Sunday, July 24, 2011

Whispers on the Wind

Who made you who you are? What people and influences molded and shaped you? What memories resonate in both the pivotal and mundane moments of your life? Somehow, I always find myself waxing sentimental, if not downright ecclesiastical, on Sundays. This week my sense of sentimentality has been heightened. We have begun the 2nd year without my mom. Her eldest sister spent several days in the hospital this week. The airwaves have been flooded with the news of a pop idol's untimely death at 27 and the senseless massacre of more than 80 young people at a youth camp in Norway.

I suppose I'm an anthropologist, sociologist, or abnormal psychologist at heart because I'm a news hound who thinks about societal trends and impacts on an almost daily basis. Somehow, as I mulled over the connections between a homegrown Norwegian terrorist and a forever lost British singing sensation, my life story and theirs superimposed themselves. I wondered. Who made them who they were? What people and influences molded and shaped them? What memories resonated in pivotal and mundane moments of their lives. Did anyone tell them, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a creator God who designed you with a distinct purpose that only you alone can fulfill in this world?”

I worked alone in my kitchen today getting ready to serve a traditional Southern Sunday meal: beef roast, watermelon, peaches, green beans, and fried squash. (Yea, in case you were wondering, we did eat those now 'world famous' green beans.) Shhhhhh...listen real close now. Be real still. If you listen hard enough, you can hear it. The noise transcends the memories of my mom, my sister, and me as we worked with seamless perfection in preparation for other Sunday meals of long ago and far away. I started out thinking about us. Before I knew it, I heard the others who came before us.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Shhh....hush now. Hear it? Those are the echoes of other noises – now almost so faint as to be beyond detection. If I open my ears really wide, I can still hear the droning hum of the saw mill across the street. Give me that over a fan any day for white noise by which to sleep. A breeze gently lifts the corners of the kitchen curtains as the screen door slams repeatedly – bam, bam, bam-slam. “Don't let that door slam!” comes the call. The newfangled venetian blinds bump the window frames ever so slightly as the breeze continues its appointed rounds.

You can trace the arrival of the family by the tap-tap-tap of Sunday-go-to-meeting high heeled shoes making their way across the house. Voices begin to fill the rooms as hungry little children clamor, “How much longer till lunch?” The house is already awash in scents that have spilled out the open windows and across the street to the neighborhood church. Thanks to the summer breeze, mouths started to water as soon as congregants spilled out into the church yard.

The troupe assembles, and the dance begins. The women move about the kitchen in well-drilled precision. Little has to be said as decades of routine kick in. Some unknown caller of the dance seems to direct the frenzy. There are questions and laughter and staccato-ed directions. Antsy cousins, fueled by all the sitting still required for Sunday-go-to-meeting decorum, wander in and out under foot to be shooed away until it's time to assemble at the “Children's table” in the kitchen. Oh, the longing for graduation day to the dining room and the center of the grown-up action.

For just a brief, magical moment in time, the breeze came and lifted the curtain of life transporting me back to the place I became who I am today. The 5 women were there, my Mammaw and her girls. In reality, there were probably not many times that my mom and her 3 sisters' families were under one roof. That's ok. I'll take it as it came today and hold onto it as long as I can.

It was a simpler time before women burned their bra's, and television commercials lauded the advances of feminine hygiene and testosterone boosters. No one had heard of terrorism. IBM had not yet come to mean “I've Been Moved” to company employees. In fact, IBM may just have been a twinkle in some prehistoric nerd's eye. All these women did was live the life that was put before them. They did it without fanfare or glory. They often did it in hazy rooms filled with the overwhelming vapor of chemicals used to insure the perfect 'permanent wave' in each other's hair. It's a wonder any of us survived the exposure to tell about it. But, boy, didn't they look fine?

