Monday, February 29, 2016

17. FIND YOUR SPOT

In the corner of our bedroom, tucked into the cradle of space between the dresser and the wall, is Anna’s spot. A thick down comforter, folded in quarters, fills that space.  Two soft lap blankets stack on top of a pillow, and a soft red stuffed fox leans against them…waiting for Anna to return. Every night, and every morning, I mentally pause at that spot when I pass from my side of the bed to the rest of the world, thinking about how deeply I love my girl.  That thought automatically triggers a silent prayer for her well being, which leads to a continued prayer for all ten of our grandchildren.
When Anna sleeps over, this is her sleeping place.  After she has brushed her teeth, and we have recited her family scripture and said a prayer, we will read a book out on the couch, or up on the bed. Then she will lay her long sable hair against the pillow in her spot, curl her slender little legs up toward her heart, and wrap her arms around whichever stuffed animal happens to be close by. Lately it’s the red fox.  I will shake one of the lap quilts like a parachute and let it fall over her nine-year-old body.  On winter nights we follow it with a second blanket.  I bend way over, kissing my fingers, then touching her forehead, and I tell her I love her.  She whispers “I love you, too.” And all is well. 

Years ago, a lifetime ago it seems, our Kate had a similar spot at my mother’s place.  All my kids had their own spot at Gram’s house.  But Kate’s, in particular, was kept warm by the continued presence of Kate.  She sure loved staying at Gram and Libby’s house! I suppose it was the relative quiet, and the great sense of belonging that attracted her quiet soul.  And maybe the lack of limitations on television viewing. Those were the days before On-Demand cable TV, and even before video recorders.  One of her favorite things was staying up into the wee hours watching paid advertising shows.  For her 5th birthday, the only thing she asked for was a Ronco Dehydrator.

Memory is an interesting vehicle for human connection.  I can hear, somewhere back there in my brain, the sound of my mother’s voice telling Kate, “Go get in your spot.” There is a warmth and safety in those words, and it makes me ache with longing for my mom.

Sometimes I’ll lie in my bed and look at Anna’s spot, pondering the fleeting nature of time, and the eternal nature of love. Other people would fold those blankets and tuck them into a closet, but I just can’t.  I choose to keep the blankets prepared in that space as a reminder of my blessed opportunity with the little treasures who call me Gummy.  Like a shrine of sorts; a reminder to give thanks.  I’ll look over at that spot and cherish it when there is a little lump of love under those blankets. A week ago Anna’s seven-year-old cousin, Ruby, slept over and filled the spot.  It sealed me to Ruby the way it seals me to Anna.

The thing about having a spot of your own is that you can return there emotionally, even if your feet are planted elsewhere.  A therapist taught me to visit such safe spots in my mind. It’s a good strategy.  I didn't have grandparents or any other relatives in Pittsburgh when I was young. But I do have two safe spots where I go in my mind; childhood spots where I feel peace.  
One is the orchard of dwarf apple trees next to the YMCA behind our house on Grace Street.  We had recently moved from small town Idaho to the bustling suburbia of Pittsburgh, PA.  I was five years old.  The orchard in the springtime was a paradise of blossoms, fragrant and abundant, and because they were dwarf trees they hovered just over my head. Walking through that orchard as a small girl I nearly hyperventilated because I never wanted to exhale; just one long fragrant inhale. It was in this spot where I believe my spirit fully embraced my body.  I know it sounds dramatic, but it was my reality.  I remember looking up through the translucent canopy of blossoms, up through the chartreuse green of newborn leaves, out to the expanse of clouds and sky.  The divine temperature of a moist spring afternoon coupled with the song of robins and other creatures of the earth.  I remember it vividly.  My hands reached up to snatch a cluster of apple blossom when I noticed the skin on my arm.  I grabbed my left wrist with my right hand and stood stunned!  “I have a body!”  I said it out loud, though no one was there to hear me. I think this was the moment when I first allowed my ancient spirit to own my earthly body, and something inside me told me that I was blessed. Now, when I need to feel peace and calm, I visit that orchard in my mind.

My other spot had peace as well, though there was a more intense sort of love that came with the peace, and there are times I need to visit that place rather than the orchard. Warm and rhythmic and fragrant as well, this spot is in the lap of my mother.  I have to travel way back to go there.  I can feel her long fingers patting my back, the melodic rumble of her voice finding the music to calm me. I can hear her heartbeat, and though I cannot identify it by comparing it to other things, the scent of her is planted unalterably in my mind. She is safety and she is assurance and she is calm and she is love. Once, when I was sixteen and something had wounded my heart, I asked my mother if she would hold me for a minute.  She sat down in her old white rocker and patted her lap, looking into my eyes.  I hesitantly stood there before her, then slowly lowered my grown girl body into her warm lap.  She tucked my head into her neck and stroked my hair.  Instinctively she started humming.  I curled my body into her and wept.  I can’t recall what was the sorrow, but I profoundly recall the love.

Think back: where is your spot?  What place, or places, are safe for your soul?  I suspect, for all of us, there is one, somewhere.  If we will focus, and ponder, we will find it.  
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During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day.  I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity.  This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.

3 comments:

  1. That Ronco Food Dehydrator infomercial was the best! You can do so many things with the Ronco Food Dehydrator! Why wouldn't every 5 year old want one?!
    I'm glad your little ones have a spot at Gummy's like I had at Gram and Libby's. That space on the green carpet between her bed and the big bay window was always safe.

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  2. I too am grateful for those safe havens in my life and that I happen to share one of those with you...I too can recall her scent and her arms surrounding me with tenderness. I will be ever grateful.

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