Sunday, April 28, 2013

Magnolia In Bloom

It's the perfect day for a wedding. The sky is blue and clear, the air is balmy, and our magnolia tree is in bloom.

When my friend and I were younger, we used to marry our stuffed animals under this tree. Teddy and Mocha one Saturday, Blueberry and Choco the next. We gathered all the dish towels and laid out a pathway. As the groom leaned proudly against the tree waiting for his bride, one of us walked the bride down the aisle while the other followed behind, tossing magnolia petals. 

Teddy and Mocha renewed their vows many a time under this tree. They seem to still be going strong. They never argue. Then again, Teddy is quite an agreeable fellow. All the stuffing in his neck went down to his stomach; it's turned him into quite the "yes man." 

With the magnolia tree in bloom, I'm reminded of where I am in my life right now. I see the magnolia flowers, so full and confident. I'm still a bud, inching my way open. One of these springs I will bloom with the magnolia flowers. That will be a glorious spring.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Brother's Sweatshirt

I don't know why I took off my sweatshirt today to put on Owen's. Maybe it's because Mother Nature once again swept spring out from under our feet and guy sweatshirts are so much better than girl sweatshirts––baggy, warm, big enough to curl up into a ball under. Owen's now big enough that I can fit into his sweatshirts, even though he's younger than me. Maybe it's because he's my brother, and it was comforting. Maybe it's both.

Tonight was one of those nights I love my brother, and I feel like I need to say it because there are times I have to remind myself that I do. Last night was one of those nights, too. The saying, "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" seems to be written for siblings. I don't know what it was last night or tonight, but I just appreciated him.

I've realized that I like taking care of Owen, but only when he doesn't expect it. I like the mornings when I make him his PB&J on Scali bread with Skippy® peanut butter, sealed in a ziplock bag instead of plastic wrap. Two lemonade juice boxes chilled in the freezer. Something crunchy. Something sweet. Peanut butter crackers or a granola bar if he's staying after school. I like making him eggs at 11:30pm when he's gotten home late from a basketball game. I like when he asks me what sneakers he should wear in the morning, even though I don't have an opinion. Usually, I even like struggling over a math problem together.

I guess what I liked the past two days is that he didn't have any of his friends to act cool around. He didn't have to act like he was too cool for his big sister.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

If You Believe
66ยบ today and sunny. My little cousin was over, and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather to have some quality cousin-bonding time––or maybe just to put off cleaning my room for another few hours. was the bonding time.

She ran ahead and wanted to balance on every curb, pick every flower, and say hello to everyone. She asked everyone their names and then proceeded to introduce herself and me to all those who stopped to acknowledge her chirpy three-year-old voice. She grew tired on the way home, so I carried her. She was fascinated by our moving shadows as we walked under the sun.

"Look, it's us!" she exclaimed. We waved to our shadows and then made bunny hand puppets, narrating as they hopped along.

"I got to go!" she voiced.

"Me too. I need to go eat some carrots!" I said, playing along.

"I need...I need...I need to go eat some carrot cake!" She laughed.

"That's right, you liked the carrot cake Yaya made at Easter," I said.

"Yup. I ate it all up. I want some when we get home."

"Carrot cake?"


"I don't think there's any carrot cake at home," I said.

"Yes there is. Yaya gave me some to take home after Easter!" Easter was two and half weeks ago, mind you.

"I don't think it will be there anymore," I said.

"Yes there is. I believe!" she said, throwing her grass-stained arms up in the air.

In the mind of a three-year-old, if you believe hard enough, anything can happen. What a wonderful idea.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Right or Wrong

I went to a talk last week at my church. The man speaking quoted the wise words of his wife, which were that if you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to convince yourself something is right, then you should probably get yourself out of whatever that thing is.

I find I have the opposite problem. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself something is wrong. If something seems right, then there has to be something wrong about it. There just has to be.

