Monday, October 19, 2015

Back When I Was A Crumudgeon (#SmallWonder Link-Up)

The seminary's married housing sprawled in a series of low brick buildings some five miles from campus.  There the newly married, newly empty-nested and a few brave families with young children resided in dilapidated cinder-block two-story apartments. 

My husband and I cohabitated quietly in our first floor apartment with a school of saltwater fish, a frog and a cat.  Although our closest neighbor had two children and a couple upstairs added a baby before graduation, the sight and sound of children in the building was relatively rare.

This wasn’t the case however in the open courtyard and parking lots behind the buildings where children roved about in loud, unruly gangs.  A playground stood somewhere back there, one we never visited and kids seemed, to my uninitiated young ears, to be screaming there all. day. long. 

As a student, I frequently stayed up all hours of the night reading hundreds of pages of theology or writing and studying for exams.  In the afternoon I rode the campus bus home and slipped into our quiet bedroom with its big window and filmy yellow curtains.  

There I lay down for a nap.  The cat tucked in quietly beside me.

Beneath that window, though, was a small alcove in the building’s design.  Children gathered there in the otherwise quiet afternoons like mice in a sewer drain.  Squeaking, shouting, squealing.  I had yet to learn the ability to sleep anytime anywhere.  I didn’t yet know how to make myself sleep on command, how to tune out noise and distraction with the flick of an internal switch.

It made me furious.  The noise.  The indignity.  The gall of all those children, gathering beneath my window, running through my front yard, taking up space, making noise while I devoted my life to the steady, demanding work of thinking. 

//

A great sweeping oak tree grew in the front yard of our building.  Its branches hung down low.  One evening, studying after dinner with my books and papers sprawled on the table around me, I looked out our sliding glass door and saw a boy.  He was about seven or eight, the age of my oldest boy now.  Framed by the glass door, I watched him hang and swing, tugging on the old tree’s branches.  Another boy stood watching the first.

Whatever he was doing, it looked destructive.  In a fit of righteous rage I slid the glass door open and let loose a forceful, 

“Hey!”

The boy froze and looked at me, the branch still in hand. 

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

Still frozen, the boy replied, “I don’t know.”

“Are you trying to break that branch?” I asked, each word an accusation.

“Uh, I guess.” The boy stared at me with eyes like saucers.  His friend stared too at this seminarian standing back lit by her own apartment as evening fell. 

I was Wild and Fierce, Protector of Trees, Interrogator of Little Boys. 

“Then, cut it out!” I shouted, slamming the door shut.

The boys took off running. 

My husband and I exchanged a look.  Yes, he saw and heard it all.  

I’m sure I attempted to justify my outburst.  But later, we laughed.

We laughed at the boy’s look, at his sudden surprise.  Laughed at the way I must have looked, the way I did look and sound.  We repeated the scene over and over again between ourselves, the script of one of the funniest episodes we’d witnessed in a long time. 

Kids will do that to you.  I know that now.  

They get under your skin, pull and yank at your lower branches, until something in you breaks.  They tug you into the rough and tumble world of parking lot clubs that meet beneath open windows and oak tree branches strong enough to swing on.  Then, resting in bed on a sunny afternoon while your four-year-old twins rumble and tumble downstairs, as you try to distinguish between their cries and squeals of delight and the ones coming from the daycare next door, then you will remember the boys and the tree and the things you said.  

And you will smile and laugh all over again.    

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  



  

16 comments:

  1. Ah yes... I remember apartment living as newlyweds and all the kids running around and making noise (and yes - trying to destroy things!) I'm sure I would have been pushed to interrogate as well, if it wasn't for my sister who lived next door and who was already a Mom and was always on top of it! ;) Clearly - she had no boys! lol!

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  2. Beautiful post, Kelly. Thanks for the invitation to post about a moment of wonder. Here’s an excerpt from my blog www.blackburnianmorning.com about an early morning paddle I took this summer:

