and my gloves
and my scarf
and my ear warmer
and I bundled and I bundled and I bundled until I could barely move [you know, to the point that you are so entirely bundled that in order to turn your head you have to move your entire torso?]. I pushed open the first door to be greeted with cold air.
I was still in the entry way.
I pushed open the second door and my feet instantly went numb and it had begun...I now had to barrel my way to the other side of campus to make it back to the safety and warmth of my apartment. I picked up my pace to notice the nice, hidden- jump- at- you-from-behind patches of ice. I slowed to a mere 0.3 mph to ensure that I didn't fall, unable to decide if falling on the hard sheet of frozen doom would be worse than walking slow enough to be safe that I didn't. Option A only leaves me with bruises, maybe a broken bone. Option B leaves me with first degree frost-bite and the inability to function as a human being for a solid hour until I am thawed. I remembered my professor's wife who shattered her leg not too long ago on the ice and, 90% certain I am making the wrong decision, walk a mind-numbingly slow pace.
Gusts of artic winds almost knock me down anyway. I'm trying to decide what the temperature is but then I realize that the cold is creeping up my body and so I try to trick myself. Hawaii. Soup. Campfire.
Not working. My eyes begin to water but the liquid in the corners of my eyes freeze instantly at their first taste of Iowa. My nose has ceased dripping as its hairs are forever frozen to my nostrils. I say hello to a fellow treker and the cold enters my mouth and I instantly feel every single tooth. Pain.
I can now see the lights of my building and when I pick up my pace I remember the wife and the shattered leg and I slow, but by this point I am certain that my blood as slowed to the flow of molasses. I remember a friend in Missouri telling me it is cold there and I laugh.
I am so close now. My hands have lost the capacity to function and I'm pretty sure my nose is somewhere in the snowdrift 20 feet back. Finally I reach the door and it opens and I am greeted with warm air and I stand inside my apartment and I don't remove anything for at least 10 minutes. And then slowly
I take off my gloves. 1....2....3.......9....10. Good. All my fingers are still there [but I'm not even going to look at my feet because I know there has to be damage down there].
I take off my ear warmers. Good thing I don't have big earlobes or I'm sure I would be mourning their loss.
I unzip my coat and consider suing the company that made it.
20 minutes later I remove my scarf.
Whew. I survived. It takes me about 3 minutes to walk from the caf to my place, but I'm sure someday those 3 minutes are all it will take to kill me.
When I was finally warm my roommate walked in--- her face as red as can be and all I could see were her eyes and nose. She yells something about it being -25 outside so we check weather.com:
Actual temperature: -1
w/ wind chill feels like: -25
Why did I ever go to school in Iowa?
in a routine world
of read this and write that
is thirsty on their tongues
working for gas money
they want meaning
they want to
do meaningful work
so it's up to you,
to convince the sons and daughters
of both wealth and need
that they have a great story
that they are a great story
and that you are listening.
Today, before she begins our evening meal, she is preparing cinnamon rolls. She sprinkles flour over the counter and its white presence provides a celestial backdrop.
Before we built our new house my mom got her hands dirty in only one thing—the plans for the kitchen. Her list included cabinets with pull out drawers, lighting under the shelving, deep sinks, a lot of counter space, and a large island. After years of working in a tiny kitchen with few cabinets and two feet of counter top, the new one was to be her place of rest, of peace.
This Saturday morning is typical as I walk downstairs and find her in the midst of a flour sprinkling. The Gather family is serenading the space with old Gospel hymns, my mom occasionally adding her own alto voice to the mix. But this morning she does not need to sing in order to worship.
She rolls out the dough and retrieves the ruler and string from a drawer. I’ve seen her at this altar enough to know what comes next. I know from her teaching that one should never work dough too much and her technique ensures this. She lays down the ruler, measures an inch and a half, and marks the spot, gently depressing the roll of dough with the tip of her pastry cutter. Once she has measured each—1 ½ inch—she pulls her string taut, wrapping it around her two pointer fingers. She then precisely and evenly cuts through the dough and as the Father’s finish their version of Amazing Grace, my mom is left with ten even pieces.
She looks up and notices her disciple and simply smiles. I don’t want to interrupt this service and move to the living room—a spot where I can still see her working. After the cinnamon rolls are done she puts on a pot of coffee, grabs a cookbook, and invites me to join. I know she needs a little time to devour the recipes, to meditate on them and roll them around through her brown sugared fingers. And so I wait for the coffee pot to gurgles its call of completion and I pour us each a cup—I add creamer, its whiteness swirling through the thick black liquid and I turn down the Gather’s It Is Well With My Soul and join my mom at the table.
She’s been up for hours and I’m still in my pajamas and yet we meet at this table and hold our mugs the same way. Her brown eyes, which are my own, look up from Taste of Home and she asks what I would like for supper. I know she is taking her Sabbath today and we discuss what would taste good together. Certain meats are always better with certain fruits. After our coffee is gone, she picks up our mugs, gives me a kiss, turns the Gathers back up, and goes back to her rest.
That night, as my sister and I set the table, she finishes up in the kitchen. The smells in the house bring peace that lit incense could not. My dad says grace and mom places her offering in front of us.