And, I am older than they were then. We blinked our eyes, and time went on to places we could never have seen or imagined. I carry on the dance in a kitchen of my own, sad that I do not have a troupe with which to dance. Buoyed by the memories of the days they taught me all I know without ever uttering a word of instruction.

I remember “Sister” who was, I think, one of the first people that gave me to know I could make other people laugh. I never got to see her enough and always left her presence feeling stronger and more sure of who I was. She made me see myself as more than I felt I was. I can still see her face light up as she begins to laugh. I feel like magic, and the performer in me is born again and again.

Then, there is Pearl. Her family knew hard times but never seemed to keep that from enabling them to find a way to laugh. They have grown up to be a family as singularly knit as any I have ever seen. You know without asking that they have each other's backs. “Don't mess with Texas” doesn't even hold a candle to how you'd better not mess with them. In a day when families don't remember what it is like to have roots, her family's roots are firmly planted in the soil she plowed.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Gail. LOL. The youngest who could weld some magical power I am yet to understand. We jokingly call her “Saint Gail the Divine” because as my mom became more frail, she also became childishly obstinate. All we had to do to get her to cooperate was to tell her that, “Gail thinks it is a good idea,” and ,VOILA, instant cooperation. Sometimes, in desperation, we'd even call and say, “Call Mamma and tell her _______.” You see, hearing it out the mouth of 'the saint' carried more clout than hearing it second-hand. I guess you could say she is a self made woman. She was the first real career woman I knew other than a nurse twice her age. Mamma often said I was as tenacious as Gail. If only. I hope. She raised 2 boys mostly as a single parent in the days before every other marriage ended in divorce. They don't have tattoos or do drugs. They have good jobs and families. They have made their momma proud, I think. I wonder if they know how proud they should be of her?

Then, there was Mamma who knew a thing or two about tenacity. As an adult I often described her to friends in this way, “Above the water line, you never see her ruffled. Below the water line, she is paddling like hell to stay afloat. (Sorry, just seemed to fit.) She graduated from college the same year as my sister. She held her first real job at age 40 and worked till she was 70 or more. She went to church and played the piano the same day she tore her right bicep muscle. She took in strangers off the street for the night and is remembered by retired missionaries and pastors for her singular hospitality to road weary servants of the Lord.

The dance of life continues on. The breeze of time moves us forward. I know whose imprint I carry. I wonder. In the days to come, whose life curtain will lift to carry the echo of me into the days ahead? Will I have made someone braver? Will I have helped someone see that they are more than they ever saw themselves as being? Will I have imprinted anyone else with tenacity? Will they know that they are funnier and more resilient because of me? Will anyone know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a creator God who gave them breath in order to fulfill a special place in this world that only they can fill?

Shhhh...listen real close. Can you hear it?

James 4:14 (NIV)
You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.


  1. I love this post! I still look around me at my parents and their siblings, at my cousins and their children and see the impressions of those that grew us. Thank you for this reminder.

  2. This was so sweet! I remember some days like that growing up. Doesn't seem like our kids these days have that kind of tradition but I really hope to remind my kids that there were "good old days."

  3. Aww..thanks to both of you. I tried to catch the essence of the days. Your notes were encouraging that I may have set the right tone! Thanks.

  4. Beautiful post! You make me braver every time I read your blog. Keep on keeping on!

  5. You my friend, are no fraidy cat. You speak so eloquently with your writings. You give so much encouragement on being brave. This post got me to thinking back on the days when we would have Sunday lunch with the whole family. Ah, what memories to have and to know who and where I came from. Blessings to you, my friend.

    1. Boy do I have you fooled! Just don't expect to see me on YouTube in all my fraidy cat glory as proof! Other than someone complimenting my boys, there is no compliment as powerful and wonderful for me than one about my written words. I am utterly humbled and thankful that I encourage you. I'm thinking a transcontinental move from one mountain range to a higher one ranks up there as braver than brave! I sure miss Sunday lunch at my grandmaw's! Glad I brought back sweet memories for you! Hugs.