Marshmallow Moment: Mix together one wheelbarrow with two small boys and you get a homemade amusement park ride that thrills! A wheelbarrow’s sides are reachable by little arms spreadeagle, while stubby fingers curve sweetly around the lip to keep the rider stable and upright.
A wheelbarrow goes just fast enough (low octane Grandpa) to be scary. He can make it wobble deliciously on the straight-away and dip deep and steep in the turns; eliciting yelps from his riders. Racing over tree roots or small curbs give that extra bit of upward thrust designed to excite little boys who imagine they are moments away from launching into space. It is a firm grip on the barrow’s handles that serve to stabilize and cushion the landings, keeping the treasures inside and upright in the cart.
The only draw back is that the stamina of the little boys riding inside the makeshift thrill rocket far exceeds the stamina of the one propelling it. This is why our homemade amusement ride dubbed the “Wheelbarrow Whirligig” is generally followed by story time with Grandma so that an exhausted Grandpa can catch his breath.
Marshmallow (a sweet, sweet) Moment: After 24 hours of travel by air, I am “home”. The doorbell rings. I have visitors. Visitors of the best kind, two boys; small, loud, full of energy. I have been away a long time in a place one refers to as “Vanilla” which is easier for him to say than Manila. The boys are excited to see me and hugs are forthcoming. Still, it is clear that reconnecting will not happen by my gifts or words, not for them. After all, it is a warm summer day and there is a huge parking lot right next door that needs exploring. This parking lot harbors a culvert, some drain covers with slotted lids drawing curious eyes and fingers, and various left over puddles from a late night shower. Their eyes sparkle, telling me life is an adventure full of mysteries they want to chase down and wrestle to the ground. Am I ready to play? One keeps up a litany of conversation urging me to get my shoes on, to find the balls, to hurry. The other bounces on his feet at the front door his palm extended toward me, fingers bending in time to one word repeated over and over, “Come”.
We burst out of the house, they squealing with delight, me shouting out typical adult cautions. I know I must be ready to chase them down in case they go rogue, which means head for the street, that culvert or one of those muddy puddles. I pursue them across the blacktop of the church parking lot which is intersected with freshly painted white stripes. I stop to catch my breath and notice for the first time that it looks as though I am standing on the inverted keys of a God sized piano watching my little grand boys as they plunk around. Their movements on the stylized keys, striking like the hammer of a piano, the strings of my heart. Playing the same refrain over and over of joy and thanksgiving to my God for this moment, this place, and the simple way “home” to their hearts.
We started out as strangers. It was a hot summer day, perfect weather to enjoy the sights and sounds of a mid-western theme park in the heart of Missouri. Roger and I were delighting in a family trip with all our kids and grand-kids. Enjoying rides and shows as well as observing crafts like pottery and glass blowing. As the little grand-boys stopped to rest and play in a covered area filled with toys. I stepped into a minuscule log cabin chapel close by to escape the heat and find a restful moment.
At the back of the church was a glass sanctuary overlooking the lush outdoors. Near the podium sat a woman in a wheelchair, her hands caressing the open Bible placed there. Next to her stood her companion. Two other women rested reverently nearby on rough-hewn wooden pews. The coolness inside was soothing but it was more than that. I seemed to inhale an atmosphere of peace as I took my seat among them. Moments passed in silence and then nervous, but feeling compelled to do so I asked if they would be willing to sing a hymn together? I remember we sang all the stanzas of the song, though I don’t remember the title. The only key I sing in is “flat” however all our voices combined and sounded ethereal as the music resonated around the rafters and enveloped us.
In retrospect I am not sure why I feared the asking, perhaps because I knew my singing abilities, more likely because I feared rejection. The reason for the fear is not as important as the consequences. I almost let an unseen enemy steal a valuable moment that I enjoyed then and cherish now in memory. Of this I am sure, we may have started out strangers but we parted as fellow worshipers.
Dancing with spiders is a frequent experience when you live in a climate which encourages their longevity and growth rate. Avoiding the occasional rumba with them is impossible and those extra legs guarantee their lead. My twirls on the dance floor, with wolf spiders in particular, have been more akin to the whoops and knee-high jerks of a hoedown rather than the smooth glide of the ballroom.
From experience I no longer blindly reach around the corner of a dark room to flip the light switch, spiders like to wait for me there to sign my dance card. In fact I don’t do anything in the dark especially in a bathroom. Bathrooms have water and wolf spiders need a drink now and then as dancing makes them thirsty. I believe this explains why I found one lurking inside my toilet bowl. Unfortunately I became aware of his presence after rising, rather than prior to sitting. I couldn’t go back to sleep for several hours after that as my mind was too busy living out what my body had escaped.
Dancing spiders enjoy sidling up to you for a quick jig at the most inopportune times. For instance it is impossible to get your children to school on time if one the size of your palm decides to rest on your car seat before waltzing off into a nearby cranny. Naturally, I feared my inability to remain calm behind the wheel should he feel rested enough to boogie woogie while I was driving. How’s that for a tardy excuse?!
These dance partners have taught me many things and yet there is always a new move to learn when it comes to spiders. The latest came the other night when exhausted from a run and in no mood to polka, I placed my drink down on the end table next to the couch where I was sitting just long enough to turn and pick up my cell phone. It was only a side view through the plastic container that gave me pause so that I approached my drink with caution. Unfortunately for this gallant partner, he miscalculated his 8 step.
Neat, tucked into convenient boxes and covered in whitewash, so were my conceptions about life and other people. A look inside my mind now would more closely resemble the riotous mess found upon entering the bedroom of a woman who, full of first date anticipation, has tried on most of her closet and left the rejected items helter skelter throughout her room. It is easy to make head pronouncements from one side of the street, city, country or ocean. Easy to tuck those thoughts into categories created to bring comfort. To deal with what the eyes see and tug on the heart by consigning them into a prefabricated niche away from further introspection. Much harder to do if you cross an ocean and live in an antipodal culture. I think I prefer the mess, but it makes me nervous. When I go home will my friends understand me? Will I be able to express these things that have taken me years to understand and embrace in such a way that they too might pull concepts and ideas from their orderly categories and allow them to lay scattered about getting in the way of conformity? What my eyes have seen and my heart has felt won’t stay neatly tucked away. I keep searching for a way to keep the ill-fitting quandaries of life and people in some semblance of orderly disorder so the excess won’t scare people away and leave me misunderstood.