Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Thing

If you read here often, you're going to know that I spend a lot of time thinking about what the Bible means now or what Jesus would do or how to make sense of the world as I see it in the light of what I can see of God in the world.  But I don't like to call myself a "Christian" because (1) if I'm really being a Christian then you should be able to see it or I'm not really a Christian and (2) I have a really hard time liking a whole lot of Christians.

And it's this last one that really bothers me.  I just came from church.  It is a good church, a Bible-based, God-fearing church.  There are a lot of truly "kind" and "good" people in that church and in other churches--and believe me, I've been to other churches.  But here's the thing:  most of them are not any better than other people anywhere else.  I see a lot of American culture and a little God, but I don't see a lot of GOD.  And I believe in GOD.

And what do I mean by GOD?  I mean the knowledge of GOD so holy your hair goes white at the whisper of His real name.  I am talking about GOD Who knows both the great and the intimate in such detail that it literally leaves me winded to think about.  I believe in GOD Whose exquisite LOVE lets absolutely nothing stand in the way of what He hopes to accomplish.

Let me tell you:  I have seen GOD in this world.  I have seen GOD's goodness in the land of the living.  I have seen miracles.  Should I tell you of adoption?  Should I tell you about how my brother fit exactly into my family, how he was precisely the answer to my parents' and sister's prayers?  Should I tell you about my friend's first child?  How she died after a short month of life after they had tried so very hard to have children?  Or should I tell you about how my friend eventually chose to adopt another child--one who turned out to have been born on the same day?  Or of my other acquaintance who tried so hard to adopt and was amazingly given not one but two children within a few months? 

I have seen GOD's salvation and His provision. There was one time I thought we were going to have to wait to buy school clothes for the kids because I thought there just wouldn't be enough.  Within forty-eight hours, I had received so many clothes for the boys that I literally gave away clothes to six other boys.  I have driven through floods and watched the water rise around me only to be escorted through to safety.  I have been in surprising, sudden and immediate physical danger twice and through the hand of GOD have been delivered without the slightest harm.

I have seen GOD answer prayers big and small.  In fact, I have seen Him link people through prayer half the world away--repeatedly!  I have a friend who constantly knows when things are going to happen.  Without fail, she calls me to tell me she's praying just days before big impossible-looking things have happened in my life.  I spent one spring praying for these twin girls--over and over.  I thought I was a little crazy.  I wasn't crazy.  Half the world away these little girls were born--the prematurely born twins of an acquaintance of mine from high school.  I just didn't know it through the "normal" channels yet.  I have offered to pray, been turned down, prayed anyway and had GOD tell me what was going on.  Not me.  Not my imagination.  GOD.

And it's this last that really hits me, because I want to share a secret with you:

I see a whole lot of GOD in people who aren't necessarily Christian.

When we were having some issues at home, my Buddhist mother-in-law called because she just knew something was wrong.  When my sister-in-law was sick and my mother-in-law's knee was hurting, I had a dream of angels ministering to my mother-in-law and knew to pray for them.  Immediately before I conceived both of my children, I was blessed in passing by a very loving Jewish family who believed in the blessing of children (and I have no doubt that my children are a result of those blessings).  I have a dear, dear friend whom I think might best be considered Buddhist at the moment but who always is there at just the right moment.

And, yes, I do believe that Jesus is the only way, but I also believe that if you are seeking Him, you will find HIM--regardless of what you call HIM!   

And I ask Christians:  exactly what denomination was Melchizadek who blessed Abraham?  How do we account for Jethro, priest of Midian (not Jewish by the way), who gave Moses his daughter, offered sacrifices to GOD, and advised Moses wisely?  What do we do about Balaam, who, although called to curse the Israelites, eventually blessed the Children of Israel?  He wasn't Jewish, but he clearly heard GOD.  What about the three kings?  How is it that they, who were not Jewish, knew about Jesus and sought him but not the Jews in Jerusalem?   

The question isn't about who should be allowed in the church--gay or straight, divorced or married, formerly Buddhist or born-and-raised whatever.

The question, according to the apostles, is abundantly clear.  Where are the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit?

Not who should be in church, but in whom is GOD dwelling?

