A Letter to “Family,”

I was born into a traveling family. Growing up I struggled with issues of identity and loss. What was home? What was this nagging sense of displacement?

I remember traveling in Italy as a young child and looking for the face of my grandmother in the crowd–despite my knowledge that she was not there. There was no chance that my middle-aged grandmother had jetted off for a Roman holiday in the spring of 1977

I had family members who I loved who did and said and believed things I did not. I found their beliefs deeply painful. How could I love them but not their way of seeing the world?

I settled on loving them but not the faults in their world views, and uneasy, precarious compromise, and one I have not much improved upon in all the years since.I struggle with disappointment in the collective institution of “family,” just as I have with “church,” “friendship,” “community,” and “club.”

People fail each other in big and little ways all the time, but Jesus never does. He is this extraordinary voice for justice, for love, for honor, for hope. His family resemblance marks the best of us.

Jesus does not look like a white guy in a flowing robe. He does not look like any of the famous pictures we have of him.

What he looks like is Love. Love that protects. Love that shelters. Love that never fails.

And that kind of family resemblance is hard to miss…when we find it among us in this broken world.

Matthew 12:48-50

1 Corinthians 13

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Thing One and Thing Two

Years after I first met M and C a little boy who I love more than the sky read The Cat and the Hat and expressed appropriate alarm over the treatment of Thing One and Thing Two–but they are children! He emoted.

Yes, Darling, there are many things about this story which trouble me also.

The first time I met M and C they burst through the door to the CPS waiting room. M was talking her usual mile-per-minute and both were whirling balls of energy. They went directly to the pastel plastic playhouse in the corner of the room and they reminded me of Thing One and Thing Two.

I wonder if anyone else wonders what happened to Thing One and Thing Two when they were all grown up?

Writing with Invisible Ink

Now that I have seen the diamondback rattler in the domain of children I see him again everywhere–the darkness notched between sidings and foundations, lassoed water hoses resting in the sun, tree branches in the grass, all become the skin and flesh and memory of the foolish man who held just the severed head of his deadly foe too close to human skin.

We keep the most dangerous pets coiled in emptied potato salad containers, hastily labeled with words too awful to write down in anything but

Invisible ink.

Ghost Child

To be clear you are all grown up now and living somewhere as I try yet again to excise what you have done to us all from pictures of beautiful children.

You were

You are a dangerous male child

But what you will be

Is mountains told to throw themselves

Into the Sea.

Mark 11:22-23 NIV

[22] “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. [23] “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

Apophenia

I pull the elephant ears out of the water, one and then a handful and then none for awhile, risking dead fish and live snakes to find you. At dinner the little boy asks what miscarriage is and my answer is accurate but brief because why tell a little boy about lost siblings and the trees grown in their place or the way that forgetting is not better than carrying this

This memory of you dark, indelible angel, in the midst of all I hold dear.

Beanie Weather

The young fella folding library mailers eyes the old ladies as they cross the light-filled atrium. They are an exclamation point and a question mark traveling at processional speeds, arms entwined for mutual ballast. I take my own child’s arm, tell her that if we play our cards right one day they will be us, we will be them…while the young fella wears a reddish “cadet” tee and a off-grey beanie in the late days of May in the heart of Texas–bit warm for beanies, she says.

Better to catch the eye of all the pretty girls, I tell her on the way home.