There is much on my mind this Christmas Day, including the great joy to have my little family together and the deep sorrow for friends experiencing great loss, and my best response is to share three short poems from Howard Thurman’s “The Mood of Christmas” — a unity in trinity:
Christmas Is Yesterday:
The memories of childhood,
The miracle of Santa Claus,
The singing of carols —
The glow of being remembered.
Christmas Is Today:
The presence of absent ones,
The reminder of the generous act,
The need to love —
The need to be loved.
Christmas Is Tomorrow:
The miracle of faith,
The fulfillment of ancient hopes,
The reign of God —
The dying of Death in the land.
Christmas is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
We crossed the Mississippi River bridge in Memphis in the rental car, ironically a Malibu, and remembered what the Arkansas Delta looks like in early winter. Many of the trees had long ago shed their leaves leaving cold bare branches that reach toward the sky, and those still holding leaves that had only recently been brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges had faded to the color of rust and stood clustered together for warmth next to the brown dirt of the silent farmland. The winter sun was setting, and it looked as if someone had plastic-wrapped the entire pastel sky. It isn’t your typical picture of natural beauty, but I now find it strangely wonderful.
It was good to spend time in my hometown. Seeing family and old friends was special as expected, but there was something special about just being there, too. I don’t miss temperatures in the upper twenties even a little bit, but it was even refreshing to remember what home felt like on my skin once upon a time. I went for a seven-mile run one morning that gave me a good long time to remember.
My wife and I went for a drive one afternoon to remember more. We drove by her first workplace and the places we lived together and even Joel and Alicia’s apartment where we spent many an evening in the early days of our relationship sitting on the couch and talking and falling in love.
And then we drove to the grave sites of my sweet parents. I used to make a point to do this alone on each visit home to talk to them; first, my dad, who died so long ago, and then more recently to both of them, sort of like I would go to their bedroom seeking comfort following a childhood nightmare in the middle of the night—comforting even when I couldn’t see their faces. But this time I went with my beautiful wife. We walked across the crunchy leaves under a cold sun and stood there as a couple — as my parents were a couple once upon a memory. There was nothing really to do other than stare at the flowers and the name plates and silently wonder where the years go and what to think about it. It was good to stand there together, like my parents who also made the choice in life to stand together. And who now Rest In Peace together.
I developed a strong sense that someone has pressed pretty hard on life’s accelerator and that the years are really starting to fly by now. It may sound a little spooky to say such a thing, but strangely enough I find it to be a most peaceful feeling. Life is quite the ride, and fear now seems like such a waste of precious time.
I think my parents are telling me this as I still stand by their bedside in the darkness.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged arkansas, cemetery, children, comfort, death, family, fear, home, hometown, life, marriage, memories, parents, peace, time, winter
My office sits in the middle of Seaver College where a few thousand students will take final exams this week. Just up the hill in the world I inhabited for the past nine years are hundreds of law students sitting for final exams this week, too. Meanwhile, my youngest daughter is facing final exams in her study abroad experience six thousand miles away.
But I’m happy as can be. Been there, done that, as cool people used to say (and obviously I still do).
Well, there is the tiniest bit of guilt at the lack of cumulative examinations in my own life. No, my bad, I think that was just a little indigestion. I’m good now.
It has been interesting to compare the way the bulk of undergraduate students and law students cope with the stresses of finals season. One set apparently prefers letting stress go through singing loudly and/or funny Internet videos while the other likes to curl up in a fetal position and cry. I’ll let you guess which is which.
My job is and has been to offer kind smiles in the general direction of the test-takers wherever they happen to be. It is good work that seems to be appreciated.
I guess this reflects life in general. Sometimes you face testing. Sometimes you are off the hook. When the latter applies, encourage the former. It has been my experience that you will appreciate it when it is your turn to be tested.
“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” – Maya Angelou
At week’s end I intend to be two thousand miles away from home to attend the homecoming basketball game of my high school alma mater. Pretty weird, huh, to leave home to come home? My life has turned out like that.
I am at home in California, and I have a driver’s license and mailing address and license plates to prove it. California is where everything I own in this world is located. It is where I live and work and go to sleep at night. California is filled with relationships and experiences and places that I treasure. I know it like the back of my hand and love it here. Home is where you hang your hat, and my hat hangs in California.
But Arkansas has always been my home. It is the land of my birth. Born, and raised. Arkansas is where I fell in love and became both a husband and a father, and it is where both of my sweet parents were laid to rest. Arkansas is filled with relationships and experiences and places that I treasure. I know it like the back of my other hand, and I love it there. You can never really leave home, so I never really left Arkansas.
Arkansas and California could not be more different if they tried. And I’m pretty sure that they do. But they are both dear to me.
It promises to be a strange week. I haven’t lived in Arkansas in twenty years and only visit on rare occasions, and I could not tell you the last time I watched the Falcons play a homecoming basketball game despite having participated in so many of them in years that are now long gone. But I will feel at home there, because that is where I will be. Home.
Pliny the Elder famously said that home is where the heart is. Well, my heart has two homes.
I will leave my love for Mississippi for another day.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged arkansas, basketball, california, cra, crowley's ridge academy, falcons, heart, home, homecoming, love, maya angelou, paragould, pliny the elder