Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revelment Recollections

Mama knows how to make the most delicious pie crusts. They're perfect. Never burnt, too crunchy, bland or dry. I always eat the crusts, maybe choose a slice with a little extra. 

Whatever unlucky fowl graces our table is given the utmost respect, moist and savory, inspiring a healthy Blanchard nap. There is nothing mundane or predictable about my Mama's turkey -- if anything is worth doing, she'll do it 100%. I am not surprised if the turkeys think to themselves, "Well, if I have to go like this, I'd like to go with her..."

And it seems before we've finished folding the whipped cream into the ambrosia, we've folded Thanksgiving Day into the Christmas season. 

I can smell the cinnamon, molasses, pumpkin and pecans. I can see the piles of mini pecan pies, the perfectly cracked and sugar-dusted molasses cookies (my Daddy's favorite?), the explosively beautiful and delicious Russian teacakes. I can help with the miniature loaves of cranberry orange bread, wrapped in red or green cellophane and tied with curly ribbons to share with friends and neighbors. 

I can hear Handel's Messiah... 

Bells jingle and packages come with ringing doorbells. Each year the shopping is a little more mature and well-thought, and every year our littlest brother is more passionate about giving whatever he has, totally from the deepest recesses of his heart, for he knows of no other way of giving. 

I love to sit awake after everyone's gone to bed but me and my Sister, and we turn out all the lights but the Christmas tree ones, and we sit like a tree skirt and read or write with pets curled at our feet. Those white lights are mesmerizing, and they twinkle like stars telling promises for the fulfillment of prophecies ages old...we still wait for some fulfillment.

The sky ripped in two one year when we had a Christmas without our Daddy -- his work for the world peace got in the way. And we celebrated the Prince of Peace in our living room and missed our Daddy, but we were blessed beyond measure and he returned us for many more years. 

I bring hot tea and honey in a travel cup to sing Christmas melodies with my Sister harmonizing at midnight, or celebrate the body of Christ brought down to man in an enormous, awe-inspiring cathedral with my Brother. 

I don't know what made me think I could live without Christmas. I was a fool for a year or so ... and still am in other ways!

It's not the day itself, or the gifts, or even the traditions, but the sights and sounds and smells. The melodies and memories. The celebration of our deepest hopes, answers to prayers, promises for the future. How can we live without a celebration of the past, a gratitude for the present, and a hope for the future? 

I am bowed down low in gratitude that harmony rings through the halls when I go home for Christmas. I am so thankful that it's where my heart is happiest. I ache for those who dread the season for its threat of sheer togetherness. I can never be thankful enough, nor ever forget the blessing of having a wonderful beloved family and many surrogate families who embrace me like I'm one of them. Both a house and a Home to go to. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

House of Words

"She has a fever of 101. You're going to have to come pick her up and take her home."

"He had a crazy outburst and starting cussing out his coworkers. I was gonna fire him then and there but instead I told him to go home and get his head on straight."

"I forgot my heels, I came to work in flip flops! I'm going to have to go home on my lunch break to get different shoes."

"I didn't know whether to call the neighbor or the locksmith when I got locked out of my house."

"Well ... we could have it at my place next time."

"I didn't want this day to end. I didn't want to go home because that meant I had to go without you."

"My place is a mess."

I was homeschooled.

"He couldn't find anyone to talk to so he just went home."

"I couldn't stop crying, so I just decided to drive home ... but I didn't get very far before I had to pull over."

"I'll do anything, just don't make me go home, please. I'm miserable at home."

It was one of the longest days of my life. I couldn't wait to go home. Then I realized that Home was too far away, and I'd have to wait another couple months before I could enjoy those comforts.

"You're kidding me, he still lives at home with his parents?"

She came and sat in the coffee shop until it closed because there was trouble at home.

She only really truly felt like herself at home.

I'll help you find your new home!

He made me feel so at home.

"Daddy will be home in an hour!"

It's time to go home.


