Monthly Archives

March 2016

Holidaze

Happy Skeaster

For as many years as I have been alive, Easter Sunday has meant one thing: the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Also, jelly beans.

As a child, I spent Easter in shiny-new-white-patent-leather-shoes (or, in lean times, the scuffed-old-toe-pinching ones from the year before). Sometimes we wore hats. Usually, Dad got Mom an orchid corsage. There would be flowers and sunshine (or in Northeastern Ohio, snow on occasion) and the promise of a world reborn, sanctified, and made new.

As an adult and a mom, I have celebrated this holiday with familiar practices. We dress up the kids. We go to church. We eat a home cooked meal. We thank the Lord.

This year, however, we are not doing any of that. At least, not in any of our usual ways.

Despite our efforts to carve out space for service, reflection, and prayer, this year, Lent in our household seemed more raucous than ever. Softball, basketball, and soccer stormed in, along with our middle kiddo’s first foray into community theater. While usually I pride myself on being an underscheduler, this spring found us tromping off to practices, games, rehearsals, and shows nearly every day of the blessed week. Additionally, my husband took a new job that necessitated multiple trips overseas. As happy as I am for my kids’ newfound athleticism and musicality, and for my husband’s promotion, I found myself crawling rather than skipping toward this Spring Break, which once again coincides with Easter.

So when my husband suggested a brief mountain getaway, I agreed instantly. I could picture it – a cabin, some quiet, crisp air, a hike, my book. And sleep. These days, I wake up still dreaming of sleep.

Of course, when it came time to reserve the lodge, Easter weekend was the only time his schedule could accommodate. Which happened to be the only time childcare was virtually unattainable. So instead of the mountain getaway I envisioned, I am here in a tiny cabin, freezing in the Sierra Nevadas, and accompanied by my three children.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and the nearest church is thirty-five miles back down the mountain. Totally do-able. But we are not going.

Instead, we found an early-bird deal for a family ski pass further up the hill. And though it feels borderline sacrilegious, we will be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ wearing snowsuits and eating chili.

We did not dye any eggs, pack baskets, or bake our traditional holiday bread. We don’t even have any marshmallow peeps. And you know what? It turns out that all of that is okay. Family rituals are great. I am a big fan of the customs that connect us with those who came before us – the prayers, the fasting, the feasts. But all traditions were born somewhere. In a village, on a mountaintop, at the foot of a cross on a hill.

There are many places where love can be born, many rituals in which rebirth can be celebrated. Holidays can pull families apart or knit them closer together. Today, nobody played any sports. We played games in the car instead. We had a conversation about geological formations on the Interstate, and all five of us went to the grocery store together. Usually I find shopping a chore. This afternoon, it was adorable. Everyone picked one thing they wanted for dinner and another for breakfast. Tonight, we dined on pot stickers, salad, mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter morning with oatmeal, avocado toast, frozen pizza, more Honey Nut Cheerios, and blueberries.

And right now, at this very moment, all five of us are nestled together in this tiny room, in the shadow of a mountain, safe in each other’s arms.

Happy Easter everyone.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

Be One Another’s Cul-de-sac

A friend and I spent the evening at church tonight. We broke bread with families who needed some. We listened, laughed, and prayed.

After the dishes had been washed and the food put away, we lounged together in a basement rumpus room. The kids invented a new game — ping-pong dodge ball — and the adults daydreamed about a cul-de-sac community where we could let our children play safely all day. Some nights, we all mused, we could wheel our barbecue grills out to the curb for a neighborhood buffet instead of cooking and eating dinner alone.

I drove home feeling both thankful and dispirited. So many of us have so much. We build our homes up and out and bigger and more. We have dishes for twenty, but only ever use five. We build fences where we could plant flowers. We schedule ourselves so tightly that there is no room for generosity, magnanimity, or an impromptu dinner with the people next door.

We make it easy to forget to share.

But we can be better. I can be better. In a world of gated communities, security passcodes, and election seasons that divide rather than unite, summon your kindness, and unleash your love. Be one another’s cul-de-sac.

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Brokenheartedness

Godspeed, Pat Conroy

I can’t believe he is gone. My wife is usually the one to write these eulogies – she has far more literary heroes than I do. But Pat Conroy changed my life. He is why I decided to teach at The Citadel. He is why Annmarie agreed to let us move to Charleston. And when it came to writing, he taught me everything I know. I once bumped into him South of Broad, as I walked our dog down the same streets he wrote about in Lords of Discipline. I mumbled a hello, and stared awkwardly as he rounded a corner and disappeared. I have repeated that encounter a thousand times in my head, imagining myself saying something profound, something that would tell him how much he meant to me. He described brotherhood better than anyone. And family. And even though he never served in uniform, he had a knack for writing about war. Next to Pericles, he wrote the greatest eulogy ever delivered, for the real Great Santini. Now, there’s no one left to match him, no one on earth to write the farewell his passing deserves.

You will be missed, Pat Conroy.