Where I am from

Got the idea for this from Brian Madison, who got it in turn from George Ella Lyon –

Taste and See

I am from popcorn popped in Wesson oil and smothered in salt on a Sunday night,
From Wonderful World of Disney and the Mini Page.

I am from a series of homes not my own with furniture not my own,
Made home only by the people within and the pictures on the wall,
and by just caught fish dredged in cornmeal and deep-fried
on so many summer nights that the kitchen curtains
took on a perpetually greasy smell.

I am from the white clover and the yellow dandelion and the red raspberry:
a thicket full of thorns and flowers and profuse green leaves, with fruit enough
for the rabbits and the birds and three small children to eat their fill of,
and still enough left over to fill jar after jar of seed studded jam.

I’m from the Easter family softball game and a dogged insistence on fair play:
From Winburn and Mason and Charlie and Ed.

I’m from rooting for the underdog
And tense rivalries.

From “Let your little brother win” and
“You could have killed your little sister!”

I’m from the parsonage and the pew and the taste of grape juice
Made holy by my father’s reassurance, “poured out for you and for many…”

I’m from just outside the Beltway and the banks of the James,
From venison and oyster stew, and squash boiled with onions and then mashed;

From the spicy sweet smell of my Father’s head, that lingered on his pillow,
The showtunes Mom sang as she stirred bargain ground beef in Ragu.

From the countless carousels of slides, pulled out and shown
With a hum and a click-clack, but only after wrestling the screen from its mustard-yellow metal tube.

I am from a bottomless cup of coffee at a pharmacy lunchcounter,
I am from limeades and calamari and fried chicken livers;
I am from the smell of dead pine needles in the hot summer sun,
Sitting on a wood deck by the Rappahanock and cracking crabs.
I am from learning to lose graciously in the pool halls of Austin, Texas,
and from learning that love doesn’t have to destroy me, almost too late.
I am from the distant sound of hymns being sung and the warmth of a hand in mine as we pray together.  I am from discovering that I am not the firstborn, but that Christ is, and he has forever redefined for me who is my blood-kin.

On going to a memorial service for my Dad, on the eve of Father’s Day

I worry my grief like a sore on my tongue.  The pain was acute at first, but always hidden. Now I can forget it for hours at a time, until by chance it brushes up against something unexpectedly, like my tongue against my teeth, and once found I cannot stop touching the sore spot against the sharp edge that reminded me of it – a pain that is almost as searing as when it was new, but somehow sweet, too – or at least compelling.  I keep poking at it and poking at it, until I am distracted by something outside of myself and forget again, for a few hours.

My daughter has started biting her tongue every couple of days.  I am not sure how this is happening – if she is somehow speaking or eating differently – preschoolers are more changeable than the weather.  I do wonder, though, if there is any relation to the time, 2 weeks ago, when she bit her tongue so hard that it bled, and I gave her an ice pop to ease the pain.  But I have not given her one since then.

So the metaphor isn’t perfect then.  No one is handing me a stiff drink to numb the wound when I mention that I miss my Dad.  Thank God.  But then again, I am a grown up, and have learned over many decades how little people want to hear of what pains me when they are feeling fine, so I don’t mention it very often.  And it is not like I have a bottle of vodka sitting in the freezer next to the ice pops.  For whatever good the numbing would do.  I have seen my mother grieve her father my whole life long – a man who disappeared into the hospital never to return when her age could still be counted on two hands.  Unlike a tongue, which heals in a couple of days, the pain of having a parent ripped away is an open sore that does not heal, until finally God smooths it over, when Christ returns.

My sweet four year old daughter is praying for Jesus to come back every day.  Come, Lord Jesus.