But why? Why can't I just let myself be happy? Let myself enjoy whatever that thing is?

Right and wrong is so black and white. How many things can truly be one or the other?

As Hamlet said in Shakespeare's famous tragedy, Hamlet, "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (II.ii.234-235). It is we who label something as right or wrong, good or bad. As a whole, historically the human race has felt inclined to separate the world into two black and white categories. We've targeted different races as "good" or "bad." We've captured different body types as "desirable" or "undesirable." We've labeled different foods as "healthy" or "unhealthy." Yet, few of what we categorize remains under that label forever. Our opinions change; our tastes change; our scope of knowledge changes. After the Civil War allowed African Americans to be accepted in America, we turned to the Natives; the question of slavery quickly changed to "the Native question." There was a time when a full-figured woman was desirous, but for many girls today, "thin is in." Potatoes used to keep families fulfilled for months, but now it's been blacklisted under the form of french fries and potato chips.

Why do these things change? Is it possible that no race is "good" or "bad?" (gasp.) Is it possible that there's no "perfect figure?" Is it possible that in moderation, potatoes–even in the form of french fries and potato chips–are okay? So, can anything really be labeled as right or wrong? Good or bad? Desirable or undesirable?

I think the reason why we are inclined to put a label on things is because it's comforting. In a chaotic world where everything is flying around us a mile a minute, it's comforting to be able to put something in black or white. Things get lost in gray. I can tell myself, "No. I will not eat those Oreos because the health magazine tells me processed foods are bad for me." Easy. If I want a "good figure", I just have to stay away from foods that are "bad" for me. (Just an example, by the way. I love Oreos.)

But "good" versus "bad" gets even more complicated when it turns into "right" versus "wrong." If there's anything that cannot be cast in black or white, it's emotions. I ask myself on a weekly basis–sometimes daily–if what I'm feeling is "wrong." But how can what anyone feels be wrong? "Well, my religion says this." "My parents say this." "My friends say this."

I need to learn to stop worrying about what everyone thinks. I need to think for myself, and sometimes, just not think. I need to stop labeling everything as "right" or "wrong." I need to just live. And if something feels right, not question it.

A few posts ago I said to never stop questioning the world around you. True. Except your heart. Never question your heart.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Big Bay Window

My house is the same house my mom grew up in. She says she never really liked the house or felt that "home sweet home" attachment, with its cramped rooms and dark hallways. Out of everything, she most fondly remembers the kitchen pantry, stocked with Goldfish and French's fried onion bits and whatever else satisfied her salty cravings.

She moved away, but thirty years later she is back in that house, with her own family. The dining room is now just an extension of the living room. The wall between the TV room and kitchen has been knocked down, and the TV room now holds the kitchen table and a couch for company, so they can sit and chat while we try to casually carry on a conversation while waiting for the ham we put in the oven an hour too late.

I'm not sure if I feel any strong attachment to my house. It's hard to know because I've never really been away. But I know that when I leave, one thing I will remember is the big window in what used to be the TV room: the big bay window.

I will remember the years Mom decorated that window with phrases wishing passerby the joys of the current season, properly accented with flowers or snowflakes or falling leaves. I will remember the giant ceramic Jack-O-Lantern that smiled at trick-or-treaters from the windowsill. I will remember all the singing snowmen from Hallmark that took the Jack-O-Lantern's place during the Christmas season.

Why will I remember all this? Because the big bay window looks into the kitchen, and it is the first thing I see upon returning home. There is nothing more comforting than when I pull into the driveway to see the kitchen lit up, Mom or someone else standing over the stove. I love to see my dog's perked ears as she stands on the couch, deciding whether or not she needs to warn the house of intruders.

When I come home from college in a few years I will pull into the driveway and see the big bay window, and I will know I am home. Inside a loaf of bread will be in the oven and my dog will greet me with happy barks. At least that is how I will remember it.

What do you remember most–or think you will most remember–about your childhood house?