If People Would Purr
we would know that our offering is accepted and appreciated,
we could feel the satisfaction of providing pleasure,
we would be secure in knowing that they want more of our touch,
when our purr spontaneously combusted, it would bond us to that space in time where we fell asleep to another’s purr humming beside us.
When I was eighteen, a few of my friends brought me a stuffed animal wild thing for my birthday. This was back in the days when my nickname was Crazy Ali, and I was a wild thing. I was free. I wanted nothing more than to wander. I also loved the book Where the Wild Things Are. I didn’t even associate loving that book with my own desire for adventure where Max had the ultimate adventure when he met the wild things.
If I were to write a book about my own perfect adventure, I would be the wild thing, and my adventure would be finding my way to peace. But, gosh dangit, Wendell Berry beat me to that story. And, how I love him for it.
I’ve taken two trips to your house since the last time I wrote, so that has to count for something, right? It’s been ten weeks since my last letter. So much for every week. In my defense, it seems like it’s only been one week. My life is so crazy, time beats me to the finish line every day. I sure love you. I love how I feel at your house. I feel like I matter. Like I mean everything. I don’t feel like that at my house. I never feel like that at home. I mostly just feel like everything would fall apart without me, but I never feel like anyone really cares about me. I know it’s not true. I know LG loves me and I know my kids love me, but LG is modest in his communication and sentiment and the kids are…well, kids.
Thanks for making me matter, mom. I need to come to your house every day about dinner time when I am in dire need of a nap. HA! I have been thinking a lot about home lately. Not your home or even my home, but HOME, home. I use my keenest imagination to picture my Heavenly Mother and Father’s family room couch. How far is my room from theirs? What does the kitchen smell like? How do I get one-on-one attention when there are so many others? Is it boisterous like yours and mine? Is it the peaceful perfect quiet that I wish I could command? All I am left with is clouds and gold. That’s it. And light. I don’t know anything else. I can’t even conjure it up from any storybook.
I was thinking about how I love Chocolate Malted Crunch from Thrifty’s. When I eat it, I feel the joy of a long day well-spent with family and friends at the beach. I feel sand in my hair and sun on my nose and shoulders. I want to walk straight to the car and be the first to dib shower number three. My kids think I am so silly with my sentimentality. LG thinks our whole family is a little weird about our attachments, but I think that they are the ones who don’t really get it.
I know without a doubt (well, maybe with just a tiny doubt) that someday I will sit at God’s table and eat something that I can only get in His realm. I will close my eyes and feel all the feels that I love. I will remember all the other times that I sat there eating the same thing and feeling so wonderful. I will wonder how I could ever let it go again. I will want to stay right there forever. And, then God will send me away on another mission, and I will have to wait years to get that taste again. The taste will always be my favorite, and the view from Her window will always feel like clouds and gold. Someday, you and me and dad and everyone else will laugh about how I thought chocolate malted crunch was as good as it would get. We will laugh because we will be glad that we can remember now. Remember it all, including the malted crunch, but laughing at it’s inferiority to whatever it is we get at God’s house. We’ll be glad that the veil is gone. And, then I will take a walk to dad’s dairy and you will consult with the Barsons and make up a batch for Family Home Evening.
I cannot wait for that reunion. I will ponder it the rest of my life. How I miss my daddy. It hurts at every skin cell. I feel like I will never be whole again. I will never be totally happy again. I used to think you were overly emotional when you talked about missing your dad. I get it now. There is a hole. Not just in my heart, but everywhere. There is a hole in my peanut butter jar. There is a hole in my jumper cables. There is a hole in the green frog tape on my garage table. There is a hole in my cedar jewelry box on my dresser. It says Valdez. Dad mailed it from Alaska. There is a hole on my porch where he jimmy-rigged some wood slats to keep my screen door from opening too wide. There is a hole in my dog because dad loved her. There is a hole in the house down the street because I used to walk past while they were building it and smell the sweet scents of construction and think about dad. That hole happened after he was even around. There is a hole in the Pacific Ocean the size of the Pacific Ocean. Because it is dad’s ocean. There’s a hole at Disneyland because he took me there. There is a hole in Abigail’s car because one time dad bought me a new tire when it was flat. There is a hole EVERYWHERE. A hole only he fills, and I need him here to fill it. Not there. Here. So my tears roll down my face as fast as they can trying to make their way to the Pacific. They feel gravity pulling them to fill up the hole. They will never succeed. The hole will remain until I am gone to a place that I no longer have to feel it. A place where he will be.
Oh mom. I hate this. I hate living without him. I know you feel the emptiness thousands more than I do. Thanks for letting me write to you about it. It helps. A little bit. I hope it helps you, too.
This array at your house helped me a lot. Thanks for your lovely storytelling, mom. You always know the most important things to say. Sometimes without saying a word.
The Home I Can’t Remember
The home I can’t remember
seems too far away.
Especially since you beat me back
You always win – touche.
Someday instinct will find me there
You’ll be the first I’ll find.
We’ll deserve our rightful place
on our favorite restful couch.
Yet, we will know it won’t last long.
No one there dares slouch.
Mom is always up there cooking.
Dad is usually off at work.
You and me are now like them.
Never will we shirk.
Yet, before we run off to help,
we eat our favorite treats.
We breathe, we sigh, we reminisce
from our favorite seats.
We won’t miss home down there on earth,
there’s no need to even visit.
This best home of gold and clouds
is the most affectionate.
