Sunday, April 17, 2011

...sweet tea and precious memories

We came together in childhood, each of us one part confidante, one part bearer of secrets that we dared not whisper. Saturday movies were followed by sandwiches, cherry Cokes, and Archie comic books. Friday night pajama parties were filled with ghost stories and the dreams of young girls. Later we painted our nails, rolled our hair, talked about boys. We danced and asked the eternal question: "Paul? Or John?" We practiced kissing...our pillows. We giggled. We cried. We had spats and forgot why. On weekdays, carpools and afternoon play dates brought us together. New frontiers opened one Christmas morning when the pink princess telephone was unwrapped. We lay on rugs by our beds, our feet propped against the mattresses. Or we curled up in overstuffed chairs, the receiver tucked between shoulder and ear. Endless more hours were filled with talk...and the admonitions of parents to "hang up that thing NOW!" On Sundays we went to church where a succession of women met with us in small rooms. They spoke to us of Jesus and the Golden Rule. Told their stories. Taught us to pray and reminded us to keep our knees together when seated.

We've met occasionally in the intervening years. In groups of two or three, we've sat at tables, on porches, in cars or restaurants. And we've looked into each other's eyes, touched hands, hugged as if time stood still. Some secrets spilled. Others wait, perhaps to surface at some yet-to-be-discovered intersection. Life has molded, stripped, chastened, brutalized us at times. But each of us wears our battle scars with the soft grace of one who knows she has survived. Redemption. Teachers of our youth, please know that we heard you. We can still diagram a sentence and know why this is important. We practice critical thinking, a skill that took root in your classrooms. You who pointed us to the immutable Rock of Ages, hear this: We know that we are loved. We have tried to love others. And we pray to all that is good. Without ceasing. In carpools. At the kitchen sink. On our knees. Sometimes face down on our prayer rugs: the oriental carpet in the living room, the kilim in the den, or the bathmat. We have knelt in countless sanctuaries to discover the sanctuary that rests within.

All these decades later we remain Southern sisters, bound not by blood but by spirit. Sown in us are are survivors' genes. We are the heirs of immigrants. Unequal in ledgers but not in our love for each other. During the dark days of the Civil War, some of our antecedents buried family silver while others hid the milk cow and chickens. Too many wars have followed, each succeeding generation keeping vigil, waiting for agonizingly slow letter from loved ones hunkered down in foreign feilds. Then, watching battles broadcast live during dinner. We now go to war with men. We have buried children, parents, husbands, and dreams. We have danced at weddings. And fed funeral crowds.

These days we regale each other with stories of children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. We remember those who are no longer with us in life. And recall the Southern men who shaped us, the Southern boys with whom we flirted. Roles have reversed. We have diapered our mothers and learned from our children. We are women who have born our griefs privately. But tears have surfaced in reunion, a baptism of renewal and awareness. Because we know that time is precious. Much more rests behind than stretches before us. Our laughter is sweeter for this. Our tears do not flow from wells of self-pity but from fountains of blessings. Our edges have been softened by sadness and grief. But inside - where it counts - our cores are strong. Whether prompted by wisdom or fatigue, we have let go of much. Except our Clinique makeup and good books. We may not like our aging necks but we wrap them in pearls. And we are daring. We wear white before Easter if the mood strikes...or if everything else needs ironing.

Our playgrounds have changed but our lives are forever woven together. Immediacy is now measured in megabytes. Our words are chosen carefully, spoken more gently, but our declarations are more honest. We are works in progress. So, my sisters of the southland, here's to lunches in tea rooms or around kitchen tables. To afternoons on porches, conversation punctuated by "More sweet tea?" To evenings in a swing by the rose gardens or gathered around candlelit tables. Most of all, here's to us. Storms of life may have ripped open our hearts and ravaged our spirit. The valleys may have been deep. But these moments have made us stronger...hopefully not harder. Tears, like summer showers, have softened our our firmament and filled us to overflowing. May rivers of living waters flow through us, sweet channels of blessings. 

Like the roses, azaleas, and dogwoods that populate 
the gentle rolling landscape of our childhood, we have bloomed. 
And we will again for we are the daughters of spring. 

Bless our hearts...please. 


GretchenJoanna said...

What a loving testament to the women in your life, and to God who gave them to you. It sounds as though the South will always be your home, as much as we can have one here on earth.

Celeste said...

Thank you! My Southern roots are deep. However, wherever I've traveled, I've met incredible people and made lasting relationships. I embrace my portable roots as well as diversity! Above all, God is good.