Let us seek GOD and His kingdom first.  Let us find those who show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  These are the fruit of the Spirit.  Let us seek apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, administrations, and tongues (I Corinthians 12:28).  These are the gifts of the Spirit.  Let us expect that if we believe we will cast out demons in GOD's name, we will speak with new tongues, we will pick up serpents, and if we drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt us; we will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16:17-18).  These are the signs that accompany those who believe.


The thing is we believe or we don't.  And if we believe, we should see GOD.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Are You There?

I love TED.  It inspires me, challenges me, broadens the contents of my thoughts.  Recently, I watched one of those inspiring, hopeful, and slightly heartbreaking videos.  Feel free to watch it here--it's less than 6:00 long.



Do something.  What Nancy Lublin set up was not what she did. It was not the point of her job, was not something she set out to do.  But she did it because she believes in doing something.  In fact, that's the name of her organization: DoSomething.org.

 And the question from that text message stayed with me.  "Are you there?" Or more probably, "r u there?"

But I wonder that a lot.  When I go out to the store and I'm smiling, I see all kinds of miserable, sad people, people who are looking for something.  They may not be looking for me.  More likely they're looking for chicken at $0.99/lb., but their eyes are sad and lonely.

Are you there?

You'd be amazed how many kids talk to me at the bus stop.  I don't think it's just me.  I think they talk to any of the adults there.  They talk because we're there.  They tell me all kinds of things:

"I didn't get any reds today, Miss Elizabeth!"

"Miss Elizabeth, I made this all by myself!"

"My brothers took my money today, Miss Elizabeth.  They can be pretty scary."

"Some days when I'm depressed, I just look at the ground."

I don't have good answers to all of this.  Sometimes I can help.  Sometimes I can't.  But I can listen.  I can hold a backpack, tie a shoe.  I can tell a mom and say a prayer.  I don't have to do nothing.

My friend Merissa recently posted about doing something in her blog.  In particular, she is looking at the care of orphans, but really, we are just called to do.  It doesn't have to be only widows and orphans.  James says, "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" (James 2:15-16).  

But perhaps my friend Ryan put it best on Facebook today when he wrote:
 ...cutest thing...every day there is an older lady who sits on a white plastic chair on the corner of 4th and stanley trying to sell jewelry...she does not have a car, she lives alone & walks to/from the grocery store daily...recently, we noticed the back of her chair was broken so we decided to buy her a new one today and took it down to her - the biggest smile grew on her face and by the time i walked back to my house...she took that ole dang chair, threw it into the dumpster, waddled back, plopped down and looked happy. go to your window - see what you can do.

For a long time, I thought of being a missionary, and God very clearly pointed out to me that my neighbor is my neighbor no matter where I live.  If I can't love the person beside me now, I won't be able to love the person beside me anywhere else either.  And that may be just what I need to do: go to my window and see what I can do.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It Takes One to Know One

Some things are counter intuitive.  For example, if you exercise until you're tired, you will feel more awake later.  Crying can actually make you feel happier.  Adopting a practice that you don't initially believe in can, in fact, change your mind over time.  None of them make much sense on the surface.

The same with "it takes one to know one."  Whenever I heard my father or mother say, "It takes one to know one," they were always saying it in the sense of "the pot calling the kettle 'black.'"  It was not a good thing.

And so it was counter intuitive to me as I began to discover that "it takes one to know one" goes both ways, kind of like Gandhi's exhortation, "Be the change you want to see in the world," which I can't say that I have always believed.

Until we began sharing.

Our family stance on sharing began a couple of months after we returned to the US after living in Korea.  While we had lived there, sharing one's property was not only common, it was expected.  If you had your toys at the playground and you set them down and another kid picked them up, you were expected to allow them to have a proper turn with them.  If you had a toy that a younger child grabbed from your hand, you were to exercise patience and magnanimity and not only let them use the toy for a time, but share it with joy.

Some cultural differences could be overlooked.  A foreigner need not love doenjang jigae (fermented soybean paste soup) and could even get away with not eating kimchi at every meal.  Not everyone living in America needs to drive a car, even though we are the land of Detroit. Some differences can be tolerated.

Others are culturally not okay.  We don't use blatantly racist slurs in America and think we can get away with it.  Not okay.  You don't openly horde in Korea.  The cultural evilness factor is similar.  Not okay.

Therefore, since we go back and forth frequently, sharing was not a value I could afford letting my kids lose.  So we began to practice sharing here. 

