family.

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I grew up in a tiny place in Texas. Eight kids in my graduating class and less than five hundred folks in the whole town. It was life in the middle of nowhere and intensely up-close with those sharing the space. It couldn’t be helped.  You get to know people on a deeper level when all you have is each other.  You know which house hands out the best treats on Halloween–The Bostons. (I still think about those popcorn balls!) You know which local business is most likely to hire you when you really need school clothes money and haven’t turned sixteen yet. The Cafe. (Who didn’t wash dishes there?) You learn who is most likely to tell on you for sneaking out with your boyfriend. (You know who you are…)  In essence, you learn what community means.  What it means to wrap your life up with people who aren’t even related to you. When those people die, you make casseroles.  When they got married, you buy Corningware and spatulas. (I still have mine from my shower twenty-five years ago.)  And, when a baby is born, you gather around to welcome it into the world. A joyous welcome usually reserved for a blood relation.  But, in a small town, in the middle of nothing, everyone is a relation.  Everyone is family.

For a long time, you live in that little pocket where you know every single person who lives in every single house.  You know who has scary dogs and who bought a new boat and who is having an affair.  You feel like nothing could ever change. You will always be in your hometown. But, it changes. Of course it changes. Friends begin to scatter. They leave for college.  They quit going home for the holidays or the reunions.  Their parents pass away. Then, one day, you scatter too.  And, before you know it, it’s been years since you’ve seen people from your home town.  But, you don’t forget.

You don’t forget what it felt like that first afternoon of Christmas break when the fire trucks would roll down main street throwing out bags of candy and you knew your folks had gifts hidden at home for you. You don’t forget what it felt like to see your classmates in tuxedos and prom dresses for the first time–a brief glimpse of what they would be like as adults that made you sad and excited at the same time.  You don’t forget what it felt like to cry over your team’s loss in a basketball game and feel an immeasurable pride as you sang the school song anyway (Out upon the rolling prairie….).

So, because you don’t forget, you always have that feeling of family for anyone from your hometown. If they fly into town for the weekend, you change the guest room sheets and welcome them.  If they lose their son or mom or anyone, you drive to the funeral.  If their daughter graduates, you send a gift.  If they get married, you spend all weekend on the road to be at that wedding.  And, if they are in trouble, you help.  You do that because that’s what your folks taught you to do.  All those casseroles and popcorn balls and Corningware  were our parents teaching us that the people God puts in our life are ours.  We’re meant to involve ourselves in their triumph and in their heartache.  We are their folks.  Their safe spot to land.  Their hometown.

What a blessing that is.  It means that, with these people, we share the memory of what it felt like to come over that last hill from Booker and see our little town spread out in front of us. We share the memory of the day the park downtown was forever dedicated to Jimmy.  The memory of how good a bierox tastes and what it sounds like when the crowd erupts into cheers after the melodrama. We share our growing up years with these people.  All the afternoons and choices and conversations and church services that turned us into who we are today.  Who can they be but family?

And, what better way to honor all that our little town gave us than to keep looking out for each other like family would. To attend those funerals, and send those gift cards and make each other a priority.  And, if one of us is in trouble, to push a button and donate what we can.  To send a clear message to each other and the world that where we grew up made a difference in our lives.  We are small-town kids with a huge family.  A family created in a tiny town in the far north-east corner of the Panhandle that will withstand time, and distance and scattering.  A town that, when I close my eyes, I can still walk the streets of  and that will always be a part of me.  Maybe, the best part.

 

Beauty will be a boy.

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Once, many years ago, a quiet doctor who always wore her hair in a bun helped me bring a little girl into this world.  It was a big job.  It was a big job because it was me.  I’m nervous.  I worry about everything.  I try to manage everything.  I vocalize everything.  I think I wore her out–that quiet little doctor with round glasses, a soft voice, and her hair in a bun. She had to work hard to get that little girl here.  The hours were long and there was no extra money for any extra thing.  I told her very passionately, “I have to have this baby on my due date and I have to do it without any pain meds.  She’s pre-paid and I can’t leave with a bill.  There’s no money for another bill.  It has to happen just so.”  My little bird-like doctor smiled her lost little smile and probably went home to complain to her husband.  She probably said, “This job is too much.  These women are crazy.  They think they can control everything.  This job is just too, too much.”  But, because she was a good doctor, she showed up on the day I needed her to.  It was my due date and I was in pain with no money for any extras and somehow she got me through the whole thing.  The seconds, the minutes, the hours until she laid my little girl on my stomach.  I cried.  I touched her little head. I looked around the room for this tiny treasure’s real Mommy.  I said over and over, “I can’t believe I have a baby. I can’t believe I have a baby.”  I sincerely, after nine months of pregnancy and approximately three-hundred peanut butter sandwiches whose only job it was to make my girl move in my tummy, could not believe I was a mommy.  So, my fading, nervous, ready to leave doctor shook her head at me.  “Where did you think this was headed if not to a baby?”  I knew she was right, but I simply could not make my heart believe that this little person was my daughter.  My girl.  My Boona.  I was a mommy.  How was that possible?  But, I bundled her up and took her home that December morning in the snow and pointed out Christmas lights along the way and the magic began in earnest.  I never saw my shy, reserved, slightly unapproachable doctor again.  This miracle was to be my only one, but it was ok because she was everything.  Her soul was sweet and her humor was wicked.  She grew up wonderful, and in the moments of the years to come, I would see her walking across a parking lot, or a stage or simply down the stairs and I would catch my breath.  I would look around for my friend the doctor so she could see the wonderful thing she had helped me bring into the world, but she was never there.  I was the witness to my beautiful girl.  My best thing.  My miracle.  And, now, all these years later, she is also scheduling weekly appointments with a doctor.  A bespectacled, close-talking, blunt doctor. I bet he doesn’t know that there is someone special waiting to be born. Another mommy waiting for that switch to flip. Another magnificent miracle.  Probably with a stubborn will and a wicked sense of humor.  Most likely, so tall I will have to reach up for hugs someday. Arriving in June.  Driving home in the early summer when people are packing for vacations and school-kids are watching cartoons.  The worries about money are the same. The demand for things to go easily are the same.  But this time, her time, it will be a boy.  My daughter’s son. My daughter’s miracle.  Her chance to ride the ride.  To feel the love.  To catch her breath as he walks across a stage or ambles down the stairs.  I hope she’s ready.  I hope she knows all of this ends in a baby.  I hope her doctor understands her like mine understood me.  I hope he gets that she’s scared and unsure and ready to bolt, but if he will just show up when she needs him to they will make it happen. She will rise to the occasion and fight hard. And, in the end, my own little girl will be this precious little boy’s mommy. She will love him fiercely and protect him and teach him to read great books. She will laugh with him and discipline him and pelt him with pillows when needed.  It will be magic. I will watch and cheer and love them both fiercely.  I like this passing of the torch.  I know where this is headed and I am ready.  This time, beauty will be a boy.