Stalking a Parent and Other Adventures

Sometimes you may happen to be napping off the cold medicine you took the night before, and wake to the realization that it is nearly 5:30 PM and you are SLEEPING THE DAY AWAY, so you rise hurriedly and glance out your window at the road and spot someone very dear to you crossing the street to the sidewalk that leads to the football field.

Some people, you muse to yourself as you pull on your tennis shoes with a huff, are worth getting out of bed for.

You bolt down the stairs and out the door, tracking, at a safe distance, your father’s steps (for the Dear One happens to be your father). He’s a fast walker, despite his slight portliness, but you resist the urge to jog and catch up. You take the time to walk behind, just thinking nice things and being happy you got out of your bed. Finally, you see up ahead that one of your father’s colleagues, out on an evening stroll of his own, has detained him.

How lucky for me, you think, thanking your lucky stars that Dr. Whats-his-face is out perambulating when he is. Still, he doesn’t detain your old man as long as you’d hoped, and before you know it, there’s a widening gap between you and the Aged P. You take a risk at the crosswalk and skirt an impatient driver who’d like to turn, and try to justify yourself for having delayed a stranger.

Enough is enough, and you begin to jog, eyes trained on your quarry, who has no idea that his offspring is behind him getting ready to pounce. Just as you draw within 20 feet of the target, a silver car pulls up and your mom opens the door for your dad to get in. You’ve been foiled by your own mother, driver of the Getaway Car. You walk over, say hey to them both, and pretend you were only out for a jog, and only happened to have been trailing your father for half a mile.

On your way back to campus, you notice how lovely the evening is, remembering how you love this time of year and this time of day. You’ve just learned this morning a new word, crepuscular, meaning (more-or-less) “something that is only active at dawn or dusk.” You like all sorts of times of day, but it occurs to you that maybe your favorites are crepuscular.

The only times of day you question the worth of are the wee hours of the morning. You have something of a Nathanaelic attitude toward them: “Can any good come out of 3 AM?” Probably there are some wonders you have never witnessed which occur only for the night owls of this world.

Two sensations, one unpleasant and the other good, come to your mind at the thought of 4 AM. The unpleasantness is from memories of staying up to finish papers and assignments, when you’ve worked through the night out of desperate necessity and the last 2 1/2 hours have taken twice as long as they should have because your brain is in stupid mode and keeps trying to hibernate every 10 minutes like your computer.

Seeing the sunrise in that mood gives you a nauseous feeling, wherein all hope sinks to the bottom of your stomach as you realize the day has reset and you haven’t rested.

The other sensation is a lovely one, experienced most often when you are rising early for a trip or an adventure. Once, for example, you arose quite early to meet the passenger train carrying your sister home from college. You felt an excitement immediately upon feeling the morning air (the air in the wee hours of the morning is different from any other time), and you got to the train station in the dark, a few moths flying around the hazy streetlight in the “bad part of town.”

When a freight train came, it brought the breeze with it, and the loudness and the largeness of its motion stimulated every part of you into a calm but acute wakefulness. You felt like standing up on tiptoe, and in a moment the train had gone, leaving you suddenly hungry for chocolate milk and donuts, ready to face the coming, long day.

In the present, you begin to have a vague sense of being followed, and as you glance cautiously behind you, you see your dad’s colleague, Dr. Whats-his-face, coming up fast on your right. He’s walk-jogging in the parking lot parallel to you, and it’s evident he means to overtake you before the parking lot ends and he’s forced to get behind you, slowing him down. You grin, and for a minute subtly increase your pace in an attempt to beat him to the point of convergence, but, like your dad, Dr. Whats-his-face is danged fast and has longer legs than you do.

So you slow down and continue gawking at the early spring. Some birds are singing, and a strange image hits you that won’t leave your mind. It’s just that, if all of reality were a cartoon, and somehow God were a more dignified Mickey Mouse showing you what He’d made, you’d be an utterly happy (but just as undignified) Goofy, shaking your silly head and marveling, “Garsh.”


Caring for Daffodils

I’ve just gotten back from my house, where I watched a sweet, sad movie called Random Harvest with my family. The movie was terribly sweet, and terribly sad, and I cried three times during it. It was lovely.

This whole day was lovely–a reprieve from the Very Busy Person that school’s made of me for the past few weeks. And while a journal entry about the lovely Saturday I had isn’t the most interesting topic for a blog, it feels somehow worth recording. I’d like to remember this Saturday when I’m seventy. So, to whichever of Jo’s mental capacities is in charge of what memories to keep around for the next five decades, I’m telling you: keep this one, please.

I played soccer with my sister’s friends and, while I was not good, and while one of the little girls honestly resigned herself to the prospect of being on my team with “Well, I guess I’ll be doing all the work,” I did try. I ran. I hustled. I tried. And it felt glorious.

Before the soccer, I’d gone home to enjoy the beautiful, spring-ish weather. My dad was clearing vines and dead leaves from a flower bed, and offered me the clippers, telling me that anything was fair game–except the blueberry. Maybe don’t cut down the blueberry, he said. So I didn’t.

I started reflecting on things while I was crouched down in the flower bed, in among the daffodils and wild onions, clearing out the dead leaves and rot, but oh-so-carefully lest I pull up something blooming. It felt so good to get my hands dirty with something clearly useful, instead of running around like a headless chicken trying to meet a bunch of deadlines. I felt so tired of school–and I like learning. I have just gotten tired, lately.

It felt good to be working with my hands instead of working for a grade. I like the prospect of clearing away dead things to make room for green, living things. It’s what I want to be known for–valuing life, helping others, caring for small things. In a small way, it’s what I’m trying to do with those abstract papers and theses and schoolwork–trying to work out what is life-giving, and what ideas are worth living and dying for.

I think people are worth living and dying for.  Maybe more so than ideas. And I’m just rambling now–probably the movie I watched is helping me be more emotional than I’d be otherwise–but goodness. I would like to love people better than I do; to be more concerned with helping them grow and with giving them life than with anything else I can think of. I’d rather not think so much of who all recognizes me or knows my name or whether I am ever famous. What I want to do with my life is clear away some of the rot and help the daffodils grow. You’ve got to be careful with daffodils, if you really like them.

This is pure emotion talking now, and I’m sorry if I’m not making much logical sense. But when I was standing there in the daffodils, I was watching my parents talk with our new neighbors. There were kids all over our yard–my sister and her friends, the neighbors’ children. I was proud to be my parents’ daughter, because my mom and dad were just being themselves, getting to know someone new. Being kind is such a quiet thing, mostly.

Tomorrow’s Sunday, and I don’t know what you think about church. If you don’t go, I hope and pray you find somewhere you can go. If you do go to church, I have a request for you. Please, please. Find someone you don’t know much at all–maybe someone you’ve never even met. And ask them their name. And if they’re shy, well, then, be careful and extra kind, but don’t give up. Tell them your name, and tell them how glad you are that they came. Try to get to know someone, if you can.

That movie I watched tonight was about memory, about loss and restoration, and how sometimes we miss people without even knowing it. About how precious life is. Curiously enough, those things are also what my senior thesis aims to be about (although technically I’m taking a break from that this weekend so I shouldn’t even mention it).

Life is precious.