Friday, May 27, 2016

The Night Before Last

The night before last I had a scary dream. It had the feel of a Ray Bradbury story, the ones I loved and devoured as quickly as I could, as a teenager. 

The dream had the same creepy menace and foreboding that I found so deliciously scary then, but it didn't feel so delicious showing up in my dream now. In the dream I was in bed, in a room whose walls held windows that were open to the dark outside, like a sun porch, only the windows were all around and a breeze rustled through them, an invader from outside.

I wasn't alone in the room. To my right there was another bed, a little further forward than mine. A young girl, with dark, bobbed hair, sat up in it, with her back to me. Because it was further ahead than mine I couldn't see her face.

I did what anyone would do--I called out, "Mum!"

And I heard her sweet, unmistakable voice say, "I'm here darling," and she put up her hand from the mattress on the floor where she was sleeping beside my bed. I held onto it and was immediately comforted and safe.

She had slept like that for the year we were homeless between when I was 8 and 9, all four of us living in one room in the house of my bizarre English grandmother (my other one was Dutch.) 

My brother and I were so insecure and scared living there. He is three years younger than I, and we slept in camp beds set up head to head, from one corner of the room in a V formation. Mum and Dad slept on the floor between our beds on a mattress. On the wall above my bed, was a portrait of a fair haired, somber woman in Victorian clothing. Her eyes followed me no matter where I went in the room, always staring. Across the room from our beds was our wardrobe and upon its polished wood the firelight cast shadows that I dreamed into people with ill intent.

Mum slept every night (I don't know how she did it) with me holding one of her hands, and Rob, my brother, holding onto a lock of her beautiful dark hair.

Hearing her voice was such a sweet comfort the night before last. The memory has stayed with me since, almost banishing the menace of my Ray Bradbury dream! :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We Need More of That

 The sun shone bright and the day was full of the promise of spring as our cars converged on the small church standing at the side of a quiet country road. It was a glorious day for our purpose: remembering someone who would have loved to be there but who had more pressing business in heaven.

The gathering was informal and simple, just staff of the agency that had supported the person as well as his friends and family. We simply sang songs that were his favourites and shared our memories.We laughed, and wiped away some tears and we all left with more than we came with.

I loved all of the stories, but two shared by one of his support staff stuck with me. To understand them you need to know two things: he loved to sing and was irrepressible if the moment called for song, and he had an intellectual disability.  At one event they were at, he left his seat, mounted the podium and took the microphone. Then he sang the song, "Jesus Loves Me," and his staff said there was not a dry eye in the room. He and his staff would go grocery shopping together each week and while she paid the cashier, he would pack the groceries as they came down the belt--all the while singing his favourite hymn, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" at the top of his voice. One day a customer said to her, nodding to the loud singer, "We need more of that."

Later as we had refreshments and chatted, someone said with a sigh, "Well, he's normal now that he's in heaven."  Inside my heart cried out, "No!" at the thought, because after all, we had just celebrated someone we all loved so much for who he was, and "normal" sounded to me like a downgrade. I wish I had said that, but instead I just made a little joke, and said, "And we will be too," and everyone laughed and agreed that we were far from "normal" now ourselves.

After I left, I couldn't stop thinking of the words of the customer at the grocery store: We need more of that.  Yes we do. 

Most of us struggle for much of our lives with self esteem and self acceptance. How different would it be if each child heard and felt from the start and every day of their lives, the benediction spoken by that customer? 

I would love to think that when God gazes at us, what he thinks is, "We need more of that." That while we are always "in process," being more closely conformed to his image; not one of our basic building blocks--how we are intrinsically made--is defective or broken but exactly what the world needs more of. 

And if only we could let truth that sink into our soul--the assurance of  our own perfect "belovedness," that he gazes at us with adoration and love we cannot even comprehend--it would just have to burst out, spill over, and envelope the world around us....and wouldn't that be wonderful to have more of?

Saturday, May 07, 2016

2016 Mother's Day Memories


As small children we adore our mothers, think them the fairest in the land, and when we are old enough, present them with gifts bought lovingly with hoarded coins passed over shop counters by chubby hands.
Among my childhood gifts to Mum were Soir de Paris perfume in its bottle of blue glass topped with a domed silver cap--and Californian Poppy  with its jaunty red lid and cheery poppies on its label. Inside they had little white rubber stoppers, and Mum would tip the bottled and then touch the tiny stopper behind each ear, to each wrist and to her throat, a ritual I studied, and later imitated.
Both perfume bottles had in common their miniscule size, but somehow that just made them seem more extremely precious. They were the only perfumes I remember her using.
The rest of her life was far from glamourous. Recently I thought about the hard physical work she did every week just to get the laundry done. The sturdy white cotton twill bed sheets would be stripped each week, and while the bottom sheet and pillow cases would be laundered, the top sheet would be systematically rotated to the bottom. The sheets would be boiled, and then washed and rinsed by hand, and then put through a machine called a wringer, that had rollers to squeeze out the water. The sheets, heavy with water, were hard to haul from boiler to sink and then through the wringer. 
Eventually Mum bought a spin dryer, which was a great labour saving device. She looked after it carefully, as it could not be easily replaced. The load of clothes had to be arranged "just so" in the machine and Mum would brace it with her body as she turned it on and the drum gathered speed, spinning crazily. She always conveyed great appreciation and gratitude for her possessions and she saved for them all from a small income.
Once she went into town to negotiate the purchase of a washing machine on a payment plan called "Hire Purchase." She was working by then, but I remember the indignity of her being unable to purchase the washing machine without my father's signature on the agreement. To those of us who knew their respective strengths and weaknesses, this was quite funny.
How easily we buy things now compared to then, and replace worn out things without a great deal of agonizing or thought. 
I wish that Mum had had all of the little luxuries she truly deserved, but then I think she felt herself rich in what mattered, always telling us that she loved us "more than all the tea in China." We, of course, were richest of all, in having her.