Tag Archiv: miracles
The Captive Robin, by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1864. Public Domain
I started a piece called, “Fairy tales I tell myself.” It was about failed work projects and the fact that the idea of the children pitching in is a fairy tale I tell myself in order to make it feel like a team effort. I wanted to discuss the mounting level of fantasy required to plan a list of jobs (as if there were other creatures intent on their completion).
So a wee bit of cynicism, and “fairy tales” was not supposed to be a compliment. At which point, God laughed and hijacked my train.
Girl one lost another tooth. (A relief for the scales of justice as her sister’s teeth have been raining down like manna from heaven.) I thought a tooth fairy conversation was not far off, but I didn’t see it going the way it did.
I don’t know whether to believe in the tooth fairy, she said. I pretty much know there isn’t one. That’s what my friends all say. . . but I’m . . .I’m not completely sure.
The man in the red suit (who we don’t campaign against, but who’s never really caught on as a tradition for our family) came to my rescue.
Kids want to believe in Santa Claus, I said, because they want to believe that there’s magic in the world. That love does things so amazing we can’t explain it. A kid might find out that Santa isn’t real and worry that miracles aren’t true either. But they are. Someone might have made up the idea of Santa Claus but love really does do things so amazing we can’t explain it. So amazing that it’s magical like flying reindeer.
She didn’t say anything, so I kept brushing her hair.
What would be better? I said. To believe the tooth fairy isn’t real and you don’t feel dumb with your friends or to believe she is real and you don’t have to feel sad that part of what you imagined is pretend?
Girl one took these things and pondered them in her heart. I brushed hair that no longer needed brushing.
Your sister puts her tooth under her pillow for the tooth fairy. Your brother doesn’t want to so he brings me all his lost teeth and I hand him some money. It’s okay both ways and the money’s the same either way. Which way do you want it?
I want to believe, she said.
I didn’t know how much I’d wanted her to say that until she said it. She danced downstairs the next morning waving the money that I’d put under her pillow myself. I saw her eyes and found it impossible not to imagine a tooth fairy with wings. Look what I got! she said. Girl two and I gasped with her.
Girl one wasn’t asking about the existence of the tooth fairy. She was asking if it was okay to believe in fairy tales. If it was okay to find in make-believe, things so true it made your heart hurt.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is that for me. I don’t expect to walk through a wardrobe in my daily life and find a different world (although I wouldn’t rule it out entirely). Rather, I expect that we may awake one day to the realization that where we are is Narnia. In the wordless places we see in part but are afraid to say, so we make poetry, and art, and music for each other to admit to what we know. That the trees have always talked, we simply haven’t heard them. That Aslan is real and on the move and without understanding why, that is precisely what we have been hoping and whispering so earnestly to each other.
We tell fairy tales to give back to our children what they give to us. That thing we so desperately need. Permission to believe.
We are broken, all of us. If we do not weep this night, we have wept another night. Some tears we taste. Others carve unseen a myriad of hidden rivers, our insides quietly rearranged without our having any choice about the holes, their shape, their size.
This is what makes us so nervous about loving each other. We’re not that put together ourselves. Touching broken people reminds us about the rivers.
On the good days, we’re Swiss cheese in clothes talking cheddar. Other days (against our wishes) we go topless covered only by post it notes with arrows pointing to the holes. In a world of hurting people, our own holes ache to be filled but the when and how are confusing.
Suffering come with complicated formulas. It’s okay to be suffering only if the diameter of my pain exceeds my neighbor’s. Measurements in my favor spell relief. But carrying rulers to relegate sorrows hurts everybody.
When my neighbor’s pain exceeds my own, it stops me short. What do I even have to offer them?
How do I love into the abyss?
My neighbor’s apartment is on fire. (This is a metaphor.) I am afraid to look at the flames. They bother me. Keep me up at night. I don’t need reminding. My eyes still burn from the smoke of my own recent fire. The power is out. There is one glass of water half full on my counter. The fire department is not here. They are supposed to be here. No one knows if they’re coming. Maybe my neighbor told them not to. What if she wants her place to burn?
Share your water, love whispers.
That much water cannot stop a fire. It’s not enough even to quench her thirst, I say.
Love waits for me to see.
It isn’t about rescue. We aren’t saviours. And yet by simple things have each of us saved. The 1/4 cups of water, half the kingdoms of our fellow pilgrims offered freely where they could not possibly make the difference between life and death. And yet they have.
