This morning I went to my friend Susan’s house. We worked in her garden in preparation for the upcoming tour on which her garden will be featured – mulching, weeding (not that there were any weeds in Susan’s garden), trimming up some untidy roses and generally having what passes for fun around here. Afterward we went to lunch. Then I came home and talked to my neighbor about the weather and our recent trip to Savannah. This afternoon I got my hair cut, came home again, and read some blogs. Then I wrote a list of words to sum up the theme of my next book. Here’s what I came up with.
That about covers it. Somewhere in this crazy world someone is experiencing one or more of these alone or in a crowd, at home or school or work or stuck in traffic. My life is filled with one or more of these on any given day and I would venture a guess that most everyone reading this post has one helluva story to tell from their own experience with them. We all want to be unique. Really though, our uniqueness is less in the shitstorms we’ve come through and more in how we are equipped to handle the next one.
My son and I were talking on the drive into Savannah on Memorial Day weekend and he made some twenty-something remark to which I gave my standard (astute) forty-something response. Then he said, “Mom, you are so glass half-empty” and of course I said, “I am not glass half-empty. I’ve just lived long enough to know that the glass is half-full of somebody else’s backwash.”
Don’t get me wrong; life is full of beauty and wonder. I have more to be thankful for than pissed off about and nobody knows how to celebrate the moments of my life better than me. Let’s face it though, some days suck for an entire month. If you haven’t experienced this, I want some of what you’re smokin’.
This is just what was on my mind today. Tomorrow it may be something better…or not. Until then, here’s what’s happening with Millie.
Among the many unspoken rules expected to be adhered to religiously at Mercy’s Hope, Millie learned attendance at the Wednesday night assembly is not negotiable. Those who follow the rules get to go to the park and the library on Saturday afternoons. Those who don’t, typically older girls called the dirty dozen, lead the way single file into the sanctuary at Sacred Redeemer on Sunday mornings.
“Unless you have choir practice, you’ll be mopping the floor and listening to Miss Genevieve Woodall read aloud from that big King James Version she keeps on the walnut podium in front of the dining hall. Trust me, you don’t want that devil’s chore,” one girl advised.
“I don’t know if I can sing,” Millie was embarrassed to admit.
“Trust me, sing or be sorry,” the girl warned.
“Yeah, even the dirty dozen are in choir,” another girl confirmed.
On the first Sunday of each month, Mercy’s Hope girls are invited to lunch provided by the church benevolence committee. In exchange for this benevolence, the dirty dozen does light housework for the deacon’s wives. The deacon in charge of reciting a blessing makes the same subtle request every time. “And O Lord, help each girl here today, O Lord, to remember to present herself, O Lord, as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed. Make them grateful, O Lord, for thy blessings and bountiful gifts, O Lord, Amen.”
Millie fascination with the dirty dozen doesn’t stop her from avoiding eye contact with the older girls, especially the ring leaders giggling on the way back to the activity bus.
“Overlord, we worked to get the stains out, overlord,” one of them says.
“Overlord, we won’t tell a soul that you spilled wine on the living room rug,” the other laughs.
“But overlord, you should be ashamed of your drunken secrets,” says the first one.
“Aaaa-men!” They shout together.
Millie keeps her head down, pretending to be interested in her shoes. The two push passed her singing, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” The bus driver takes a long drag off his cigarette and Millie sees him tug the skirt of the girl in front of her.
Cherub Chorus is Millie’s refuge on Wednesday nights. She sings her heart out in the living Christmas tree at the Forest Hills nursing home, front and center during “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Millie’s joy is overwhelming as she belts out in egg shells is day-o and her heart takes flight, hoping an angel will bring tidings of great joy that her mother heard her singing in heaven. Suddenly, thinking about all of those stolen eggs that might have been counted against her mother, probably against them both, sends Millie into a panic and she holds the last note a bit too long. Embarrassed, she closed her eyes hoping no one knew it was her. Wanting a miracle made her feel selfish. God wouldn’t waste a miracle on her. Miracles were too important.
Millie didn’t know any of girls other than the one in the cot next to hers. She really didn’t know much about her. Only that she’d been there a long time and she had a lot of fillings in her teeth.
“The choir director’s wife said she liked my singing tonight,” Millie whispered. “She invited me to their house after church next Sunday.”
“Well then, you’ll be a foster child before New Years.” The girl whispered back.
Millie dozed into a fairy tale room of her own with butterflies on the curtains and matching bedspread, clean laundry that smelled like honeysuckle and fresh-baked cookies after school. She felt a chill. Something wet. The puppy licking her forehead in her dream was rain seeping through the acoustic ceiling tiles.
“Open your eyes!” The woman wearing the brown dress shouted. “Get up! Get up!” As she approached Millie’s cot with a metal trash can, Millie’s dream faded into the long shadows of grey barely distinguishable from slightly darker grey on the opposite wall.
Millie felt a shove, and then a thunderbolt split the sky. Thrust from her cot, Millie was stunned as a tree crashed through the roof, landing where she’d been asleep moments before. Screams echoing in the dormitory couldn’t be silenced by the woman’s command to stop screaming.
It wasn’t the miracle Millie had hoped for, but maybe her mother arranged one after all.