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Ancient History

An Automatic Flower

For two years, I was proud to be a contributor at A Deeper Story. I wrote alongside many amazing authors, writers, and poets, often wondering how on earth I got so lucky. I often felt unworthy. They were the Alice Coopers to my Wayne.

Nish Wiseth, the founder and chief editor, has decided the time has come to move on, so she is closing up shop. I’ve decided to re-post my work from there here. Every Saturday, a new-to-Lifenut post I wrote for A Deeper Story will appear here (with Nish’s blessing and encouragement). These posts often focus on issues of faith, culture, church, and how they intersect through story. I am very fond of these posts and don’t want them disappearing. Folding them into Lifenut is like folding chocolate chips into cookie dough.

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An Automatic Flower
(originally published January 18, 2013)

My friend sat across from me at a bookstore coffee shop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a big bag held in the crook of her elbow or slung over her shoulder. She travels with yarn and needles, pulling them out as we sit and laugh and chat. There’s always a project going, either in her head or in her lap.

She has four children. The two oldest girls, sisters adopted as preteens, are grown with babies of their own. They haven’t always made great decisions, but my friend loves them with all her heart even when they have done terribly hurtful, bewildering things. The younger of these girls lives in a mountain town and is isolated in many ways.

There were four of us sitting around the table. We sipped our drinks and talked about the holidays, which were winding down. She pulled a crocheted yarn chain and a needle of her bag. I knew she was going to make a flower. We all admired the flower pins she made in the past, so when she announced we were getting our own, we squealed.

We talked while she worked yarn chains into layered blooms. First pink, then black with a silver strand, then plain black. She began to work with a bright white chain when she got a text.

She read it, sighed, and put her phone away. As her fingers flew, she told us the story behind the text. One of her older daughters was letting her know she got a new phone and could be reached by text. The old phone had been shattered. There was police involvement, hospitalization. It’s truly a sad and complicated situation. Tears fell.

But her fingers kept moving. I watched them press, pinch, pull, twist the chain around and around as her yarn needle dove in and out. Tears fell on the flower as it grew and grew into a full white bloom, glorious. It reminded me of a gardenia, one of the most fragrant and stunning flowers in creation. After attaching a pin, she put it on the table next to the other flowers. We were supposed to choose the flower we wanted.

automaticflower

I didn’t want the white flower. I thought it was the most beautiful, but I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up, to pin it on my coat. It wasn’t that I feared my friend’s tears, but it was most distinctly hers to wear. Her weaving fingers wiped away her daughter’s tears for years. Those fingers, hands, hugging arms couldn’t be there now. I have no idea what my other friends were thinking as they chose, but all left the white flower.

The next time I saw her, she had it pinned to her coat.

I think about the flowers I’ve fashioned and formed as tears fell. I think about how it hurts to pin them on and own them. I think about how they’re worn directly above the heart and I think about how that is no accident.

How to guarantee a snow day*

There’s a legend amongst elementary school folk.

The legend is whispered over worksheets that are blown away in the wind after school because why zip them backpacks? Never you mind, it’s just a dot-to-dot of Betsy Ross sewin’ the flag.

The legend is passed like an 80s note, all folded fancy-like into a compact little triangle easily held in a turned-down palm, away from the sweeping stern eyes of teachers who just don’t understand…

Give a third grader some chocolate milk and a good granola bar, one of them without raisins and stuff, and she’ll tell you. Her eyes narrow. She wipes frothy milk off her lip with her sleeve. “Tonight,” she says, “I’m wearin’ my pajamas inside out.”

You gasp.

“Pajamas inside out?” you wail. “Is it safe?”

She continues, “Also…”

“What!? What!?” Your heart can’t take much more.

“I’m puttin’ one of them spoons you got from Target under my pilla!”

“Now you’re playin’ with fire. Fire!”

She purposely blows bubbles into the chocolate milk, punctuating the air with sounds that recall the origins of magma in the earth’s deep, deep core. A shudder gallops through the room, faceless.

“Mama? I’m not through yet.”

You start sketching the simple pine box to be used for your imminent burial.

