"Hello, princess!" I greeted Smallest One, resplendent in a white sundress as she ran gracefully toward me at the door of the church. I scooped her up, pushing her blonde locks behind her shoulder and smiling down at Little One, smoothing hair that was darkening to match my deep brunette.
"What'd you bring me?" Smallest asked and I reached for the jewelry boxes I'd had for years, smoothing the dust from the velvety top with my thumb before flipping both of them open.
"I bought these," I showed her the cross necklaces - one simple, one containing a sparkling ruby, "years ago but I saved them for your baptism. I carried your sister at hers - she was just a baby - but you get to wear yours today!"
She selected the one with the ruby, turning and holding her hair off her neck so I could fasten the clasp and admire the sparkle once she flounced around again.
She's just finished 2nd grade, Smallest One has, and Little will go into 5th grade in the Fall. Their mother remarried and I rather like their stepdad. He coaches softball. Helps with homework. Cooks dinner. And takes them to church where he plays in the band.
He - Stepdad - was baptized first, wading into the pool on stage while the lights went deep blue and the electric guitars quieted. The pastor prayed over him before motioning for him to cross his arms under his chest and lean back into the water. I smiled when Stepdad plugged his nose, emerging to slick the water from face.
He hovered while Smallest carefully went down the steps into the pool. She looked angelic as she grinned at Stepdad then her pastor.
And I wept as we prayed over her. I was just so proud - feeling that rush of 'I remember when you were born!' that hits me at dance recitals or school plays. But this - the cementing of a relationship with Christ - an immersion in a faith I pray will sustain and strengthen her - was profound.
"She will serve God valiantly," the pastor said and I nodded, gulping back a sob and dabbing at my eyes with wet fingertips. For she is valiant - a powerful force who shares snacks with those who have none, plays with the friendless, gives freely of what she has with the simple trust that she'll find more.
We had lunch about a week later and I grinned back at her after handing over a $50 bill.
"Katie," Mom scolded, "she doesn't need that."
"Yes, I do!" Smallest insisted. "That's why I made her feel sorry for me - so she'd give me money!" For she is as manipulative as she is darling and I shake my head at how very often she gets her way.
But, watching her on that stage, plugging her nose, closing her eyes and reclining into the water, I said my own prayers and curled my hand on the empty chair beside me, praying that Dad got to see and rejoice with us, and cried a bit more.
For while I may feel stagnant at times, the Ones rarely are. So I brace myself for exhaustion as they visit again today.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
"I saved all the bears from the honey!" I declared victoriously, causing said eyes to roll. "Now what were you telling me?"
Friend is - as she ever was - intensely intelligent, thoughtful, sharp and more wonderful adjectives. I've learned about cells and students, rocks and NIH, theoretical scientist tracks and sexism. She educates, Friend does, and it delights me to watch, even when directed at yours truly.
"It's silly," she said, driving me from the airport which delivered me to the land of drawling accents, sweet tea and cars abandoned on the sides of highways. "But I feel like I'd either veer too far into talking about students or that I should join the conversation for reals."
I opened my mouth to respond to her thoughts on blogging - for mine independently are more shallow (I use an iPad to play games rather than a laptop to generate content for fun - when I have my laptop, I'm working - defining strategy, convincing people to agree with me, sending email, progressing projects) but paused.
"For realz?" I repeated? "Like with a z?"
"I work," she responded haughtily, "with 20 year olds. And it's with an s."
So I giggled at us - for as rarely as we talk (I'm terrible at maintaining long-distance relationships - it's a serious character flaw) - it's as easy as ever to slip back into familiar patterns even in circumstances that are dramatically different (as they remain refreshingly and eerily similar). The more things change, the more they stay the same and all that.
"I read a book on the plane," I told her, "that talked about online presence as people look for jobs or establish the groundwork for promotion."
"I should update my LinkedIn profile," she mused.
"Yes!" I confirmed, remembering my highlighted sections on the iPad. "Add a photo, update at least monthly, fill in all the sections with stories that differentiate you, but not too much. But it also talked about having a YouTube channel (I watch PewDiePie, BTW.), having a professional blog..." I trailed off, unable to remember the other items without checking and I was still too hot to put my bag (clearance! I love that bag even though I keep losing stuff in its many pockets) on my lap to retrieve my device.
But I read career paths (in order to gain more power and money as well as fulfilling my mission in life, as fuzzy as that may seem sometimes) while she reads pedagogy (determining how to best shape young(er) minds). And I ponder that while I am a good person - I love God, I try to do good and be kind - Friend is ever-so-much better.
"You are," I told her over cheese biscuits and honey butter (God bless the South), "inherently kind. Non-judgmental. Not to everyone - not to stupid people - but to those who approach with real pain and problems. You are good."
Then I blinked back a tear or two because she is and I love her and that's profound.
"She saved you," Mom reminded me when I sighed over having to get on a plane (which I hate less than before but still don't enjoy - the "look at me going places!" excitement is eclipsed by the "don't like prolonged contact with strangers stealing my half of the armrest" and "I have landed - don't leave me on the tarmac while I want off this plane.")
"I know. I remember," I said, giving kisses and "love yous" before departing. Brother has been struggling with his mental health of late and I adopt the gentle tone Friend used with me when speaking to him at his most fragile. "It's fine to just sleep. This will get better. Don't be afraid of the medicine. Let's say the Lord's prayer. If you can get outside and take a walk, that may help. Just breathe. Try to eat something. Be patient and kind with yourself. We love you."
And now I miss you, my bloggy friends who may still keep me in in reader lists. So Rudoguil may have to wait for my help with finding the spectral blade for the new king frozen in rock while I try to write a bit again. We shall see.
But - for now - Friend and I are well, trying to make our small corners of the world better. I very much hope you're the same.