Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh, How I Miss Reverb

Reverb 2010: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

Ok, so I skipped this one last month. Let's just say it is because I was holding out to see if my fairy godmother Merriweather would stop by long enough to wave her wand over me and say: Muffintop, be gone!

But however much I still want that to happen, she has yet to show. Maybe it was because it snowed on Christmas night and the inches were much deeper than she was tall. Or she got stuck in the ice storm the next week. Or maybe Princess Aurora finally started behaving like a true adolescent, leaving poor Merriweather with her hands full. Or maybe she did show, and her gifts to me in fact were the afternoon naps I was able to snag during all that ice and snow. She did give dear Princess A. her own longwinter's nap, after all. 

Truth is, I have been thinking about this gift thing for awhile now, and it is so hard to pin down one that has been most memorable. The writing? Yes, that's been a wonderful gift, something I felt I had lost for awhile, but now, my blog stats are falling in the New Year because I am not posting, and something tells me I have to actually keep it up. So this gift has come with beautiful ribbons tied so tightly to it that they are impossible to unknot. 

But what about something else? There was the pocketbook my children gave me, the charms I got from my husband, but I'm thinking, that though I love those things, it must a gift I haven't thought of. Tangible or emotional, the questions reads. 

Was it the hour on Christmas Eve, when I sat in the pew with my husband and all of my children — together for the first time in months — listening to the choir and the trumpets and the harp? 

Or our beach week, when I woke every day to the sunrise over the Atlantic, was able to sit with my daughter and know that we had space to breathe in the ocean air and laugh and dance and that at the end of our week, neither one of us would be leaving the other on a NYC street corner, crying in the cab?

Could it have been sharing a hot dog with my father at his favorite stand, knowing that he always orders a Chicago dog (mustard, chili, onions and slaw) and because it is his favorite place, it became mine, too, long ago, and my children's, too?

Might it have been the $150 in cash my rector handed me a few days before Christmas, and learning that someone in our parish gave — anonymously — the same to every single person on our staff, because of jobs well done?

Surely, wasn't it also watching my son walk out the door, suit coat in hand, headed to his first career job, knowing I had a small part in helping him find his path?

And then there were the times when funny three-year-old Cheney and her her super cool three-year-old friend Davis ran to me, their arms open wide, and said: whatchadoin' Sooze?

Or was it when we laughed til our hearts hurt at the dining room table with our friends as they searched their DROIDS for the best song ever — (how do you compare the Allman Brothers with Bill Deal and the Rondels, really?) —  and then sang it, loudly, with our grown children in the next room at the grown-up kiddie table, laughing at us. And later when my Pea said she hoped one day to have good friends like that? Was it that?

Couldn't it have been watching my mother make the turkey gravy at Thanksgiving with my grandmother's gravy spoon, worn on one edge because she always stirred, holding it just the same way?

Was it finding out that my sister, at age 6, skipped first grade one day, curling herself up in the gnarled old roots of a giant oak tree, after she crossed a highway by herself — by herself! — because her teacher had been mean to her too many days before? Or watching my husband and children open the paintings I gave them of the dogs... yes, that was a gift. Surely it was time spent with Boone and Martha, with Hilda Kay and Cloos' Club and in the purple room and sailing with my husband (though I didn't do it nearly enough), and walking the dog and reading in my napping room. 

Will all these things be the gifts I will remember for 2010? They each made my year memorable, to be sure.

But maybe it is this one, the one that brought tears to my eyes at the end of the year, given to me in a purple a bag by my purple room friend, with these words:  When I saw this I thought of you, because you have to be, to accomplish all you plan to do in 2011. It's the piece of a puzzle, and Lord knows I am that. One side just says: I AM. The other says this: BRAVE. I AM BRAVE.

Well. I am not, but my friend thinks I am and maybe I need to look back and see what I said I'd do this year that made her think so. 

No. I am not brave. Brave is our boy Ryan in Afghanistan. Brave is my friend with cancer. Brave is my first grade sister. Brave is that woman in Arizona who took the shooter's ammunition away

Brave is 'fessing up and facing it, changing direction even though the wind is trying hard to blow you a different way. Brave is ditching the excuses. Doing the harder thing. It is telling the truth to yourself before you try it with anybody else., I am not there yet. Not even the tiniest bit close. But it makes me feel just a little bit braver knowing my friend thinks I am. I have been brave before, a few times in my life. But these days not so much. But could I be again?

Put the puzzle piece somewhere you'll see it every day, Lee said. So it's on my key ring. And a million times a day as I fiddle with my keys in search of the right one, every now and then that little piece of puzzle that is BRAVE will pop, reminding me that maybe I can be brave again, and that one day the piece of the puzzle that is me might just fit.