Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Holy Gossip

Unless we share stories about each other and about ourselves, we cannot know each other. In other words, without gossip, we cannot understand each other’s histories; we cannot forgive each other’s foibles; we cannot form community; we cannot learn to love ... Gossip done well is the glue that binds us...

To read more, click here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

There should be more dancing

A friend threw a ceilidh for her birthday. She organised a band and a caller, and a big hall, and food and drink, and a heap of friends. The music started, the caller called, and many people danced. It took me a while to warm up. I had a few glasses of champagne, and chatted with a dozen people. But finally my daughter dragged me in and I danced, and I remembered. I remembered going to barn dances when I was a kid; clubbing in my early twenties; and dancing at school trivia nights in my thirties (sad, I know). I remembered a friend’s wedding, and dancing in red heels until it was well past time to carry sleepy children home. I love to dance around my kitchen, but I had forgotten how much fun it is to dance with other people.

We did the heel-and-toe polka, a square dance, and a reel or two. By the end of the night, adults were skipping and giggling and throwing each other around by the elbows as we shot up the reel, and the kids were almost getting good at it. On the way home, my daughters said, ‘We should do this every week,’ and I agreed. There should be more dancing.

Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet”. But I’m not convinced it’s like the stuffy middle class Anglo Christian wedding banquets I’ve had to attend, with lame speeches and bland food and dealcoholized wine. Jesus was Jewish, so I reckon that if heaven is like a wedding, it’s like a Jewish wedding. A friend once told me that one of the good things about being Jewish is that she had to learn to dance. At every wedding there is dancing, and absolutely everyone dances, young or old. Anyone who tries not to looks like an idiot. They are squashed against a wall as the party goes wild, until some old lady grabs them by the hand and drags them into the fray.

So, the kingdom of heaven is like a Jewish wedding. Or, perhaps, a ceilidh. At my friend’s party I watched balding men dance with their young daughters, and a two-year-old totter up the reel, and girls on the verge of puberty dancing with each other, and people in their sixties who couldn’t count to four and did every step wrong but kept dancing anyway. There were friends from other countries and friends with intellectual disabilities and straight people and gay people and country people and city people and Christians and atheists and a pagan priestess. Together these people laughed and danced and communicated across the boundaries of age and sex, culture and capability; and I saw the kingdom of heaven.

I look around the churches, so full of people who find it hard to dance. Like me at times, they sit against the wall and watch, but turn down invitations to participate. And I wonder whether we will enjoy the heavenly wedding banquet, and what we will say when Jesus puts out his hand and requests the pleasure of this dance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Must I always remember my mother by my failures?

Here we go again: the anniversary of my mother’s death. This year, like every year, it has crept up on me and has been marked not with gentle ceremonies of remembrance, but by my failures.

Friday: I forgot my middle daughter’s athletics carnival. We arrived at school to find athletes buzzing – and my daughter in tight jeans. “Go home,” she said in panicky tears, “go home, and get me some shorts!” I ran to the office and checked when the bus was leaving: three minutes. I asked if they had anything she could wear. They found a pair of bike shorts in her size: brilliant. Eight dollars and two minutes later, my daughter was dressed and ready for the bus. Problem solved; but in the initial forgetting, I felt like a failure as a mother.

Saturday: “I have an itchy bottom,” said someone. “Me too,” said someone else. Worming tablets, eight loads of washing, a whole house cleaned, and five showers later, I was exhausted. And this inability to impress upon my children the importance of washing their hands felt like a reflection of my crappy parenting: yet again, failure.

Sunday: We went for a swim at the pool. Afterwards, my oldest daughter and I decided to stroll home separately from the others. I hadn't brought my bag, just some money in my pocket. I thought we could pop into an op shop and a café, and have a little mother-daughter time. But the bright low sun caught in my eyes, and the whirling sparkles of migraine began. Without my bag, I had no phone to call for help, and none of the pain medication that I usually carry. We staggered home with me on her arm, blind, and I collapsed into bed. So much for op shops, cafés, or mother-daughter time. These things happen; but what a failure.

Monday: We arrived at school. My youngest daughter’s friends were all holding books. Everyone had attained the required reading level, and their teacher had declared a class party. They were bringing in their favourite books and some food to share; we had forgotten. My usually calm daughter looked shocked, then began to weep. I lifted her seven-year-old self into my arms, and crooned and rocked. She wouldn’t come to the library and find another book; she wouldn’t borrow a book from a sister or a friend; she just clung onto me, and wept. The bell rang and I gently lowered her down. I left her in line, a fat tear rolling down her cheek. Fat tears rolled down mine, too. Three hugs from three friends later, and I’m still tear-y.

Yesterday a friend sent me a text: If only your mum could see what an amazing person you are. Weird, I thought. Almost everything I ever did was wrong, according to my mother. Just imagine how she would have ripped into me these last few days, as I failed and failed and failed.
And then I realised my friend had sent the text because it was the anniversary of her death: yet another thing that I had forgotten.

It’s been fifteen years since she died; and fifteen years of me trying to learn that I’m a good enough parent, and a good enough person, for this world. But at this time of year, every year, I forget these lessons along with everything else. All I do is fail, and notice and remember my failures.

Will there ever come a time when I mark this anniversary with the good things about our relationship, the things we held in common? The love of stories? The hours spent in galleries? The relishing of small jokes? When will I remember our joint passion for nooks and crannies and creaky old houses? For serious conversations held with small children? When will I rest in the pleasure we shared sucking the marrow out of lamb chops, and out of life?
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