Breakfast is comprised of scrambled eggs, buttered toast with homegrown honey, and jasmine tea. After the 10yo and his dad shuttle off to school and work, the 7yo and I settle into the sofa and read from the graphic-novel-like Action Bible (about long-haired Samson), McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader (for oral reading practice), and C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. I cannot read many of the passages about Aslan without choking up a little. Okay, a LOT. This paragraph gets me weepy: “…there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying but it was a conversation Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them bringing Edmund with him. ‘Here is your brother,’ he said, ‘and – there is no need to talk to him about what is past.’”
Around 10am, the girls and I load up for a visit to the doctor. Over a week ago, two fingers on the 7yo’s left hand turned swollen and bloody thanks to a case of eczema gone out-of-hand (get it?). Today is a check-up to see how things have progressed after a few days of applying a topical steroid. As we sit in the waiting room, a woman with a blonde-haired child who appears to have Down’s syndrome signs in. We all end up in the corner with the toys, which includes a green, plastic toddler-sized rocking horse. My daughters stand back and take in the girl’s mannerisms, while I try to decipher her grunted words. Her mom calls her Deborah so I ask, “Deborah, how old are you?” She holds up both hands, one with her thumb folded down. “You’re four?” Her mom chimes in, “She’s seven. But that’s the first time I’ve ever seen her hold up her fingers like that!” And then Deborah is pulling the girls’ purses and jackets from my lap, pointing for me to climb on the rocking horse. I laugh and say, “I don’t think I’ll fit. It’s gonna be awkward for everyone in the waiting room if I get stuck there.” Her mom chuckles. Deborah throws herself across my lap in an effort to hug me, so I reach forward and we do. “She never meets a stranger,” says her mom. Somehow we start talking about homeschooling, and she mentions that their family is home on furlough from the mission field in Guinea, one of the countries in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. When she adds that they arrived home only two weeks before, I feel a flash of fear. She then comments, “People are so afraid -” and I can’t tell if she says “here” or “there”, so I ask her to repeat the sentence, to which she replies, “People are so afraid HERE.” I feel a bit ashamed about my reaction…and my home country’s reaction. As grateful as I am to live here, we Americans sure are an anxious bunch. Is this the by-product that comes with a lifetime of first-world privileges and luxuries like hot water, books, shoes, and decent healthcare? An undercurrent of fear that it can all slip away in a heartbeat?
I want to ask Deborah’s mom more questions but then we’re called back, so instead I say “Nice to meet you, Deborah.” Her mom says, “Have a good afternoon.” I reply, “Have a nice life!” and we both laugh. What are the odds of us ever crossing paths again and me getting the rest of her story? Probably nil. This spinning through each other’s lives…so strange and intriguing to me.
Back at home, Skylar works on her math lesson while we listen to the Narnia film score (which makes me cry too). Larkin illustrates a birthday note for a friend; I wrap the gift. Nachos are assembled for the girls’ lunch. I eat a chocolate/cherry/cashew bar while waiting for Brandon to arrive home so I can go to counseling. It’s been three weeks since my last appointment, so a whole bunch tumbles out this time around: thoughts on how to raise children in a grace-filled fashion, on how to stay on the same page in marriage, and about working through dissonance with friends. On the way home, I buy a Cherry Coke and veggie sandwich from a downtown eatery, and while the girls rest, I tune the tube to Dr. Phil. Haven’t watched that guy in years. Today the show is about sex; specifically, women’s reasons for having it. Interesting 😉
Our sitter shows up at 3pm, and I leave to shop a bi-annual consignment sale started by two sisters, both friends of mine. While I’m perusing the goods, I hear a song by The Weepies that’s the favorite of a friend of mine: “…and the world…spins maaaadly on”. I love the song, but the friendship is on the backburner, so it makes me sad too. For a grand total of $50, I purchase a small turquoise-painted desk for the 7yo, a vintage-looking red coat, a pair of earrings, a bracelet, and a scarf. Realizing I’ve left my phone at home, I zip back to get it, then return to the sale to work a six-hour shift. On the way, I stop to take some shots of dozens of American flags set out for Veterans’ Day near a downtown museum, flapping and snapping in the wind.
My volunteer responsibilities for the evening have me assigned to the check-out desk, and my table partner is someone I’ve worked with before. We quickly resume our conversation from the last sale, whenever it was, six months ago or maybe a year. The next several hours are spent giving my best friendly hello, scanning tags on clothing, and asking people if they want to pay cash or card. A local dessert vendor is set up in conjunction with the sale, proffering strawberry and apple breads, orange-cranberry-chocolate-chip cookies, and pumpkin whoopie pies. PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES. I take orders from my table partner and one of the entrepreneur sisters; between the three of us, we buy almost every delicious option. The whoopie pie is ALL kinds of scrumptiousness and definitely NOT gluten-free (pretty much given up on that since I spent a weekend in New Orleans two weeks ago). About an hour later, I cruise around the corner in my floral work apron to order dinner from a local joint. The young greeter is so kind and helpful that I text my friend, one of the co-owners, to let him know I’m impressed with his hire. I order the shrimp-and-grits plate with a side of sweet potato fries. As I’m strolling back to the sale, I overhear one of the patrons sitting at a table outside: “…and that was the end of some really good sex.” Kinda sorry I missed the first part of that story. Or maybe not.
After I nosh on the shrimp, I climb up into the window box to snap a pic of the sale so I can promote it on Instagram. My table partner picks up a call from her dad that her mom is ill and she disappears into the night, visibly rattled. Another sale volunteer takes her place and we do the get-to-know-you chit-chat in between checking out customers. A couple women show up in the crowd around whom I feel uncomfortable, for different reasons. My perception is that neither of them care to interact with me. If I could view them as women with deep-seated insecurities, like me, maybe my heart would be softer towards them. But this evening I just feel a deep, loser-ish sadness, an annoyance with them that they aren’t friendlier, and an annoyance with myself that it bothers me so much. While thinking on such things, I load the new-to-me desk in my car and try to combat the berating voice within reminding me of my loser-ish status. When I arrive home around 11pm, I’m trying hard to focus on my sweet-deal finds, the several kind people I crossed paths with at the sale, the general feeling of camaraderie between the volunteers, and the pumpkin whoopie pie…but I’m irritable, focusing more on the women who I perceive don’t like me. I want to learn – I MUST learn – how to extend love to people for whom I feel little compassion, those who have inflicted pain on me or the ones I love. I want to learn – I MUST learn – to love my frienemies. (“Enemies” has always struck me as such an overstatement in my modern-day, first-world life. An enemy is someone who comes running at you with a sword or cannon or something, right? Even people who have wounded me deeply, I have trouble calling them “enemies”. So I’ve started going with the more current “frienemies”. Just makes more sense in my book.) I guess these opportunities give me plenty of practice at learning that virtue.
I sit on the loveseat in our room and shoot off steam to the hubs for half-an-hour. He does the same about some goings-on in his life and I listen in return. Then I eat a cocktail of chocolate pudding and sleep supplements, and we watch the Halloween episode of “Modern Family”. It’s 1am before I switch off the light.
And the world spins madly on.