I have come to believe in miracles…
Little gifts, really… presented like life rings in the midst of disaster.
You see, my mother was sad;
Always crying, drinking, eyes at half mast;
Even trying to kill herself when nothing made sense.
I was born to make her happy… and to keep my father married to her.
I kept made her proud, kept her company, listened to her secrets, chased away the silence.
Yet in the midst of that craziness, I was given little gifts of being well loved.
Like wonderful old, gravely-voiced Corky, who worked in the shoe department at a behemoth store in downtown Fort Wayne. While my mother shopped, I would play at Corky’s side or hide under the mile-high counter as she waited on customers. How was it that I was never in the way? And in the breaks, Corky would pull me up into her lap as I recited my latest rhyme or cracked her up with a hundred knock-knock jokes. She was my never satiated audience of one. When I was with Corky, I was the very best and only.
And there was Charlotte: an odd, overweight woman of unknown age with missing teeth, a young son and a mother who lived with them. That was their family. They looked poor, talked loud, frequently used the wrong words and, unlike my family, did nothing to try to look any different than they were. Oh, yea, and Charlotte loved kids, including me – a teenager! Somehow, she would look right past all the stuff everyone else thought was me and talk to me like she knew what was inside. She made me do crazy things and didn’t care when I soaked her with the hose at the car wash. I secretly admired her more than just about anyone I knew. Very secretly, for she was the butt of many jokes at my house. But I knew she was better than us – ‘cause at my house I couldn’t breathe, but when I was with Charlotte, it was like my lungs opened right up and gulped down the freshest, happiest air I ever knew.
Even the good days with my mother still evoke a deep longing in me. Our long drives in the car with the predictable stop for hot chocolate and “grown up” conversation, our delight every time “Alley Cat” came on the radio. As dusk lowered the shades, I would curl up on the seat next to her, my head in her lap and the low rumble of the road escaping beneath me as she hummed in her rich, deep alto voice. That sound – no, that sensation – vibrated through my body as if the angels themselves had come from the depths of the warm earth and wrapped their arms around me.
So the little gifts are given.
In the confusion of craziness, in the midst of disaster, help always comes. It can seem fleeting for sure, but help always comes.
And we survive.
And we remember.
And we thrive.
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