She looks at the refrigerator. “I’m takin’ an ice cube. I’m puttin’ it in the toilet.”

You start dialing Home Depot to find out how much they charge for pine boards and nails. “Do you know what you are bringin’ to our house? To our home?” you shriek.

In one motion, she tilts her head back and slams the rest of her drink. She opens the dishwasher and slides the pink IKEA cup onto top-rack prongs. She looks at you square in the eye. Square. Dead.

“And then I’m flushin’ it.”

Aligned: Pajamas. Spoon. Toilet ice.

Outcome: Snow Day.

*Or, simply be in the path of a low pressure system carried by the jet stream as arctic air dips into the west central US as an upslope of heavy moisture is carried from the Gulf up to the continental divide.

Who knew toilet ice could do this?

Who knew toilet ice could do this?

Man Pants

For two years, I was proud to be a contributor at A Deeper Story. I wrote alongside many amazing authors, writers, and poets, often wondering how on earth I got so lucky. I often felt unworthy. They were the Alice Coopers to my Wayne.

Nish Wiseth, the founder and chief editor, has decided the time has come to move on, so she is closing up shop. I’ve decided to re-post my work from there here. Every Saturday, a new-to-Lifenut post I wrote for A Deeper Story will appear here (with Nish’s blessing and encouragement). These posts often focus on issues of faith, culture, church, and how they intersect through story. I am very fond of these posts and don’t want them disappearing. Folding them into Lifenut is like folding chocolate chips into cookie dough. They are in no particular order.

This post is one of my favorites about Ryley.

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Man Pants
(originally published June 21, 2013)

“I have no idea what size you wear,” I sighed, slightly rattled by my confession.

My teenage son snorted and said he had no idea what size he wore. I suspect this bothered him less than it bothered me.

We stood in the men’s department and looked at each other. The border of the boy’s department had been breached. We escaped the domain of skateboarding skeletons and dinosaurs piloting planes. The two of us were Von Trapps, traipsing over peaks, through valleys, until we found ourselves starting over in a new land. Of course, I had been there before, but only as a tourist shopping for my husband.

Emigrating with my oldest son was entirely different. It wasn’t long ago I had to put footsie pajamas on him backwards to prevent him from stripping in the middle of the night. It was just yesterday I buckled his overalls and sent him to the backyard to splash around in a sandbox with Tonka trucks. With seven boys, I was about to become a permanent citizen of the Men’s Department, with every smiling race car on a cotton tee driving toward this one goal, a finish line. Grown.

My son needed pants for eighth grade continuation. Skinny jeans and baggy shorts didn’t convey a seriousness I felt the occasion demanded. The pants in the boy’s department were comically short. They’d convey an entirely different message: My mom thinks I’m nine and she looks the other way when I eat paste.

pants

Slowly, we began to pick at racks and racks of pants, holding up possibilities across the rows, shrugging, not speaking much. I rejected pants that seemed too old and serious. Too many pleats, creases, fabrics for dads with comb-overs signing refinance paperwork! Finally, we found a section devoted to younger men—the trendier stuff. Still baffled about sizes, we chose a few pairs of skinny, flat-front pants that seemed nice, but not fighting-a-traffic-ticket nice. I chose a waist size with no numbers to back me up and we headed for the dressing room.

My son had never used a dressing room. I told him to show the attendant the clothes. They would give a ticket to him. Choose a booth and try them on. I’d be right outside if he had any questions or felt the sizes were way off. I sat on a chair and played with my phone. It was taking a long time. I walked into the dressing room and called his name. He answered from the first little booth, “In here!”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes!”

“Do they fit?”

“Yes!”

It never occurred to me to confirm they fit, which is very unlike me. Finally, he emerged from the dressing room lugging the pile of pants. He told me about each. I asked him to choose his favorite. He settled on grey.

A few nights later, he wore his new grey pants. He was right. They fit perfectly. Now we know his size. It will change as he grows, but there are no more borders to cross. He’ll sift through man pants and man shirts, knowing what to do in a dressing room, knowing what to wear to fight the speeding ticket, knowing how it feels to stand under a sign hung from a ceiling that heralds, “Men.”