Thursday, May 30, 2013

Insecurity Among Friends: Then and Now

I was in the middle of Rumors of Water and sifted through a haystack for old posts in a book club online. I was three months late. I laughed and cried through the comments, wishing I had been on time.

When Diedra challenged blogger-friends to join the conversation about women wanting it all last summer, I wanted to bring something worthy of discussion to that party too, except I was late again, even though ideas burned and swirled like smoke up and out of the chimney impregnating the Internet-neighborhood air.

It takes me too long to process thoughts and idea and make sense of life. By the time I have something to contribute to the conversation, it's often ended.

Maybe it's because I fuss too much. Worry about how I'm going to sound when to say it. How I will look. I'm the middle-schooler getting dressed for the eighth-grade dance inspecting myself  far too long in the mirror, wondering whether my outfit will evoke whispers behind cupped hands between friends or impress the other kids in the gym.

In real life, I'm now the mother of those insecure teen girls whose favorite—and least liked—place is before the mirror.


The rest of the story is over here today. Follow this cautious, gorgeous, awkward girl on over.
 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What Can Happen at a Table Before the Lord



Tonight I cooked dinner for a pastor visiting America from Cuba. He sat at my table and ate my cooking and was excited about having corn. It had come straight from the freezer at Publix, and all I did was warm it and add butter, but he was so excited to eat corn out of season, while Mike translated his Spanish and our English.

We ate dinner while Pastor Karel admitted his fear of speaking freely of his government, even here. It was no small thing to admit his trepidation when Mike took him to the capitol building in Columbia. It took some coercing to get him to ascend the statehouse steps, and he flat refused to go inside. He cannot imagine smiling faces at the door to welcome him in. Fear and intimidation is all this man knows from his government, and one moment on the steps of freedom isn't enough to undo a lifetime of suppression and control.

It never occurred to me to be fearful at the statehouse or excited about the corn.

Later, I washed dishes and cataloged the nations that have eaten in my kitchen at my table.
  • Pastor Karel, Cuba;
  • Pastor Cristian, Guatemala;
  • Pastor Garang, South Sudan.
I have fed the nations at my dinner table. The one with three white plastic folding chairs because Mike has broken the pretty ones from his continuous use. The table that has doubled as his desk for years. The one with cloudy, dull spots in the finish where the trapped glue fumes from Reagan's art project ate through the stain. The one where we've coaxed a cancer patient into a few bites of chicken noodle soup after chemo, his head hanging down.

This table where my family eats nightly.
Where the kids gobble their favorites, and complain about mushrooms.
Where we circle held hands and bowed heads over simple and extravagant meals with bountiful hearts.
Where global poverty has met American wealth.
Where communism has met democracy, black has met white, and persecution acceptance.
Where bondage has met liberty. Where fear has met love.
Where Christ unites, and there's really no translation necessary for that.

There was a wooden altar . . .
its corners, its base and its sides were of wood. . . .
"This is the table that is before the Lord."
~ Ezekiel 41:22


Joining #TellHisStory today.



Monday, May 6, 2013

Cindy


Is there such thing as a weekend sister? Because that's how it started. We shared Friday nights and Saturdays when my dad was dating her mom. Together we set tables, made salads, and played checkers. Before that, we both only had brothers.

I think we became friends out of necessity—we were thrust upon each other. After Dad and Carol married, there were only so many bedrooms to go around under one roof, so we skipped ahead to becoming step-sisters and roomies.

But it was over before we were teenagers.

When she was in fourth grade, I was every bit the seventh grader—shy and unsure. I missed my mom something fierce, so I moved back to her, which was far, far away from them. I packed up my half of our room, my half of our fledgling friendship, and, by default, all of the sisterhood, and never returned.

Only a visit or two sprinkled the following decades because we lived so far apart. My raw, perpetually torn heart ached exclusively for my dad—his wife and her children an irrelevant extension of him. I liked them well enough, but over time they had become inconsequential to me.

At some point, Dad adopted Chris and Cindy, and it was official. We shared a father and a last name, and, really, nothing else. The sun rose the next morning or maybe it rained. Who knows. I'm not even sure I found out the same day.

I asked this stranger who was my sister to be a bridesmaid when I got married. She donned obligatory pink satin and tried to blend into the fabric of my otherwise closest human relationships. She hid well behind her fabricated smile.

When she was in college, Mike and I visited Dad and Carol and she came over for supper. I only remember that she was there because I found it strange to hear her call him dad, and I noted his concern about her getting an oil change and how he pressed a twenty into her palm when she left with that stern half-glare only fathers give. I remember thinking he doesn't even know what kind of car I drive.

It wasn't jealousy. I don't know what to call it other than odd or surreal. That night, I watched my father be her dad while I felt like his dinner guest. There was nothing mean about it; it's just how our family had turned out. No one had scrambled all these relationships intentionally, but every one of us was the sad and beautiful damage that comes with blending families. And there we were that night, all juxtaposed together over a shared dinner. Before I knew what to make of it, Mike and I had gone home.



We went on being strangers-sisters, Cindy and I. When Jeff died, she didn't come. When Chris died, I don't go. That pretty much sums up our twenties and thirties.

Five years ago she called late on Christmas night. We exchanged our most impressive highlights the way old friends who've grown apart do when they run into each other unexpectedly in the grocery store. She wanted to come visit. She stayed four days and was reaquainted with my children. We called her Aunt Cindy and built a puzzle of the Boston skyline on the coffee table. And then she went home.

Last week, she came again with her fiance. We sat across the dining room table with our dinner plates and different lives between us. I told her a little bit about my reconciliation with Dad, and then said, "It feels a bit strange telling you about Dad because you know him so much better than I do."

We talked about Chris and Jeff, and the sisters that we weren't and yet we were. We decided we don't want to be strangers, but we've been this bizarre nothing-something for so long, we really don't know how to become anything else. There's so much impossible space and disconnected connection between us. We've both lost much, so it finally feels right to try for gain.

Weekend friends in the late 70s became step-sisters and roommates, and then strangers to each other again. Adoption made us full sisters while time and distance kept us strangers still.

There's not a word for sisters whose brothers have died, like a wife becomes a widow, but we both are that nameless thing too—another shared complication. We've both lost a brother—heck, we've both lost two, truth be told.

Once, on Facebook, I shared a romantic, reminiscent blog post someone had written about growing up with her sister. I introduced it by saying, "I don't have a sister, but if I did, I'd want us to be just like this."

"Interesting."

Cindy's one-word, Facebook comment was loaded.

When people ask me about my siblings, I tell them about Jeff and Wayne

But I have a sister. She hasn't been a big part of my past, but I'd like her to be a bigger part of my future.

I have a sister. Her name is Cindy. She came over for tacos last Saturday. And I think that's as good a place as any to start.
 
 
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