I love your heart.
It’s bigger than the moon.
It’s grander than Time Square.
It’s wider than a drive through Kansas.
It’s one of the most beautiful things on earth.
It was made to love you first,
but sometimes you give it away to other people,
thinking you’ll take care of you later.
That’s a bad idea.
Apply the magic of your heart
to your own scars first.
Then, you’ll have your own heart longer
and you’ll be able to love others greater.
Be selfish with your heart
as long as you need to
my heart will always be here waiting
for yours to come and play.
I started writing this for my husband. He teases that he is going through emotional adolescence right now. He is. It’s not always fun being a teenager, and his emotional phase doesn’t come with Friday night parties and summers at the beach. Dangit. However, I can’t wait to see the guy who emerges. I guess I’ve been married to an emotional child for almost 20 years without even knowing it.
I’m so proud of my man and the hard work that he has done to get in touch with a buried heart. It’s scary to stare at yourself in a mirror. It’s horrifying at times. It’s the hardest work any of us will ever do, and he does that hard work for me, and me alone. He makes me feel important with his journeying. He’s wandering through the Sahara only to reach the Artic…just looking for his heart, so he can give it to me. Sometimes, I hate the journey and wonder why it has to be so hard. Other times, I see peeks at gloriousness. I feel lucky. Even though we have had so much to learn, we’ve been privileged to learn it together.
I changed the way I wrote the poem to not be just for my husband. It’s for everyone because we all should have the high honor of someone loving us just for our heart.
Thank you Mindy Gledhill for a beautiful song.
While going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?
I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.
I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.
A Simply Marvelous Life
“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.
Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.” When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”
As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”
Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew. Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.
We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.” Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.
The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”
He shuts her out.
Again and again.
For years on end.
Every time it’s harder.
Every time it’s hell.
He shuts her down.
Time after time.
but does not understand
He shuts her door
and walks out cold.
He’s as mad as red,
but won’t admit
the honest cause.
He shuts her heart
and deems it untrue.
Her intentions are
She wants nothing but him.
He shuts her mouth.
She can’t say a thing
that will make
his rejection’s blow.
Because his is always
He shuts her out.
She can’t get in.
She sits alone
if he will ever
Let her in.
To see a place
that has been
just for her.
He shuts her out.
She’ll never know.
He won’t clean house.
It scares him so
much more than she does.
Red hair, black shirt.
Sitting at a short table.
Food in front.
Ocean spray juice in a plastic bottle
with a blue lid.
I can smell the pasta
from my circular booth.
It shouts at my nostrils.
I’m cheap. I’m microwaved.
I’m in a flimsy black bowl.
It all sits still, untouched.
Laid out neatly
as if waiting for a queen.
Drink on left.
Pasta in the middle.
Napkin and plastic fork on the right.
Her head bows.
Reverencing her meal
in contrast to her hair.
Her bright pink hair.
It’s not red.
like a darker-dyed flamingo.
And it fades and ombres into
All the way down her back.
She is bowing.
It’s been a minute.
At least a minute.
She is still.
She is grateful.
She is reverent.
She is praying.
With her pink hair.
Her flaming hair.
The hair that screams
I’m a rebel.
I’m a rebel queen.
And I have a Father.
A Father God.
And she stands.
Her belly is bulging.
A princess is waiting.
Her hair may be pink.
Just like her mother.
Her rebel mother.
with a Father.
I’ve been studying Dorothy Wordsworth this morning. She is the sister of the British great, William Wordsworth. Both Wordsworths were close friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Come to find out, many of the journal entries of Dorothy are included in the works of William Wordsworth and Coleridge. They stole many of her observations! She had a very keen eye and a knack for object description. Although she was never published in her life, she has since been recognized for her role in literary history. She explained writing some of her poems because “I shall give William pleasure by it.”
While reading her journals I am thinking she was a predecesor to the great Annie Dillard. I like to think I share both of these women’s love for all things natural. I aim to have their abilities in describing the physical world. Someday.
Dorothy eventually ended up having a mental collapse in 1835; her brother, William, cared for her for 20 years until he died. She had suffered a severe personality alteration. Once viviacious and sweet, she became insufferable as an invalid and would act aggressively. My text blamed her mental breakdown on being overworked during her entire adult life, playing secretary to her brother and helper of his household. (Norton Anthology of English Lit. Vol. 2, p. 403) As a mother of five, being overworked is something I can identify with on a cellular level. I am so grateful I have modern medicine to assist with my own brain chemistry. So many great writers were shamefully stagnated by their lunacy.
A Poetess’ Hamartia
My dearest dad I cannot go
unless I can see as now.
The hues of yellow as they infuse
upon the palish brough.
But child of mine, sharp poetess
impossible it ’tis for thee
a mortal mind is far too fragile
to perceive that kind of beauty.
I shall not go then, father fixed
I cannot bear the break
Seeing and hearing the pink petticoats
All lifelong without, I’d ache
Okay sweet one, but you must go
A concession I’ll make to you.
But there will be a price to pay
For omniscient skills so true
Oh thanks daddy, please do make it so
Thy sight is vital to my soul
Creation must not be concealed from me
I accept the price and toll.
All right my lovely keeper of British countryside
Thy eyes will stay immortal to see
but thy mortal mind won’t always understand
Sentinel keen, thou on earth will be.
I’ll be crazy. I’ll be haunted.
I will take the pain and mental stops
Confusion may come and invalid me
in my millions of diamond drops.