Half sweet, and half sour

Speaking of cell phones (weren’t we?), I noted cell phone usage in the mall on Saturday.

I’ve been to a mall twice in the past 20+ years, I love it that much. I took grandson there (his choice) so that we could finish out our happy day together with a late McD lunch, where he was unacknowledged by an aging Ms. Six Hickeys at the counter register to the point that he came back to the table defeated, “After I got into the other line when told to instead of listened to — that I already had my order but had forgotten to ask for sweet-and-sour sauce — and after 10 minutes in that line, she looked right at me and waited on two other sets of people…” I had been shocked enough to see him empty-handed after all that time.

He blinked rapidly for a moment, something that wrecks (and should) the heart of an observer when that little formerly happy chatty person has already suffered more than most in his short life.  Suffice it to say it’ll be an even colder day in hell when I return to a mall, though not because I caused a ruckus in direct view of a mall cop, which I most certainly did.  You mess with my polite, people-loving, bullshit-forgiving angel-grand, you mess with the surprisingly spry fugly thing behind him.  You will regret it. I won’t. He’s already consciously chosen not to become cold or hard in order to survive the cold and the hard. I do stand behind that. We had sweet-n-sour sauce in hand within milliseconds of my *approach.*

We were far from happy, though, for a while. It was one more thing that had to be talked to death, and a sad lunch (for me), and all of it ultimately to be excused by him. He was still happy to have found a blue spinner for his sister at a different store. He had missed giving her a birthday present at the time and promised her a desired spinner, and she had requested blue.  (He hadn’t wanted anything for himself at the store.)

Fortunately, he is nice enough for two people, and if I am dragged to heaven on anyone’s coattails, they’ll be his, but anyway, other things have indeed changed at the mall. A few tables in the food court bore families who put their phones down or kept them in pockets (though not at the teen tables), but I watched as everyone — even grown men — weaved their way down the long corridor to the rest rooms while they stared at their cell phone screens.  Adrift is today’s word prompt. Yes, indeed — that is exactly how they appeared!  It might even shock them to know it.

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Stationary journey..

What a surprisingly evocative prompt today: Unmoored.

I always (for decades) think I’d prefer to be unmoored — that I’m better, happier, more alive when drifting free. However, a) I haven’t taken much time to think on this;  a-and-a-half) it’s not something one can think on — it is, rather, something that one undergoes flailingly; and b) I have seen the unmoored pier rowboat or sailboat dinghy flying free in these currents just up around the bend, about to encounter whirlpools known worldwide to be some of the worst.

Though I will always pity the nearby buoy who had no real idea of what it would be to grow old with me, I’m glad one of us is always moored to land, rain or shine, so that one, two or many can more safely navigate.


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M-m-m-mild to the b-b-b-bone

I was an inner city average white girl, but there was one night I wanted to be notorious.  Yes, maybe “Notorious AWG” — though there was no cool coolness about the ‘hood back in the day — plus, I was sickly and Toni-permed up until I was 15…

I’d wanted to steal a car shortly after that ridiculous milestone.

Just to be bad. It would’ve been a convertible — just to be outrageously bad.

I was that tired of being good. Tired of being poor, stiffed, dismissed, unfeared but worse, disrespected; tired of being limited, tired of being stopped at every edge of every dream, and tired of being me.

Then, the pilfered Schlitz wore off past the teenaged crying jag — but the pain of being trapped was real. I talked it over with someone who wasn’t about to stop me. As usual, I stopped me.  Total loser. (Plus, there were no convertibles anywhere near my neighborhood, and I would need some car thief to hotwire it for me.  A lose-lose night entirely.)

We do have what it takes to break out. One doesn’t have to be bad to be badass. Should anyone think of stealing a car (or a Schlitz, or worse… well, there’s nothing worse than Schlitz), or thinking of stealing one’s own life or one’s own future, one must keep thinking.  Answers come. They just need time and hope. Find someone with hope — be it Jesus or Grandma or the butcher (all of whom understand feeling trapped) — and stay close and open to suggestions until you are your own hope-ster.

There is no point in stealing anything, nor in harming or ruining life.  You can have life properly, even abundantly, if you think first. It takes a little time… and zero Schlitz.

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Yes, but..

Somewhere, there’s a photo of me in silhouette standing on the very last dozen inches of one of the peaks of the Presidential Range, only good wishes and one misstep away from kissing one of those bad boys all around me for as far as the eye could see.

I loved showing the Dad-snapped photo around when I was young, “Look here, am I intrepid or what?” (I certainly hadn’t planned to be, lol, but facts is facts!)

Later, it became a bittersweet photo/memory, as did the days of my being dragged out to high seas in a tiny rowboat with him, to do some fishing away from land entirely.

My mother, even prior to their divorce, had always worried during those times when I was finally living life, that they were perfect opportunities for himself to dispatch-via-tragic-accident someone he’d considered the middle-man between them.

It was nearly impossible to defend him — he had done horrendous things — but I wanted to say (and would’ve, could I have found the unhurtful, unthreatening way to say it), “Sometimes, he has been a father.” I think she (and others) attributed my safe return solely to her frantic prayers being answered in the Affirmative.