I don’t know if I will cut my cinnamon rolls with a ruler or if I will sing while I cook, but I hope, as I brush her dark hair out of my eyes, that one day my family sees me worship—the way my mom showed me how.
In her class there was another girl, her hair neatly in a braid thrown over her shoulder. She also wore a smile on her face but smelled of Johnson and Johnson. In her right hand she held a gift back with red and green tissue paper parading out of the top.
The teacher asked all the children to put their present up front and grab a number from the basket on her desk. As numbers are drawn and compared, fists pumped with excitement and some dropped their shoulders and shook their heads—their fate had been decided.
Number 21 went first. This was the worst number to draw because although he got first pick, his gift could be “stolen” form the next participant. He chose the box with the hotwheels wrapping paper and what was inside was not much of a surprise.
Number 18 stole the hotwheels.
Numbers continue to pick presents. Eventually number 4, number 3, and anticipation mounted as everyone wondered who had the number 1 ticket.
Number 19 had ended up with the grocery sack present—a used hand puppet with traces of dirt around its sleeve. Number 19 knew she would be stuck with this and let out a complaint, causing the bearer of this gift to look away in shame.
Number 2 went and the teacher smiled, “So who does that leave with number 1?”
The girl with the braid raised her hand and smiled. She had control of this crowd and her choice was endless. There were 21 gifts to choose from and she had the privilege of seeing them all unwrapped. Barbies and coloring kits, an etch-i-sketch, and a train track set (some parent had obviously gone over the five dollar limit).
Her eyes scanned the goods and with confidence and poise that should not belong to a fourth grader, she stood. Small hands held their new treasures tightly and hearts beat wildly, wondering if their newest joy would be taken.
And the girl with number 1 walked over to the girl with number 19 and she picked up the old, worn out puppet.
“I choose this one,” she said.
And some students gawked and some rolled their eyes and one little girl with unbrushed hair smiled. Her gift had been chosen by Number 1. The teacher’s eyes welled up and she told the kids they could eat their cupcakes with red and green sprinkles and she walked to the back of the room to the girl with the braid and said in hushed and peaceful sort of way, “That was very nice of you.”
And the girl with the braid smiled, and with frosting on her upper lip, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I think it hurt her feelings that no one wanted it. I didn’t want her to feel bad.” She took a drink of punch and her teacher hugged her.
My sister never really stopped being that girl with the braid.
This happens for me particularly when the departure occurs after a holiday. Holidays are nostalgic times for most anyway, filling the mind with previous smells and melodies. But for me, when pulling away after a Christmas celebration, I don’t remember the smell of sugar cookies or ham roasting or the twinkling lights on the tree—I remember the faces of my family.
My mom’s face when I showed up to her Christmas cantata at church. We had been arguing about whether or not I needed to be in attendance. I argued that my open-gym practice was more of a necessity and that I simply wouldn’t have time to change and make it to the church. She soon fell silent and I left for the gym. While shooting I began to recall all of the things my mother had attended and supported me in over the years and I left a little early in order to make it on time. I’ll never forget the moment she saw me, sweatpants and t-shirt in the back row, and tears came to her eyes. Being supportive is not a one way street in a family, and leaving reminds me of this.
My dad is waving from the front step and I catch in his face a memory of Christmas morning when I was 10. Having no source of income for myself besides an imagination I had found a scrap piece of wood somewhere around the house. On it I painted, in the best handwriting I could muster, someday I’ll find my prince, but you’ll always be my king. Dad tries to be macho but in this moment I saw him soften and become proud in the same instant. It is this face I see each time I leave.
My older sister and I would always sleep together on Christmas Eve. We would giggle and whisper into the wee hours and wake each other up moments later to check the time. The moment she said I do I instantaneously recalled all the nights we had spent tucked away under her bed sheets, and as she left for her honeymoon I realized this was over. And yet each time I leave her we hug, and in that embrace I feel the warmth, as if we are sharing a blanket once more.
It is in these departures, in the absence of family, that I feel them all the more. I know I am made up of these people—that the same blood courses through my veins. I know I have to remember, each time I leave.
I’m getting married soon and I know this will be another type of leaving—a more permanent one. I will no longer have a toothbrush at home or winter clothes stored in the basement. But I know, as I walk down the aisle beside my father, he will have that look on his face, as if I had just handed him another creation of mine. I know in the front row my mom’s eyes will fill with tears, as she is here to support me once more. And I know that my sister will be waiting at the altar, and I will stand next to her and have the courage to say I do because of late night whispers and stolen covers.
I now pronounce you man and wife…
And as I walk away with my husband I know my family will never be quite as beautiful.
May: I ended my Junior year and said good bye to the wonderful women I was on R.A. staff with... they really played a huge part in my life this school year. After everyone left, me and three of my friends went on a road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana...beautiful country...a very scary thing for me to travel with essentially by myself [without my family]. It was a lot of fun though! Then when I came back I was able to go to Torri's 6th grade graduation! May was a busy month!
August: It was back to school and time for the slime fight in Clash of the Classes
October: This month proved eventful as I made a trip to Joplin to visit Brent, then came back for a week of dodgeball [we were the champs] and homecoming court, and airband [we were the champs! A busy but fun month.
Despite some bumps along the way, 2007 was a year to be thankful for. I hope to write about my student teaching experience soon. Thanks for being patient with me. HAPPY 2008!