Saturday, April 4, 2009


April 3, 2009 label
Tonight was one of those nights a grandma dreams of on quiet winter mornings, when all she has to look forward to is the piles of disorganization staring her in the face, along with perhaps a batch of laundry and unloading the dishwasher. Sarah and Dave arrived with Timo and Anna Bella., having driven all 18 hours straight from Kansas City. It happened to be our great fortune that John and Ashley were given a pair of Jazz basketball tickets by the generous Casey and Keisha Hill, so we also got to have Sophie, Parker and baby Ruby with us as well. I should have turned on a recorder just to preserve the noise. When a house like this gets that kind of noise again, its walls sort of shiver and stretch and wake up. If they could talk they would speak like the tree in the book The Giving Tree, saying “Come boy, come play in my hallways and bounce on my couches and I will shelter you and be your friend.” That’s what I think these walls would say.
As the night wore on we loaded Horton Hears a Who into the DVD player and laid a row of pillows and blankets on the family room floor. I popped some popcorn and they attempted to lie still for about 13 minutes. Parker finally jumped up and came over to me where I was sitting in the old Pennsylvania rocking chair. He was wiggling in his baseball pajamas, reaching up behind his back and trying to grab at something near his neck. “Take it off, Gummy”, he said through his Binky. I reached in and felt two layers of labels at the neck of his PJ’s. One was satiny and soft, but the one underneath was stiff and irritating, so I grabbed it with my fingers and gave it a good tug, making sure I did not damage the fabric when I removed it. “Fank oo Gummy”, he said, and went back to his bowl of popcorn. Why do they put those kind of labels in clothing? I mean, seriously, what normal feeling kind of person wants that there? Parker’s daddy was really a label maniac. He had to have every label taken off his clothes, and I am not talking at the age of 12. I mean, when he was one year old, and on. His favorite shirt was that thin green 7 UP shirt of Libby’s, which came down to his knees when he first started wearing it. It was soft, thin and had no labels. I think it is perfectly correct that John was opposed to labels from the womb. The philosopher in him still hates them.
For three years I was blessed to serve the women in the Davis County Jail as a friend and teacher, every Sunday and Wednesday night. I served with Carol Cluff, a sister-heart to this day; and Val Darnell, the same; and Ruth Barker of the poet’s heart. Then when Carol was released as Relief Society President they called me to fill her position and Mary Silver joined us. Those were cherished years. It is likely the only time I will serve as Relief Society president effectively. We did not have Visiting Teaching. We didn’t have Compassionate Service Committees, nor Enrichment nights. We were not even allowed to take stapled papers into the jail because the inmates would remove the staples from the paper, sharpen them on the cement in their small recreation room, then mix toothpaste and pencil lead together so they could tattoo their knuckles and ankles. It was a unique sisterhood I served, and I loved it. One Valentines Day I got special permission from our Deputy to bring in some markers and Valentines cards and candy hearts. The ladies were so excited, you’d have thought we were in third grade on Valentines Day! We dragged the tables to the middle of the room and set up a Valentines Bingo game. As I stood at the end of the table and looked at these women, I asked them to pause for just a moment and look at the door to the media room, where we held our meetings. Taped to the window on that door was a black plastic garbage bag, put there to keep the male inmates in the Delta Echo pod from gawking at the women when they filed past as they went to the courtyard to play basketball. They were gross, crude and lude, and it broke my heart just feeling the bad energy they gave off trying to get a look at a piece of flesh draped in stiff orange uniforms and cheap slip-on tennis shoes. So that black garbage bag got taped up a few years back. I walked over to the door and announced, “Sisters, we are not garbage!” I tore the garbage bag off the door and the women all stood and whooped and clapped. Some of them stood on their chairs union style. I drew from my bag a piece of lace, sewn to the size of that window, and we ceremoniously hung it on the door. We tore that ugly black label off the door of that prison of a place. Softened the fiber of their temporary existence, and whispered to them that in spite of the ugliness of that environment, and the starkness of the situation, we could make of it something more than society tries to impose. One of the sisters sat in her seat and wept, likely tired from fighting, though I want to think it was because she saw a hint of gentleness in a harsh circumstance. I loved those women. I still pray for them. I pray they will have to courage to remove their own labels from their lives, and that they will replace the ugly with a swath of gentleness.


  1. i think the love for soft clothes and no labels is hereditary. and i believe it was my MASH shirt he first confiscated. it was the softest.

    and while we insist upon no labels in our clothes we unfortunately attach them to ourselves, throwing away the good labels and only keeping the bad ones. why do we do that?

  2. It is a wonderful time of life when you have so many cherished experiences old and new that you can weave your charming musings around a word like label. I like these words because they cause you to dig deep and make me think maybe I can too. Can I say it again? You inspire me!

  3. I think it was the mash shirt then too. But I currently have and still wear the 7 up shirt and it is both label-less and soft.