The rules were simple:
  1. If you took it outside, you either had to give others a turn with it or have other similar items that the neighbors could use.
  2. If you couldn't share it, it had to come back inside and couldn't go out.
  3. If the property wasn't respected (i.e., people were breaking it just to break it), it came back in and stayed back in--generally for a few days, just long enough for everyone to miss it.
Up until this time, there had not been much sharing outside.  In fact, there was no sharing between neighbors at all although cousins and siblings would occasionally trade off possessions under duress.  But after a few weeks of our sharing program, I began to see real differences outside.  Kids handed things over readily.  The two children who used to break everything had become careful.  Other children occasionally brought out their own possessions and shared them without tears or ultimatums.

And I began to think back to the old expression of my parents.  And I remembered those who had forcefully influenced my life--my own giving neighbors, teachers who didn't stop at the classroom door, peers who were both giving and courageous, and those women who were older than I who have taught me how to be a wife, a mother, a friend.  I realized something very important.

It does take one to know one, and it also takes one to make one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Filter Comes off

Everyone has a BS threshold.  For some of us, it's pretty high.  We can take it when someone cuts in line in front of us, cuts us off at the exit, slams the door in our face.  We can handle when the child says, "The tooth fairy made me do it," or hands us the sticky remote control, professing, "But it came that way."  Others of us have a lower tolerance.  Our favorite phrases are "really?" and "are you kidding me?"  But still, we only hint at what we really think.  We do hold that part back or try to gently redirect with questions or subtle suggestions.  And then there comes a moment when we are so compromised with other stuff that the filter just turns off.  Completely off.

And that's where I am right now.  The filter is off.  I don't care if you destroy your knee tripping over the sword I told you to leave in the house.  I will laugh at you if you looked funny doing it, and I will yell at you to stop screaming (hypocritical, I know) when your bawling gives me a headache.  I will ask you if you arms are painted on when you ask me why I didn't clean, and I will tell you exactly what I think of your outfit if you ask me--and where you can go if you don't like mine.  Because the filter is off, do you understand?  O-F-F.  Off.

And that isn't always a bad thing I realized last night as I scrubbed my living room carpet last night until I blistered my hands. Physical activity is oddly cathartic for me, cleansing, in fact, as is speaking my mind.  And even though the filter is off, I have noticed that I haven't noticeably offended the people I thought I would.  My burst of laughter at my student's embarrassing story didn't seem to embarrass him as much as it made him proud of his ability to write a good story.  Admitting my frustrations had my friend in stitches, not tears.  And even my little son, who can always find something to whine about, (eventually) caved to the "I-don't-care-what-your-problem-is. If-I-can't-do-anything-about-it,-SHUT-UP!"

And it teaches me something about myself, something I'm constantly struggling with:  the dirtiness of my heart and the filters that cover it, not clean it.

Not to preach, but you know I always start at the Bible, and in Matthew 15, Jesus says, 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Now, of course, to hear certain people talk (our First Lady included), eating inorganic food will defile us, and absolutely, according to my mother and most mothers, so will eating with unwashed hands.  Furthermore, while fast food may clog our arteries, it does very little in itself to our metaphysical hearts.  

In actuality, I think the more rules we have the more problems we face because in the end rules are filters.

And we don't need filters.  We need clean hearts.

What I have noticed this time around is that the heart spillage is not as bad as it was last time around.  And that's a good thing maybe--although, trust me, it still has a long way to go.  We're talking about an upgrade from sewage to run off.  We're not up to drinking water yet.

But some big changes have happened--attitude adjustments, changes in diets, letting go.  And these just might be working.  But that might be the topic of another post.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Children's/Parents'/Mothers' Day!

"Because I'm the mother, that's why!"

My mother could throw that out SO quickly that I suspected it was taught during Lamaze classes--that is until I took one.

Still, I assumed that mothering would come naturally--after all, I was good at babysitting, taking care of my younger siblings, and teaching small children and those things are UNNATURAL.  Childbearing is something our bodies are made to do, so wouldn't child rearing be the same way?

Now, I am sure that there are many naturally glowing, happy, beautiful mothers of newborns out there for whom motherhood is bliss from Day 1.

I am not one of them.  To tell the truth, I did not feel like a mother when my first child was born.  It was all, in fact, very unnatural.  And so, obviously, I felt like a failure, but not a mother.  And that was such a surprise.  Really and truly it was.

