Monday, February 17, 2014

The Size of Your Heart

There's something that happens to me a lot, and I'm ashamed to admit it.  

The hatbox full of letters of so many friends that fill up my heart.

But maybe some of you do this, too.

Do you know the feeling when you see Facebook pictures of your best friends hanging out with their other friends, the ones you always fear are a little cooler than you, enticing your besties with fun Friday night plans or a free vacation some warm, summer-year-round location?

Or you're at a party, sitting at the dinner table, when the other friend cracks some inside joke, of which you are clearly on the outside, or "remembers when" to a time of which for the life of you, you just cannot remember (until, oh yes, you can't remember because it happened on that warm vacation to which you weren't invited).

Those times stink, the times when you are reminded that your friends' lives don't revolve around you, and they do, in fact, have other friends.

Then, one time, you went out to dinner with your besties - multiple sets of besties - and you cracked the inside joke about the New Year's party and you remembered the time at the lakehouse when you both thought you were brave enough to swim across the lake until a storm blew up, and you turned around for home.

And about the time you were turning around in the middle of the lake, you saw your friend's face fall just a bit, as she realized she wasn't there and this wasn't her story and so, for five or ten minutes, it feels like she's not cool enough or loved enough and maybe you do love your lakehouse friends more (no! wait! I love them all!)

That's when you realize that if your heart's capacity is big enough for your lakehouse friends, drop-in friends, workout friends, laugh-at-nothing-and-everything friends, then maybe their heart is that big, too. 

And if you genuinely love all those friends and value them for all the unique ways they make your life rich, then they probably value you and love you that much, too.

So, the next time they talk about that warm, sunny vacation, maybe you'll feel a twinge of jealousy, but it will quickly depart as you smile, sit back, listen and love that your friends all get to give and receive so much love - from you and many others. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wash the Dishes: Memory and Legacy

We washed. We dried. We put away.

This was the 2-3 times daily ritual of the dishes, led by a grandchild, always participated in by Nana.

Oh, she had a dishwasher, but rarely did she use it except for the big holiday meals and whenever else she got a hankering for its sanitizing power. Nana seemed to prefer the handwashing.

Or maybe she just preferred the time with her grandchildren, all working together, suds and dishtowels, the stool that made me tall enough to join in, plunging my hands into the warm water filling that yellow, porcelain sink.

This is one of my sharpest, most distinct memories with Nana. We worked together, sometimes after breakfast, lunch and dinner, before plenty of game-playing, bowling or a trip to the Bingo hall, where we read our own books while they played (or, best of all, when she snuck us one of her Bingo cards where, if we won, she yelled "Bingo!" for us since, after all, we were under 18). We went to the movies, to the mall, to the park. We spent countless nights over at her house, joining Pop's ritual watching of Wheel of Fortune after an early dinner.

Before the meal that dirtied the dishes, there were leaves. Yes, the dreaded leaves. And pine straw.

We gathered up the needed supplies - gloves, rakes, trash bags, the wheelbarrow from the shed - and knew that you had to stoop low enough to get all the leaves from under the bushes or Pop would surely notice and make you go back and get them later. We knew not to stop into Ms. Jones' yard lest she see you on her property and give you the evil eye.

We worked together a lot.

And you know, these times were good to us. Could it be that now, because of those dishes and leaves, I understand the joy and camaraderie of working alongside those you love ? When Susan and I spend hours weeding in the garden, don't we have some of the best and often unexpected conversations there?

My Nana gave this to me; this is her legacy. She taught us work. She taught us togetherness. She showed us family.