    It’s easy to sleep late on vacation. The cats were not pleased. They did their best to rouse me at my usual early hour, but I persevered as long as I could, tangled up in sheets and chenille bedspreads. But on the seventh day, I woke at 5:30 just as the sun was rising. It was a full-on wakefulness, not the usual grogginess of vacation, so I threw on some sweats and went for a paddle.
    There was mist on the lake as I set out, but it quickly dissipated as a light breeze came up out of the north. Song sparrows foraged in the ferns and bushes along the shore, juncos trilled and hermit thrushes called from woods.
    I paddled at an unhurried pace. The rhythm of my strokes brought to mind the imagery I use when I meditate. Whenever I make time to practice this discipline, it is the rhythmic paddling on the lake that I see in my mind’s eye. Left, right. Left, right. Steady, even strokes. Eventually, the strokes form the words: One, love. One, love. And I paddle the lake from my den in NJ, or from a conference center in Texas. Left, right. One, love. On this particular morning, however, the rhythm was not in my head but rather in my whole body, and my heart called out the words: One, love.
    As I rounded the point of Otter Cove, I heard the loud drumming of a woodpecker on a hollow tree. It broke the silence and reverberated around the cove. The drumming had a recognizable cadence to it. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are the only woodpecker I know who tap with a repeated rhythm. It was not hard to find the dead tree that was enabling such an impressive sound. Once I identified the tree, the bird was easily spotted. Actually there were four birds. I spied the juveniles first; two of them following their mother around the snag. They whined and begged, pestering her to be fed. As I watched, there was another loud burst of drumming and I searched lower on the tree to find a vibrantly plumaged adult male sapsucker. He had found the sweet spot, a hollow part of the trunk and he hammered away, again and again. The rest of his family seemed oblivious to his efforts.
    Does the rhythmic tapping of the sapsucker induce a meditative state in him, as it does in me? The high-speed, aggressive hammering doesn’t seem to give him a headache. In a sense, he was made to drum. And in a sense, I was made to meditate — to think outside myself — Imago Dei. If a rhythm can induce my heart and mind to open up to the presence of One Love, does the tapping of a sapsucker do the same for him? Was the creation provided built-in means to worship the Creator?
    The psalmist declares: “Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD.” And the prophet Isaiah affirms: “the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” The Prayer of Azariah commands: “Bless the Lord, all birds of the air; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.”
    It has long been suggested by people of faith that the songs of the birds are hymns to God. This has been soundly debunked by the scientific world which insists that birdsong evolved as a reproductive necessity: males with the best songs attract mates and thereby perpetuate their genes. That theory of birdsong seems logical and possibly indisputable. But maybe there are equally valid, albeit different perspectives about the mysteries of creation. What are birds that they exist in the first place? Were they not created at the pleasure of the Creator? “God created...every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:21b). How clever then, that worship from the Creation can double as something utilitarian; like making baby birds...or paddling a kayak. When we are living in harmony with the Creator and the Creation, according to how we were made and who we were meant to be, all of life is worship.

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    1. I love this line "How clever then, that worship from the Creation can double as something utilitarian . . ." So true and something I'm learning to rest in more and more. Thanks for sharing, Merideth :-)

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    1. Yes! And we didn't even have kids. But my husband is a kid at heart, which explains the salt water fish tank - one of his favorite hobbies at the time! That frog was a little creepy, always seemed a little Gollum-esque!

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  4. Oh, my! The hilarious irony of the theology student snapping at the young boys!

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    1. OH, I'm sure many a theology student has done far worse!

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  5. This is funny! And it reminds me of a similar (but not really) thing during seminary days. My husband and I were in the campus snack shop and a Mother and her child were sitting near us. I could see the child directly but the Mom's back was to me. The kid kept being loud and hyperactive. My hubs and I were trying to study and concentrate. The kid wouldn't stop. Finally I stuck my tongue out at the kid. I was 22 years old and I stuck.my.tongue.out - at a kid! Well the kids eyes got huge and suddenly whispered really loud to his Mom, "Mom! That girl over there stuck her tongue out at me!" I hear the Mom say, "She did not. Don't say that. She wouldn't do that." Then I felt really bad but not bad enough to rat myself out and save the hyperactive kid. Hahahaha!!!! We still laugh about that one too 22 years later.

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    1. Oh, I remember going to book stores and coffee shops to study and mingling with the "general population." How dare they talk loudly?! How dare they have children?! Can't they see seminary is in process?! I am pretty sure I would stick my tongue out at my own kids at times if I didn't think it would encourage a bad habit!

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  6. Oh, this story was too much fun! I also remember, when I was *pre-kids,* looking at other parents with their children and saying something to the effect, "Oh, when I have kids I'll never..." One of the things I discovered about parenting is that you eat an awful lot of crow!

    I love how you said that children have a way of tugging on our branches. Isn't that the truth? I remember one time when my oldest son (who's now 32) got me so frustrated that I threw his little overalls at him and yelled, "Just get dressed now!" Well, the metallic buckle hit him right on his little leg. He burst out crying, and I rushed to console him. I can't tell you how guilty I felt, especially when watching for a few weeks until the bruise disappeared. I remember telling my mom about it - the pillar of patience. It was then that she reminded me that once she got so frustrated with me that she yanked on my arm, and ended up pulling my shoulder slightly out of joint. I felt better, I felt normal.

    I'm pretty glad that God's a more patient parent than I am!!

    GOD BLESS!

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    1. Yes, a lot of crow AND humble pie. I can just picture the look in your little boy's eyes, I've seen it myself before. It's such a gift and a challenge to care for such tender beings. Thanks for sharing your heart, Sharon.

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  7. Hmmm . . .I seem to remember being an expert on child development and especially on discipline and behavior problems before I had children, as well.
    My saving grace is that most truly annoying behaviors (I mean childish, not sinful) are temporary, and by the time we figure out how to live with them, the child outgrows them and moves on to a different annoying behavior. :-)

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    1. Does that mean my oldest son will stop his non-stop whistling someday? ;)

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  8. Funny how our perspective changes as our situation changes.

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  9. We have boys living next door to us now who do that very thing to our trees which abut our properties. I will never be able to tell them to stop now without thinking of you :)

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