Sure, I had been in denial when I was finally, really pregnant--until everything, absolutely everything--with the exception of buffalo wings--made me want to vomit, but that's totally normal, right?


And sure the prenatal vitamins made me nauseous, and that was a surprise, but who can account for morning sickness?

I had other surprises, too, but wasn't that just part of a woman's first pregnancy?  Isn't that how we bond with other women?

And I blissfully denied that there was anything to know that I couldn't intuit through natural traces or learn from experts.

I followed all of the advice, read all the books, attended all the classes, had all the requisite requirements, but my pregnancy still didn't work as planned.

And then my son was born.  And I was in shock.

First off, I didn't recognize his face.  It wasn't the face I had been imagining, and he was so, so, so skinny!  Just four pounds!  How could I do that to my baby?  How could my body betray us like that?  I read all the books!

And time just kind of froze.  I didn't feel like a mother yet.  There was too much to do.  And so I just kind of ignored all the problems, all the things that didn't fit, and all the things I hated.  And I felt only panic, no joy.  For four days, I just did what the books said.  I held the baby constantly, tried to breast feed exclusively, gazed at him and did everything possible to bond with him.  But I felt nothing. 

And then, four days later:  3:00 AM.  I thought I could get up at any time, but it's a lot harder to get up at 3:00 AM when you just laid down at 2:30 and the time before that at 1:45 and the time before that at 12:30.  Where was the two hours of sleep that breastfeeding books promised??  Two hours, they said.  Two hours.  LIARS!

Of course, I hadn't stood up yet.  I had only looked at the clock.  Why didn't the snooze button work?  Why did the noise keep going?  I gazed at the red fragments alternately lit around two stacked squares that formed each of the numbers.  If I squinted hard enough, could I make them 7:30?  That was a reasonable hour to get up.

 My husband didn't even bother coming into the bedroom with me and the baby.  The smart man was snoring on the couch!  I could be there too, except my boobs were attached.

My mind was roaming between reforming the numbers, wondering what my husband would look like with boobs, and imagining how nice it would be to sleep on the couch when I somehow figured out that the noise was not the clock.  It was the baby!

I rolled in the direction of the crib.  There they were, a foot or so from mine:  two coal black eyes that gleamed in the near darkness.  As soon as they caught my eyes, the little creature gasped.  His spindly, skinny arms reached for me with balled fists, and the anticipation in his gaze said clearly, "You hold the answers to all of my problems."

Then I felt it.  Two great, amazing, mind-shattering truths.  One:  I was a mother.  I mean it.  I was the mom.  Not a panicking mom.  Just a mom--a real, in the flesh, not making-it-up or going-home-at-the-end-of-my-shift mom.  Gone was the surreal world I had been living in:  the haze of panic, the slightly bad dream that I was hoping to wake up from until the dream that I had anticipated--one with more sleep and fewer stinks--arrived.  But, no.  That other dream wasn't coming.  I was the mom, and I knew it now. 

The other, which I had been denying for so long, was awful, far too awful to bear.  Something that can only be whispered.  Lean close.  Are you ready? 

I didn't have any answers. 

BETRAYAL!!!!  Parents are supposed to know, man!  Did you not hear what my mom told me?  You read the books.  You feel your body.  Intuition kicks in, and you know.  Then you have the right to say, "Because I'm the mother, that's why!"

But it's all a lie!  A complete lie!  Just like that Lamaze crap but worse.  Unlike labor, you don't get over parenthood in a matter of hours.  It sticks around awhile (and we want it to).

But in the hole where the knowledge was supposed to be, I felt something else--something soft and strong like the silk the Chinese used for armor.  It was love.  Complete love.  Mind-boggling love for that little alien in the warped space-ship-like cat-tent-draped crib.

Brain still mush, I thought, screw it all. I mentally discarded all the pregnancy and newborn advice books I had read, sweeping them mentally off the shelf next to the changing table and into the trash--and making plans to do it for real once the sun came up and I had (hopefully) slept.  I lifted my wailing son from the crib.,

And I suddenly had a strangely Animal Planet moment.  I kissed his little face and tears while feeling and sniffing for the source of the alarm.  Wet.  Very wet.  And flat.  A very flat belly. I attached him to my right breast to make the howling stop.  Pain.  Pain and peace.  Peace was more important than pain, so I left him there, held football style with my left hand while I rooted through the emergency stack of preemie clothes with my right hand.