But none of them saw his face on that mountain day, or those sea days, or on farm or extended family days. These were the only things he could give me, sometimes delivered with a gasp of his own — both of us overwhelmed by peace and health and beauty for a while. Together. On the precipice of family.


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I has them.

It would’ve gone alright with the rest as a middle name for real: Relax Qualm McGillicuddy, though it works better as a statement — a comma after Relax would’ve been perfect.

I had qualms about everything. If I didn’t, I imported them. I was my mother’s daughter, which is to say not half Irish just yet, which is to say French Canadian. My neighborhoods in a historic seaport were incredibly diverse, so I was surrounded by Italian qualms, many French Canadian ones, and the rarer Irish qualm (who had qualms about having qualms but had them anyway, only slightly moreso than did the Greeks).

The problem was, we were mostly of the Catholic working class persuasion, and that was rife with qualms. The only Jewish girl I knew didn’t seem to suffer them. She was joyful, animated, sure of herself. I desperately wanted to be Jewish for a while, back when I didn’t realize one could be Jewish and yet not religiously so.

I continue qualmward. Not because it’s mandatory for the conscience — that’s only how it got a foothold. I need qualms, the awkward 50-lb butterflies of doubt, to warn me off of what I think I want to go for — or at least make me think longer, consider more.

Or, angelqualms.


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When hoped for should become a plan

I’ve long wanted to collaborate on a book with my daughter. Actually, I’d love to collaborate on a book with any of my children or grandchildren or all, but this one in particular has always been quite the natural artist. Her illustrations based on her interpretation of the point in my prose would go far to say better, the little I have.

As one of many such gifts over the years, she drew a beautiful pastel portrait of Mary with a crown of stars above, horns under, and the soft, regal, voluminous folds of her garments — above and around her welcoming hands — appearing more wing-like than we might think. I know that Mary must look serious, but the one glaring imperfection was indeed her mouth. She looked almost dour. So dour, in fact, that I secretly tried to improve upon it.

There was also the gift of a portrait she’d done of the Man of Sorrows, crowned. She finished off the thorns, each and every one of them, with black and thus shiny ink seemingly visible from Pluto — the one glaring imperfection.  There was no way to improve upon it, there all in black and white and framed in black wood.

Eventually, it dawned on me that here is a real artist. What she applied — what she let stand, what she framed and with what she framed it — is the imperfection we bring to the holy.  What we see, that we don’t like, is our effect on the holy.

After all, what mother can smile or look beatific when any one of her children is in dire danger?  How could a loving Saviour bear as crown the purposely unnatural-to-God — the hardened, deliberately misformed, dead unfurled leaf affixed to Him by the thankless thoughtless — without it coloring His whole likeness?

For too long, her main canvas has been her skin — for tattoos. I’d really like to improve them, and I never will, but she needs to see where her greatest talent is, and I need it to speak for me.


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Noon would be good..

This house has been known for its hospitality. It’s also been known for shades or blinds down or curtains closed for way past the morning hour. Mornings will not exist in my Heaven. (It’ll be all-morning all the time in the other place, though, so I try to behave.)

Over the years, I’ve been hospitable to the point of foolish, even if based on hospitality houses of sweet holy note, like Catholic Worker houses — only on a smaller and not holy scale, and if still based somewhat in works of mercy.  It was also based on my mother’s example in the world (that only took from her, which didn’t stop her from giving). It might be easier to say who hasn’t lived here a spell, but it’s very easy to say the give-and-take here in my life has been fairly mutual.

We’ve had someone living in with us for many decades, really, but as an example of recent years and not counting pets, in 2014, there were 9 of us living in this old woman’s shoe. In 2015, we had dramatically dropped to 8, which was true of 2016 as well, though one face had been traded out for another. For most of 2017, we’ve been 7. And a lot of visiting from a significant other, so we could call it 7.5.

I always plan to donate to Casa Juan Diego every Christmas. The hospitality there is undeniably holy. But so is it out on the other coast, in a house of consecrated contemplatives — as is the never-failing other grandpa’s transportation of two little ones to far-away locations to see Dad who has no wheels, yet. Gasoline isn’t free, least of all in a mid-sized Chevy pickup which shows up religiously to save the psyches of many people every week.

I’m all stretched out on physical hospitality, here, but I do what I can for that which is extended by others.  To give the first hour’s pay of the work week, having thought of the person(s) and prayed for their intentions in that hour, is probably the best I can do these days.

Sometimes I’ve thought we’re not an overly hospitable region, but then how to explain the many refugees that have come from Rwanda and Indonesia especially, who are doing alright, here, now that we’re not shocked by anyone who isn’t white Irish or French? They bring their loved ones here as soon as they can. We must be thinking/saying/giving/doing something right. 🙂

The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, and we think we cannot help that 2000 years later, but He purposely identified with the poor, called Himself one with them (just as we are to consider our neighbors and us as one), that we might always have an unlimited option.


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