Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the cards

About ten years ago, when our daughter Courtney was attending the Aspen Music Festival, I flew out to see her perform.  I met Jordan Allen, a cellist Courtney had met in college. 

I am generally shy, it takes time for me to engage on deep personal levels with people I don't know well. But Jordan liked that I was a writer. His enthusiasm to get acquainted and trade artist stories was uncontainable. It took fewer than five minutes to hear about things which might have taken someone else years and possibly as many drinks to disclose. I loved this open, guileless young man immediately.

After Aspen ended, Jordan, who called me Movie Mommy, shared regular updates over the phone - the men in his life he hoped would make him happy, and the ones who would not.

Once, during a bleak stretch, Jordan asked me how anyone could ever know if real love, marriage and children were even in the cards for them. That conversation, more than any other, stayed with me. The only answer I could offer, as unhelpful as it was true, was time. 

Jordan joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra and got his life gig underway. His updates, less frequent but longer, kept me up to speed for a while.

A year passed, and then two, when I saw on Facebook that Jordan had become engaged.

I had no words that could convey my joy for him. And yet, later that week, didn't Jordan email me and ask me to write the reading for his wedding? Yes, he did.

And, so, with Jordan's permission, I'm posting my little contribution to the celebration of hard-earned love, which, yes, it turns out, is in those cards. 

For Jordan and Kyle
Married 10/24/2015

When real love speaks 

Inside our open hearts is a resting place, for what may be love.
Indeed, it travels in, what may be love.
It lingers there, haunting hopes, occupying dreams, igniting imagination.

Open hearts welcome what may be love.
It's always wanted,
There's always a place for it.

But when it leaves, what may be love leaves the heart as it was found
A work of art begging for detail.
A circle longing to close.
As empty as it is full.

And so, the open heart waits
and says...


Until eventually, real love watches
and says...


It doesn't look like anything else, real love.
It doesn't drift into that open heart and out again.
It doesn't thrive beyond your grasp.
It can only live in your open heart.
You aren't afraid of it.
You can't be.

Real love only answers the ready voices which beckon it.
It rewards those who coax it into the light.
It moves into the hearts which connect two people
and says...

I'm here.

Real love is one end and the other both, which close the circle
It makes you unable to recall the feeling before you were found
It defies your ability to describe it.
It is all you feel, now.
It is all you need to feel to do everything.

Occasionally, you will remember
when what wasn't love
 left you.

You may pray.

And real love will watch
and surround you
and say...

I'm staying

Monday, November 2, 2015

Grow Down

Moments after students arrive on college campuses everywhere, parents begin receiving alerts in their email inboxes that go like this:

"Nothing fights homesickness the way a thoughtful care package like THIS will from Mom and Dad." 

Or, "Don't let your college student be the only one who doesn't receive one of THESE fabulous care packages." 

Or, "Dial down the stress in your college student's day with one of THESE thoughtful care packages."

Thoughtful care packages are pictured ranging from the modest (cocoa packets and granola bars) to the extravagant: organic brain-boosters, gluten-free fruit and nut assortments,travel mugs, popcorn, energy bars, clothing, K-cups, trail mix, etc.

There is always an 800 number. There is always a deadline. There is always an extended deadline.

And what do you mean, your college student doesn't have a Keurig?

Get him one.

For God's sake. 

It's part of being a grown up to be thoughtful. It's part of being a parent to twitch with the feeling that every parent is caring more thoughtfully for their faraway student than you are.

In related news, the other day, I received a greeting card from my friend, Jane. On the front, it said:  "Don't grow up, it's a trap."  I like this message so much, I took everything off the refrigerator door and placed it there by itself.

In this spirit, and because Halloween was approaching, and because I miss our grown-up children most in the holiday months,  I hung up my writing for a day last week and spent most of it assembling a gift box for our college person and his housemates. 

They're veterans, all seniors. They aren't especially homesick, they aren't inordinately stressed. They're just young guys who have a growing awareness of the real world that will come with the spring, and a 24/7 appetite for fun - still. 

There was nothing grown-up about this box; the only healthy thing I sent was a surprise.

I lined it with a vinyl Halloween tablecloth covered with ghosts, skeletons and the word "boo." Inside I placed three dozen just-baked cookies, glow-in-the-dark wands with skeleton heads, several plastic spiders, and a gigantic bag of mini candy bars.

Then I went to Dunkin Donuts and bought four gift cards. Then I went to a card store and bought the most juvenile Halloween cards I could find, with pictures of cats, and pumpkins and witches on the outside and phrases like "Have a frightfully Happy Halloween" on the inside. I slipped a gift card into each one and taped a plastic spider to the outside envelope. I tucked these in last.

I brought it to the UPS store and filled out an address label.

"So, contents?" asked the clerk, who has sent things from me to this address before.
"Halloween items," I said.
"So, like candy and stuff?"
"Exactly. And some toys, too."
"That's awesome," she smiled.

I sent it off and drove home picturing these twenty-something guys as they unwrapped the box, laughed at the spider cards, ate the cookies and peeked at their surprise coffee cards.

"This. Is. Awesome," someone would say.

But, I'm pretty sure my experience was Way. More. Awesome. 

And, I'm pretty sure I will find new ways to grow down and find other grown up people to take with me.