I once again eyed the shelf of pregnancy books towering over the dresser.  I knew where the clothes were going tomorrow.  Somehow, in my cross-eyed state, I found a suitable outfit my son hadn't peed yet.  I detached him from my breast to change him, much to his shock--shock so great that he hadn't started to scream yet.  With speed I didn't know I possessed, I replaced the clothes he had on. 

I then attached him to my left breast to stifle the impending wail and turned, intending to thunk down on the side of the bed exhausted.  The cat nodded at me from inside the crib.  Apparently she felt the cat tent was for cat-rest and not cat-repellant.  I didn't even have the energy to think, Damn cat!  If I had been more rested, I would have fought to know, fought to research out the right answer.  Sleep deprived, all I could muster was, Screw it.

I tucked the baby into the crook of my arm, and settled drowsily with him in my own bed.  My first night as Mom, I had just one thought:

Screw the experts.  We needed sleep.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Other Shoes

I visited my nieces recently, well, my sister and her older kids too, but her little daughters really stole the show.  About half an hour after my sons and I arrived, my two-year-old niece--I'll call her Pretty for now since she's always scavenging for pretty things to wear--came shuffling into the kitchen with my oldest son's coat over her head.

"WAAAAAHHH!!" screamed my little son, who is remarkably protective of his brother's stuff.  "That's my brother's!!!  You can't take it!!!!!  WAAAAAAHHHH!"

He wrested the coat from Pretty's head, balled it up under his arm, and headed back toward the playroom muttering, "It doesn't even fit you."

Pretty scrunched up her eyes in growing fury under a fringe of now electrified dandelion-puff-like hair.  Planting her hands on her hips, she shuffled after him in a temper.  And it was only when I noticed the shuffling, not storming, that I realized her strange gait was dictated by the fact that Pretty was trying to keep my sandals on her feet as she attempted to snag back the coat from her cousin.

Apparently my shoes made Pretty's cut.

Shoes have always held deep fascination for me.  They hardly ever fit quite right, and I can lose shoes with the best of them.  My mother loves to tell the story of how I headed home from school one day with two white tennis shoes and arrived with only one, claiming not to have realized that I lost it.

"How?  HOW could you not know you were only wearing one shoe?" She still wants to know.

I've completely forgotten the incident; nevertheless, I suspect that the real story must have been more embarassing (or more likely to produce punishment) than the claim of ignorance.

Still, another pair of shoes can bring about a profound change in perspective.  While I may have occasionally thought that church services were too long when I graduated children's church to the adult services, they had never been painful before I started wearing heels.  I remember slipping my white open-toed spring shoes with their tiny one-and-a-half-inch heels and massaging my poor little feet through their sweaty hose that I was forbidden to run lest lose the privilege of wearing them *FOREVER.*  (When I actually did run them eighteen months later, I was astonished that Mom bought me another pair. Evidently there is a time limit on *FOREVER.*) 

Tennis shoes made me feel clumsy, ballet slippers delicate.  I noticed a profound difference in the respect I received giving science presentations in heels instead of flats in high school.  I started wearing heels as much as possible at 16-1/2 and essentially didn't take them off until I got dizzy when I was pregnant with my oldest son at twenty-seven.

Before I dropped my education major in college (my attempt to graduate before I went completely crazy or life killed me), I spent time in the classroom of a teacher who claimed that it wasn't the kind of shoe you wore that made you comfortable.  The key to preventing aching feet was to switch shoes throughout the day.  Another pair of shoes would pinch different places and allow the previously pinched areas to rest.  She was a wise woman.

The thing about shoes, particularly when you are as short as I am, is that what you see in a different pair is very different.  When I'm in my heeled oxfords--lady lawyer shoes to my mind--I not only command respect from others, I carry an air of greater solemnity myself.  Not that I can't summon one up in my sweats and bare feet, but I don't have to drop the bucket as deep.  Similarly, I am more likely to to laugh at myself in bare feet than I am in heels--maybe because my feet are happier.  I am likely not to be afraid of the mud in tennis shoes, to run a little harder and a little more.  I am likely to linger in sandles, to walk slowly and enjoy the breezes and sunshine.

