The Circle

Sometimes I wonder where all the lost things go…like the Dead Letter Office, is there a place in between tears for misplaced wedding rings and beloved toys?

After a particularly successful Show and Tell in elementary school, I left my beloved Miss Baker on the playground. All the way from the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Miss Baker was both an historical figure (one of the first animals launched into space) and best friend to me. When I hurried back to the bench where I left her, it stared at me cold and empty. Stolen, perhaps? In my mind, she was priceless–who wouldn’t want her? But she was mine. I cried a thousand tears for her.

For some reason I can’t remember, I told this story to Chloe when she was four. Being an aficionado of monkeys herself, she immediately burst into tears, heartbroken over my childhood loss. Every so often, she would bring it up in conversation, this injustice that simmered in her heart whenever we talked of beloved things.

After my work schedule tripled this month, leaving Chloe with pools for eyes every time I stepped out the door, that old memory kindled in her heart, and when I came home from work one dark morning in the hours of zzzzzz, she had completed a gift for me.miss-baker

A brand new Miss Baker, sewn from her sweet fingers and the depths of her heart.
I don’t know where Miss Baker went that day on the playground, but she has come back to me in a much more precious way than she did the first time.

Behold the Yellow Cup

About three decades ago, in the land of Yonder, an atrocity happened. Deep in play, running through our country yard of part grass, part goat heads, me and my two brothers were scarred for life. While in the midst of a game I no longer remember, our neighbor peed in his water cup. Our water cup—our yellow plastic, color of the brightest sun, water cup.

Being economically-minded, my mom thought some elbow grease and some bleach would do. She placed the yellow cup back in the cupboard.

Where it sat for YEARS, unused. It didn’t help that the cup happened to be yellow. For me, this color had been forever branded as the “ew” color.

I think my mom finally used it out of frustration—“we don’t waste”, she said.

“We don’t drink out of pee cups”, we said.20150615_084231

She wouldn’t throw it away, we wouldn’t use it, and there sat the most stubborn statement of all time, gathering dust in the cabinet.

Now that I have kids of my own, I understand the value of pasticware. It can withstand drops, punts, sword fights, rock collections and temper tantrums. When Costco displayed a beautiful, multicolored set of cups that looked like glasses straight from the colors on Claude Monet’s palette, we grabbed a box and nearly sang as we pulled them out, one by one.

Two of them are yellow.

One of the first things I did was serve water to my brother from one of the new yellow cups—just for my own entertainment. Heh.

But every time I look at those yellow cups, pee comes to mind. Why? Why, why why why? It’s been close to three decades, yet one offensive act from a neighbor has ruined yellow for me.
My kids don’t even like the yellow cups. I’ve never told them the story, but they must sense my revulsion when I go around it for any other color (even light green, which thanks to the 90’s craze about the color green, that color is (almost) ruined for me too).

But I don’t want to see the world through pee colored glasses, I mean, really, this is getting ridiculous.

So I started drinking from the yellow cups, and serving my kids drinks from the yellow cups (It’s like they’re learning my prejudices through osmosis). I must see yellow as beautiful again.

Time to train the brain. Yellow is sunshine, yellow is butter, yellow is jelly beans, sunflowers and Belle’s dress.

Yellow is the center stripe in the rainbow, the glint of gold, and is the best flavor in a package of skittles.

God made yellow and if anyone can take a yellow pee cup and make it into a lemonade cup, He can.

Do you have a reason why I should embrace yellow? Or maybe you have a similar story of your own? Tell us in the comments.

Faith and Imagination

A childhood friend lived in a house with a hidden passageway. It opened from the kitchen, curtained and dark. It was lined with saddles, a shadow walk with wooden floors a cowboy could tread with his spurs on. At the end was a bookcase full of mysterious volumes all dusty and dim.

Outside were horses and goats, a barn with antique parts that looked like they came straight from a western musical. The rutted driveway connected with a creek where we donned frilly swimsuits and swam along the cottonwood lined waterway until it grew stagnant. One time a snake swam alongside us. There was nothing like a terrifying adventure to paste in the memory album.

It was a childhood kingdom.

Looking back a few decades later I can see the house in need of a remodel, the add-on that I thought was a secret passageway and the barn full of rusty threats.

This is how I often see my own children’s world and the need to keep them from all danger.