When all is dark, it is in the arms of these moments that we are held. There is no promise for tomorrow to grab hold of (except by wings of faith notoriously difficult to strap on properly enough to stay in place). But there are moments of brokenness into which we can declare each other beloved.
The woman who washed God’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair didn’t fix anything. The feet were going to be dirty and smelly the next day. She washed them anyway.Tomorrow’s addictions and confusions will haunt unheeding of our sacrifice. But we offer the treasure of our love and into the ground a stake is struck.
I believe, we say to each other, you will be well. Whether or not I live to see your wellness, my love is not wasted on you. I see here, now, the promise of your wholeness.
We are ill suited to save each other but to love like this, into the abyss of dusty roads and canyons, perhaps this is what we were made to do.
Out there somewhere is a man who was once a boy. A particular boy who helped to save me.
But what did I do? he might ask?
Nothing. You were you.
I couldn’t have been more than 21 when I first met Josh. He was a baby: settled, happy, content, and unconcerned about anything beyond the present moment. Josh was easy to please. When he wasn’t pulling himself up to stand on top of his cousin’s head, we got on very well.
If I had to pick a word to describe myself then, I would go with tormented. By day I put one foot in front of the other as best I could. I washed lettuce in large sinks for hundreds of people. Delivery from this life by car accident seemed unlikely (as I rarely had reason to go near a road) but it didn’t stop me from wishing. Sleep was nightmares and more nightmares or the agony of days that would not end, and tears that would not come. Along the way, I was asked to work in childcare. I shared responsibility for six children during the morning (four three year olds and two babies). In the afternoon, I took three boys for naptime routines and quieter playing. One of these was Josh.
While I sagged in my insides feeling hopeless, my outsides condemned my failure to sleep, elude nightmares, and feel joy as proof of my basic worthlessness as a human being. Self hatred was justified more every day that I failed to be happy. I tried, but I failed to feel much beyond numb.
The exception was when I was with the children. My dysfunction had to be set aside if it was circle time. There were stories to be told and songs to be sung. We sang, The Itsy Bitsy Spider as dainty as you please, then we picked up pot lids, smashed them for all we were worth and sang verse two, “The Big Fat Spider.” (An excellent and quickly beloved variation.)
My three year olds tucked in, I would carry Josh to the rocking chair every afternoon. I advised the state of my soul to wait until the middle of the night to haunt me, Josh had a back to be patted just now. Every day I rocked him to sleep and stayed a little longer than I needed to, singing softly and gently holding something good.
Salvation rarely comes quickly in these places. But it comes.
What would you do, I wondered one night, if someone were to come in and try to hurt Josh?
I would die for him, said my thoughts. As soon as I said it, I knew that it was true.
A little light broke through. If I would die for a baby that wasn’t even mine, then there was something good in me. If there was something good in me, then there was hope.
Little windows to all that is meant to be. Oh the children that lead us.
After two weeks of searching high and low, and following even the faintest of leads, a man is on his way with a trailer to pick up Shorty. Although I have been praying madly, beseeching, growling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself at the gates of Heaven, I now feel like crying. The horse I thought might want to kill me now looks innocent and misunderstood. I am reminding myself that this is how he looked right before I let him out last week and he turned into Happy Days, Fonzie/Get away from my woman, in 3 seconds flat. But I feel sad anyway and my thank yous that he is going are softer and less festive than I had imagined.
This is what having children has done to me. They have squirmed in when I wasn’t looking and set about enlarging the chambers of this grinch’s heart. The living ones are obvious enough. Having been away last week, the hugs to prove how much I was missed have almost cracked bones (mine, not theirs). It’s the lost ones that teach me more quietly. Maybe because they can’t talk. Years I have prayed for the gift of tears on the outside. Some sort of acknowledgement that the tears on the inside are real too. I wouldn’t have known that lost babies who never saw the light of day would hold those keys. That they would know how to sit it out inside the depths of me, kneading with tiny fingers at the hardness of my heart until it softened.
So that is me now. All those years of lip biting and tough talk and I am ready to cry at the departure of a danger to hearth and home. Albeit hiding in the innards of a cute little 300 pounds of small horse. I am a shadow of my former strength. A whisper only now of togetherness.
Still wouldn’t trade those tiny fingers. For anything.