Wearing the shoes rounds me out.  It gives me incentive to stretch myself--sometimes in ways I didn't know I could stretch.  But more importantly, though, it connects me to others.  By the way I treat them, I am able to show those in tennis shoes that I can imagine them in heels too.  And I am able to show those in heels that my tennis shoes do not interfere with my brain.  By remembering who I am in other shoes, I am able to forgive those wearing shoes of my other selves and facing the problems those shoes pinch us with. 

I started to understand the wisdom of St. Francis when he said:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace...

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

When I wore the shoes myself, I wasn't nicer to myself.  I didn't give myself a break.  No, I tended to curse myself for not being able to look awesome and be able to walk five miles too.  Or, conversely, I was frustrated that my feet felt great, but my pink-soled grey Nikes didn't look so dainty with my summer sun dress.

But I did look at others differently, and, eventually, I started to see myself differently.  And I guess it is true.  The first step to forgiving yourself is forgiving others.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Field Trip!

I was totally going to write about something else today that I've been working on for awhile when this morning happened.  And this morning was important because it was a...

FIELD TRIP!!!!

Apparently, this year our local elementary school is sending the kids on two field trips--a small local one and a bigger, all day one.  On Monday, my kindergartener had his little one--a trip to the local bowling alley for bumper bowling on "B" day.  "B" day stems from alphabet-palooza--a scheme by which the kindergarten teachers overcome parents' dread of the upcoming summer months by assigning them a month's worth of alphabet outfits and snacks.  We're only on letter "D," and, after rummaging through everything my five-year-old owns to locate all possible outfits with any remote link to the letter "E" (a T-shirt with ""Est." written on it, one with "Extreme" on it, and another with pictures of "exercise") for tomorrow, I am now ready for summer!

Today, however, was the second-grader's trip.  The second and third grade were headed to a local movie theater to watch Disney's "Chimpanzee."  I was ready to take this day in stride like any other day except that the big one announced to me a few weeks back that his class was going to the movies, and I *had* to come, just *had* to.  I initially ignored this declaration and just figured he'd forget it.  But then we had to return the permission slip with the money.  As I was prying the slanting sides of the envelope open to allow admittance to the green half sheet of paper and five one-dollar bills borrowed from a neighbor because I only had a twenty and it was due the next day (of course), the big one peered around my arm and asked, "Mom, where's your check mark?"

"Huh?" I asked, feigning innocence and pausing in my wrestling match with the envelope (the envelope was winning, by the way, and I have the paper cut to prove it).

"Your check mark, Mom.  The one that says you're going on the field trip with me."

"Oh."  I paused.  "Do you really need me to go?"

"YES."  He wasn't loud or upset or angry.  He was just very direct.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and his gaze implored me.

Yes, I would have to go.  Part of me was flattered at that moment.  My baby boy still wanted me to go with him.  I mean, really, how long can I expect that to last?

The other part of me groaned.  I don't do animal movies.  I must've liked "Bambi" as a child, and I know I got into "My Little Ponies."  But those other movies?  Forget it.  Not "Black Beauty."  Not "The Lion King."  Not "Free Willy" or "My Friend Flicka." I don't even like "Benji."  Much less real nature movies.  Remember Annaud's "The Bear?"  I hated him.   My kids found "March of the Penguins."  I made them turn it off.  How was I going to make it through "Chimpanzee," especially in a movie theater filled with witnesses that I would need to see again in real life?

Add to that the fact that we occasionally have real problems at movies.  We've gotten much better in recent years after time and effort devoted to the whole thing, but we have our issues.

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it very much, particularly since I was driving out to Pittsburgh Mills, where I have never been before, and had to get there early.  Directions have never been my strong point, and, since my accident in February 2011, I have been loathe to drive on limited access highways.  My mother, who spent years as a home health care nurse and can tank through drifts in states of emergency, thinks I'm a little ridiculous.  Luckily, though, MapQuest returned an alternate to the turnpike and with only one wrong turn, one point to merge, and just minor hyperventilation, I made it to the theater five minutes before the third reminder slip from the school told me we had to be there (the first two were friendly reminders.  The third, not so much).

