my eye, and so I wanted to share my favorite verse with you. It's the second verse of "O beautiful, for spacious skies" - and it's not heard all that often. I love it because I think it speaks of the reality of freedom. We Americans sometimes forget that independence has as much to do with responsibilities as with rights.

So everyone, SING WITH ME!

O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,

who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!

America, America, God mend thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!

Happy 4th, everyone!