Maybe I’m not supposed to focus on the dangers…I might really be a knight, ready to slay the dragons but not forsaking their adventure, their right to believe the unbelievable.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall 100_2229not enter it. Luke 18:17

When I was a young child, fear brought me into my parent’s bedroom during a sleepless night. Every shadow was a villain, every creak of the house shouted danger. Lying in their bed, I could see into their bathroom when that night of all nights produced a scene I still can’t explain. In the mirror above the sink, bright yellow somethings drip-dripped into the sink like fluorescent yellow honey, and then stopped. My parents were lost to snores and dreams and I just stared at that mirror until exhaustion finally gave me rest.

I told them about it the next day. “The sink was probably not turned off all the way”, said one of my parents. “But it was high on the mirror”, I said. I liked my brother’s explanation best. “It was an angel pouring good luck into the sink.”

Our cats, of course, told me nothing, as well as the dog, but in my childish perspective, I knew that animals sensed things we could not. Those invisible things they followed with their eyes, the growls that came ten minutes before someone arrived at our door.

I bet my friends horses knew all kinds of things about the secret passageway and the mysteries within the old barn that seemed to hold such magic.

Maybe if we had faith like a child, animals would talk. How quickly we forget the one that did:

Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said…Numbers 22:28

Or superheroes would really protect us in the face of danger:

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6

Maybe the imagination of youth is just a taste of what could be if we saw through eyes of faith…eyes of a child. Maybe that secret passageway opened up my imagination, rooted the love of story-telling inside because maturity makes us forget the unbelievable…that sometimes life is full of hidden unbelievables that are ,in reality, truth.

Imagination is not just the mark of childhood, but a gift, the ability to see what is beyond human capability.

Do you have any amazing childhood stories? Tell us in the comments.

Memories in perpective

There was this rock shelf down at the creek where the bones of mice rested. My friend, Mike, and I could play for hours going through these bones, making up stories, wondering if the mouse captor was lurking behind the cat claw bushes, waiting for us…
It was the type of graveyard where kids can play without bringing home nightmares.

Around the corner and down the dry creek bed was our rope swing, frayed and hovering over nothing but rocks and sand. Oh, how we loved to swing. We saw the frayed bits as a sign of a loved thing — danger was a word we left home with our parents.

Dream, swing, run and play, these things that filled the childhood treasure chest.

As I outgrew the bone cave and understood frayed as may break and let you fall onto the rocks I found that girls made good friends too and who didn’t want to look like Molly Ringwald?

Leah invited a few of us friends to her place for a party. Her life was gloriously mysterious. Leaving the traditional life behind, her family lived in their RV, spending three weeks in a Thousand Trails campground to move to another local camp until they reached their maximum stay. Back and forth, from a valley to a park, all under the Arizona sun. It was on one of their Thousand Trails rounds that we had our party.

It was hot.

It was amazing. We got ready in their tiny bathroom area, poofing our hair to 80’s standards and venturing out with kids of the road. The recreation room was stuffed with chaos. Noise, play and the kind of games that could produce a bloody nose or two.

Bounce, bang and none stayed down for long.

It was awesome.

Leah wore an outfit that could have been in Pretty in Pink. It was a thrift store find which disappointed me only because I knew it was the only one. I’d have to check out Sprouse Rietz for some pink fashion when I got some birthday money.

Back home again to a house of bricks, secure in the ground. Until the forest called…

Kindling works best when it’s nice and dry, and cooking over it makes for the best food in the world. It was cowboy camping with my family with no bathrooms but the shadows of juniper trees. The pine scent that inspired millions of air fresheners filled the blue skies of summers and I never felt dirty until we got home and I permeated the space around me with the perfume of campfire.

I brought my skills inside and built a fire in our woodstove that some people find 100_2621primitive. It made for cozy holidays and reminders of the ancients who brought us this far.

Ramble and vroom we went in my grandparents motor home to get a taste of comfy camping.

The black and white TV played my grandpa’s favorite Ernest movies and I slept on a bed that has no home but the landscapes of America. Carrots and potatoes were peeled in the campgrounds, McDonald’s a chicken nugget feast when we were in between destinations.

It was always world class travel when I got to see bits and pieces of America.

Time to do some stitching.

I could sew a beautiful quilt out of all the ragged bits of fun I’ve had or I could just write a book. So here I am, putting in scraps of truth into a bit of fiction that penetrates deep with the life experience of me and those warriors of rope swings and RV’s. It digs deep into the bloodline of America, passing from the fingerprints of all of us into one giant quilt of a story.

What do you do with your memories? Do you paint them, teach about them? Tell us in the comments.