My obsession with the concept is not veiled. Nor is it unwarranted. While I spent many of my formative years at home being homeschooled with my siblings, I also spent the first 18 years of my life moving from one dwelling space to the next. At just about the three-year mark, we knew it was time to pull up the stakes of our household and move to the next place. Still to this day there runs within us this relentless internal clock that chimes on the third year and stirs up all the dregs of restlessness. It's a habit we all own that tells us it's time to get a move on -- we've been sitting still too long.

We love to remember the movers packing us, progressing from room to room. After packing the three floor to ceiling bookshelves in the dining room, perhaps a couple shelves from the bedroom too, they moved into the school room off the kitchen and found a cupboard there. One guy questioned the other in Spanish: "What's in that cabinet?"


"Libros?!?!" I think they thought we were the Imelda Marcos of books. Perhaps they felt the task was endless, that maybe they were trying to pack a haunted trick house that led them through one cabinet into another bookshelf through the passage into a corridor of books leading to the Library.

Yeah, you could've built our family a house out of books. Words explained the patterns of the past, challenged our status quo in the present, and taught us to prepare our minds for the future. Words made us work, they let us play, helped us bond or de-stress or distract. A home town was impossible to come by for our hearts, so we made ourselves at home in the pages of the books that seemed at times to hold the walls up in our myriad homes.

Our Daddy taught us never to lay our books down, open-faced. That would be placing unwarranted stress on the binding. That spine was the lifeline of a good read. We handled with care and dared not to dog-ear a page or two.

At home there are, at times, subjects and themes which must be handled with care. We all have sensitivities that must not be bent, or we might break. Usually, our families know these points. At our worst moments, we may try to push the spine to the limit of its flexibility. We might push our family member until the binding cracks. A page or two may flutter down. We may have to help put one another back together with clear tape, or glue made for book-binding. God forbid we get the sheets out of order during the repair.

We have a history with one another. We have a history that cannot be explained. It must be explored. If you want to understand the past, you'll need to enter in to the present. You'll need to wait patiently as the history lesson unfolds, layer upon layer. Read it well, and do not presume to understand the ending until you've gotten to the beginning.

There may be fictional tales, but our favorites are most likely the allegories -- those kind which tell another story between the lines of the details on the pages.

In our home, we grew up with shelves of books in another language. Our Daddy provided for us via this life in another language, interpreting governmental conversations. None of us could pretend to keep up, but we loved the mystery of occasionally listening in, or begging him to tell us what the Russian guys in the movie were really saying. Too bad ... it's not always quite so enchanting to understand the foreign language that sometimes seems to be prevailing at home between family members. Our words run straight past the understanding of our blood relatives. Did I miss the sign-up sheet for this immersion course?

From where I sit, I see verbalization as a way of building a strong house, never to be blown down by fairy tale hungry wolves. I build sense of nonsense. I form pillars and smooth, stable walls where once was shaken rubble and crumbling, regrettable stones. It may seem formless and void to another, but finally the homelessness I felt a moment ago has been transformed into a practical if imaginative shelter, and I cuddle under the covers created by memories woven together with new experiences. The finished tapestry will make sense to you someday, too. I hope you think it's a beauty.

I wish you could go home with me. I wish I knew where home is. I want to take you there with me, so you can know the depths of the joy of my life.

For now, the landmarks I have to share with you will remain in the letters that I strike out on the laptop keys. My parents were wise to raise us under the warm shelter of stacks and stacks of books: concepts are all we take and keep. Stories and pages might have lifted us out of the material world longer than some find comfortable, but the realities in the pages held faster than most of the "real life" we encountered day-to-day. The untouchable is all that will touch us with indelibility. The soul-sharing will bind us together for eternity, wherever the geography dictates, whatever our hands can't hold on to.

Maybe one day we'll all speak the universal language. We'll know the story of the person beside us from beginning to end, and we'll know just how to help them finish the chapter they're working on. Every line will make a masterpiece.

Even then, I bet you we will find our best shelter is under the Word. Let it be your Cornerstone even now.