Thursday, December 4, 2008


Home again, minds filled with the haze of a thousand and more miles, books and bags and shoes and a full-to-bursting laundry bag lugged into the house in the sprinkle of a late afternoon. We'd been a long way, riding the highway, the loops and curls of the four-lanes, the rainslick shining off the pavement and glistening down the panes of the sheared-off rock walls of the mountains larded through with the veins of transit.

We'd carried a suit, a tie, a fresh-pressed burgundy shirt; my black crepe pants and cut-velvet jacket---my only concession to "dress-up" clothes except under duress. We sat in the Georgia church, unfamiliar of place and of music, of instrument, of the bright-screened Words of Praise. Our own were the raisings of the foot-patting old hymns, the What a Friend and the Rock of Ages; this Sunday morning was spent in midst of a long music-service, everybody standing and singing and swaying for a great long time to unfamiliar song after song, the words like Karoake on the big screen and coming through the speakers level with our eyes and unaccustomedly bright to our ears.

And our son was ordained this weekend---his own journey longer than we travelers could imagine, of school and work and meetings and study and language courses and schedules past keeping. His passport would do credit to an emissary, as he soon will be---as he prepares for his life in the Ministry. I did not birth this child, but I met him when he was very young; his Dad and I have been married for more than twenty years, and we are equally proud and awed by him and his accomplishments.

We had worship in his church, lunch in his Mother's home, and that was a journey in itself, a quiet, warm gathering to honor and to send out this far-reaching, amazing young man. I bear no credit for any of his accomplishments, save for Sunday School and Church on our weekends, with a lot of stay-at-home little projects and games and things-done-together. When he was a child, we built forts and racecourses and dioramas of battlefields; we picked pillowslips full of cotton from the outside-the-front-door fields---an oddly-enjoyed treat to these "town" children. Then we broke out the Elmer's, some square bits of plywood, and twigs, fashioning the cotton and its pointy boll-claws into a charming family of barn owls with toes grasping the limbs and cunning beaks peeping from beneath store-bought googly-eyes from the sewing box.

We talked about life and death and Heaven and shooting and Batman; we walked our fields for arrowheads and put out salt for the deer; we raked leaves, rolled in the piles, burned them way out in the field, inhaling that sure scent of Autumn, then cooked baked potatoes in the embers.

And he mentions these things---picking up pecans and walking the woods, and the nights we'd make Sloppy Joes and watch silly zombie videos. I've watched him grow up tall and strong, kind and so selfless in so many things that my breath shallows and slows. I'm very glad that Chris DID come with such a dowry---when my Dad, thinking of the relative swiftness of our courtship, asked, "Are you SURE?---what about all those CHILDREN?" I replied, "I'd take THEM even if Chris weren't part of the package."

We hugged Goodbyes, changed into comfy soft clothes for traveling, and headed North, riding long into the night, aiming for home, with the strange confluence of planets and moon forming a bright smile to beckon us home. I watched it for a long time, hanging so strangely in that sapphire sky---a cosmic HappyFace looking down on all those Thanksgiving-weary travelers.

I'm still smiling, myself, and I think the kvell of the weekend will last a long time.


Anonymous said...

Oh Rachel.

You know I'm your biggest fan, but this story may just be your most beautiful, personal writing yet. And I'm speaking as an atheist brought up Episcopalian who has a very dim view of all religions!

The ride, the velvet jacket, the family love... I'm gobsmacked.


racheld said...

Oh, Maggie!!! Thank you---it was wonderful and odd and strangely not tiring. And I do feel personal here; all pieces before except the book last year were close-fisted despite all their wordiness.

Gatherings are mostly for sharing, anyway.

I'd love to hear more about that kvell of your own.

Kim Shook said...

Rachel, I knew about the quick trip, but not the purpose. Congratulations to your son - he sounds like a fine man. Not a bit of surprise in that statement, considering his 'raising'. I agree with my fellow Episcopalian ;-), that this was some of your most beautiful and evocative writing ever. Thank you for taking us along.