I don't do very well with other school moms on the whole.  I actually do better with school dads.  Not sure why that is.  Most of the other school moms seem not real comfortable either as we linger around awaiting the arrival of our children.  Surprisingly, I knew many of the moms and dads there today.  It seemed they all had children who knew my other son.  Their older children were all girls, and they were telling petrifying stories of their second- and third-grade daughters not wanting to actually sit with them during the movie. I spent a good fifteen minutes in the terror that I would need to weather this horrific nature movie by myself while pretending to be the good-natured, animal-loving, still-sitting mother that I most certainly am not.

I didn't need to worry though because, as the second- and third-grade children were funneled through the doors like the numbered ping-pong balls in the lottery selection machine, my big one caught my eye and started waving with almost maniacal fervor.

I am so lucky.

BrenĂ© Brown writes that we often feel as vulnerable feeling joy as we do feeling sorrow, and that was definitely me this morning.  I felt so extremely, incredibly blessed that I kept waiting for somebody to wake me up or call me with bad news.  Even writing this makes me so nervous that I've had to go up to check on the sleeping boys just to make sure they're still breathing.

The big one waved at me from the moment he came in until he was corralled by his teacher into the line that would pass by the snack tables where pre-prepared sodas, popcorn, and skittles packages waited to be shoved into small hands.

"Come here, Mom!" he first mouthed at me, then hissed, then hollered when I didn't join him in line fast enough.

"Parents don't get snacks," I said.  "I'll wait right here."  I moved over to the gap through which the snack-laden children were once again shepherded toward the movie theater.  The big one took my hand as we walked past the empty concession stands, beside the posters for upcoming movies (he needed to shoot at all of the superheroes/villains--not an easy feat for someone holding fruit punch, a Happy-Meal-esque box of popcorn, and a single-sized skittle package), and around the corner to Theater 10.

Once inside, we were escorted by the classroom teacher up the theater steps to the first empty row.  The teacher paused a moment in front of that empty row which backed a row of third-grade girls, glanced at the fifteen boys looking up expectantly at her, and moved them back one more row before shuttling them down the aisle of folding seats.  I think she knew exactly how hard those boys could kick in making her decision.

I have only one comment about looking down that line of boys during the movie:  wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah! 

The girls sitting to my right were strangely motionless.  Maybe I just didn't notice their movements in comparison.

But it was wonderful.  It wasn't just that I got to sit next to my son, that he grabbed my hand in the surprising parts, that he had to hold my ear when he was afraid that the adoptive daddy would die as well as the mommy, or that he rested his head on my arm throughout.  It was that all the kids around seemed to like having a mom sitting with them.  It was that no one cared if they all kept a running commentary throughout the movie (although both I and the big one's neighbor did tell him we could still hear even if he chose not to yell).  It was recognizing that the big one's teacher has just absolutely the right temperament for dealing with my son.  And it was that my son both knew me and accepted me just the way I was.

As I spent much of the second half of the movie in tears--as much as I hate nature movies, I have to say it was good--the big one didn't mind too much until the credits.

"Snap it out, Mom," he said, snapping his fingers a mosquito's breadth from my nose.  "I mean, snap out of it."

"I'm not crying," I lied.  "You can't even see me."

The big one sighed.  "I know when you cry, Mom.  Some girl things are not so good."

And so we funneled out.  I expected to go home right away, but, no, the day was not over.  There was lunch.

Most of the moms sat together, chatting less than comfortably.  I was on my way to join them when the big one grabbed my hand.

"Over here, Mom," he directed, steering me to an empty table with attached swivel chairs. 

We sat down, just the two of us, and I was so impressed by how he didn't even care if his friends were around.  But that wasn't the end of it.  A whole mess of boys just came and clustered around us. 

There's something special about boys.  I didn't need to eat.  I didn't need to talk.  I just needed to be there--and occasionally open food stuff that must have been packaged at Fort Knox.  They were having a wonderful time giggling and working out ways to spin those chairs completely in circles (possible if you are sitting on the side toward the restaurants, cross your legs criss-cross-applesauce style, and have a friend to push you around).  There were cries of delight as a construction vehicle drove through the mall to hang ceiling displays and giddy commotion when two moms took their toddlers on the merry-go-round.

It was simply a beautiful day that I couldn't quite believe was happening.  As the big one was finally led away by his teacher, I kept expecting a lilac-colored puff of smoke to sweep them all away like a fairy godmother.

But it never happened, and so I found my own special gift today--a moment that's unlikely to come again and one I am likely to treasure for a very long time.
There was an error in this gadget