When ‘radical’ faith looks a lot like the everyday

In July, Sarah and I went to my hometown to speak at the little public library where I worked when I was 14. My mom and stepdad and some of my aunts and cousins and even some strangers packed the tiny room that in the late ’90s was a garage for the village’s EMS.

Someone (unfairly) asked me (in the presence of my mom) whether I’d ever consider moving home, back to the place in Ohio where I’d graduated a decade and a half ago.

“I mean, could you do this sort of thing” — she referenced the new-monastic-like, Year of Small Things, radical-faith thing — “here in a rural place or a small town?”

Well.

Tell me.

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And finally, it’s spring: where our words have been

“You must be coming to visit me!” We were halfway around our block when were stopped by a wave from our octogenarian neighbor who lives behind us. We weren’t technically coming to visit, but our walk turned into a tour of her ever-changing garden. Her garden is her thing: I notice her from the kitchen Read more about And finally, it’s spring: where our words have been[…]

5 ways to share Year of Small Things love

The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, Jan. 31) will soon emerge from its cocoon and go out into the world, and to do that takes a lot of brain space. So do snow days and three-day weekends with children. The Midwest … it’s a tricky thing, you know. In Read more about 5 ways to share Year of Small Things love[…]

One final word about Alzheimer’s, I hope

I started a fire in the toaster Friday morning. Don’t worry: I got Louisa’s PopTart out just in time.

Because I saw the incident coming, I’d already been holding the contraption to the open kitchen window when I smelled the quick death of breakfast junk-food. I unplugged it — “Never stick a fork in the toaster,” my first-grader loudly warned me (“I’m not, it’s a spoon”) — and saved the morning, just barely.

Meaning the preschooler didn’t fall apart in tears. Meaning I could laugh about it and feel borderline Ma Ingalls about my quick thinking under duress. Also the house didn’t burn down, etc., etc.

Chances are, I’ll forget about this by next week. A year from now or later, I’ll read this and try to conjure the memory — what had happened? Why?

Because that’s what a life is, these little moments.

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Coming a little closer to the fire

We were grilling when our friends called: their daughter had a 104 fever and they needed help. I set my six-month-old in her bouncy chair, kissed Dave, and drove to their apartment about five minutes away. Taking the stairs two at a time, I arrived at their door ready to save the world. Or, um, to help my friends.

I remember feeling so proud of myself for no longer breathing shallowly when the smells from a half-dozen nationalities’ cuisines filled the hallway. (Tumeric? Coriander? Ginger? Curry? All?) So proud of myself that this refugee family, these newcomers, had called my family. I know people from Burma: I thought that a lot back then.

In their tiny apartment, the mother held her lethargic daughter while the dad showed me the tiny bottle of infant painkiller he’d brought from Thailand. “Hot,” her mom said. “Hot.” Very.

They knew what I knew: she needed a doctor.

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Checking in on a neighbor …

I hadn’t seen the neighbor behind our house for a few days, which is rare because she’s got this garden she’s been tending for 40 years now and she’s always pruning, weeding, transplanting. When the humidity is 107 percent and it’s 107 degrees, the 80-some year-old woman is still out there, picking up leaf by leaf, placing each into the yard-waste bag.

Louisa and I took a walk today with the dog, loping past our neighbor’s house — no sign of life. I was a bit nervous about ringing the bell (“Hi, are you trapped under something heavy?”), so I noted which curtains were open and that her recycling can wasn’t out, and we walked home.

In our driveway a few minutes later, dread held me from going inside. “We’ve got to go back,” I told Louisa. We locked the dog in the house and traced our steps around the block her house. The same curtains were open; the house still was quiet.

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On becoming — namely, their becomings

 

My kryptonite: anything to do with the last days of school. The pictures in front of the school. The teachers getting teary; kids doing the silent cry in the parking lot, their used-up workbooks clutched to their chests. Teachers and kids doing a spirit tunnel-clap-out thing for the classes to the song “Celebrate (Good Times),” which I hate 364 3/4 days of the year. Graduation parties for kindergartners, a group of 25 children at an age generally best left to the professionals.

kindergarten graduation

Kindergarten graduation: toxic levels of cuteness.

The looming reality of spending weeks upon weeks with siblings who scream at each other that “I’m ignoring you until YOU DIE.” At 7:30 a.m.

Gets me every time.

How the kids have grown and what they’ve learned is evident. Evidence of my own change is only obvious in that vaguely older countenance and all the miles put on the car shuttling them to their out-of-district school.

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