When I was growing up, my Bapa and Grandma were a constant in my life. There was something magical that came whenever they visited. My parents were more kind and lenient. My brothers, like me, put on the best show we had in our pockets. Just hearing a rumor of them coming over got us pretty excited.
On Friday nights they had a standing “date” with my family. They’d show up early evening to drink coffee at the dining table with my Rents. They’d talk about adult stuff that didn’t much interest us kids. We were allowed to be outside playing while this ritual took place. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more of an interest in those conversations because I feel I would have gotten to know them, the world, and my parents an incredible amount more than I did.
At the tail end of the coffee ritual came the fade in to our favorite part of the night. POPCORN! My mom would pop a massive bowl of the fluffy crunch while counting out the apples (one each), and chocolate squares. We’d all get into our spots in the living room to get ready to watch The Dukes of Hazzard. I was madly in love with Beau/Bo Duke. I thought Daisy was absolutely gorgeous, but took little interest in Luke.
As a family we would watch the show and laugh together. On commercials (my brother as the remote to turn the television down), we’d squish in conversations about what was important at the time. It could be about the show, grades, behavior, how much we were loved by my mom’s Folks, or even what words were entering our vocabulary. At the sight of the General Lee, we were right back into the wild world of those “Duke boys.”
At then end of the show when Cooter pumps up the power of the ol’ #01 and Uncle Jesse had outwitted Boss Hog, we’d disperse to the bathrooms with us kids having to run upstairs so the adults wouldn’t have to. At my age now, I completely understand the wisdom of that, but as a kid, I resented having to do it.
And then, settled in with a refreshed bowl of popcorn, in our pajamas, we heard the verdict of whether or not we’d be able to watch…Dallas. Oh! How I hated J.R. Ewing and loved Bobby. I didn’t quite understand what Sue Ellen’s issues were at that time, but I knew to feel sorry for her. I thought Miss Ellie was elegant. The costumes, the dialogue, the adultness of the show made it more than worth a few good behavior days to follow the story line that I was just starting to get, but did not all the way.
I’d snuggle up to Bapa and watch with him. It was a feeling of complete and total safety. There was nothing in the world that could touch our family then. My Grandma was okay with the show, but commonly would lax her head back, mouth open, and snore lightly. It was practically tradition.
When I think of my mom’s Folks, it gives me a feeling of family so deep into my bones a part of me lay with them in their graves. It is a feeling of promise that the world would be as strong as we were. Our duty to the world and to each other was and is to create love wherever we are because that is how the world SHOULD work. We know that it doesn’t, but with each little act of compassion or kindness, we are all living our Folks dreams for a better world.
As for my Rents, it took much longer for me to see them as givers of light. I was estranged for so many years but it wasn’t until I returned that the pangs of what I’d set down to walk away from really set barbs into my spirit. I realized that what I’d given up wasn’t just parents with incredibly high expectations, but that I’d relieved myself of that burden to do it my own way. I wasn’t born to follow their path. I was created to accept the guidance of the Folks and my Rents to become even better than they were, or at least comparable.
Since I have no biological offspring of my own, I often worry of how my legacy will pan out. I think of the many traditions I was taught at their knees and mourn the loss of it stopping with me.
But, I have discovered in love and unity that my cousins, nieces and nephews, all carry me with them. For example, I got to take my great nephew across the Mighty Mack for his first time and buy the fudge of his choice in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. He learned to sing 500 Miles by the Proclaimers at the top of his lungs, got spoiled with ice cream, and basically…well The Folks and the Rents carry on in me no matter where I go.
To capture the eyes that adore me back
To experience the breath of your kisses
To envelope myself in your arms
To be in silence with the chorus of rising bellies
To caress the satin that calls my name
To press my urgency to your ear, confessing
To know, understand, you are my mythical being
You turn my blood the color of my skin
I’m made of mud, like you, my kin
We breathe the air made from the trees
We drink the water from stormy seas
We laugh without ever being taught
We’ve all done things that we oughtn’t
I object to your hasty dismissal
which, my friend, is abysmal
I deprecate you right to your face
I am far from being your idea of disgrace
I am human, just like you
Deny it all you’d like, we both know it’s true.
The turning of the Wheel is honored in her space
the breathing of the seasons accounted at her grace
With eyes the color of summer sky she observes the holy
Appreciating each season as its revealed so slowly
Her hair is the color of bonfires, of cider mills or pumpkin pies
When she laughs, I mean really laughs, it could make you cry
She sees the world in music, notes upon a page,
Not a moment passes by that she’s not fully engaged.
She can make a piano dance a jig or an organ sing to God
But she believes, somewhere inside, that she is somehow flawed.
When she gives the gift of her, in whichever way she does,
There is never any doubt in mind, that you are truly loved.
The thundering rain roiled violently in the warm November night
striking the man with sheets of his plight
He, on his knees on the side of the road,
had arms raised like and above his face
a thousand cries towards mercy
In supplication he wailed at the haunt of cars
A woman rushed to his side.
She didn’t touch him, but she united her voice with his prayers
He staggered to his feet as wings offered him passage
His breath of prayer accounted for, he was warmly embraced
He sobbed his shame into his cupped hands
while apologizing for his humanity
The chariot released him to the cross of spirits
easing his ailing heart.
He is loved.
We are gathered here today in peace
We honor the truth of the word love
We strive together to build a better community
To promote and create our neighborhood
That takes care of one another through
Respect, compassion, courage, and vision.
For anybody that would not honor our covenant
We will lead them by our actions to the light of love in your name.
Hear our prayer so that we may be one people, your people.