Perhaps ee cummings put the idea in my head years ago with his poem, “i thank you God.” Or perhaps it’s because I’ve been laughing at and lounging in The Book of Delights by Ross Gay lately. Maybe it was Frederick Buechner’s The Remarkable Ordinary or this article by Norann Voll in Plough. But whatever the reason, I’ve been more aware of the beauty around me these days, of grace in all the beautiful, kaleidoscopic ways it can show up in a life—especially one like mine, which has been beset by stress and worry for the last year and a half.
It seemed wrong not to tell another person about the “leaping greenly spirit of trees,” the “blue dream of sky,” and “everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes” in my life. So, to that end, I hope to begin blogging periodically about the winsome, altogether lovely things that cross my path. I hope they bless you as they have me.
Today is October 22, 2019, and I spent the better part of the day in Amélie’s French Bakery & Café in Atlanta writing an essay I’ve had in my head for quite some time. Firstly, can we talk about what a delight it is to write something that’s been knocking around inside you? To have the time and space to allow words to bubble up and flow together into sentences and paragraphs, to create something that will allow another person to look and maybe, just maybe, say, “I get it. I understand exactly what you’re getting at” is a blessing I can never discount.
I sat in a sagging blue velvet armchair and read, priming the pump for writing, noshing on both a chocolate croissant, all butter and flake, and a tartine topped with melted brie, bacon, and fig. (I saw no reason to choose.) The sandwich was sweet, salty, and rich all at once. Joyful flavors. The world just doesn’t seem so dire when warm fig is spread on a toasted baguette.
In cafés and coffeeshops, there is a special level of camaraderie I have yet to find anywhere else. For some reason, people trust their neighbors, those folks hammering away nearby on their own laptops, to watch over their things while they run to the bathroom or to the counter for a refill. I know I certainly did, and that’s how I met Cheryl. Before I walked out of the building to pay for parking, I locked eyes with this hoodied angel over her copy of Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir and asked for the favor, which she happily agreed to. (How can a person reading Mary Karr not be wonderful!?) I did the same for her, and together, we made it all happen.
When I went back to order lunch and bit of sweetness (a lemon tart the cashier referred to as “teensy weensy” and a chocolate mousse cup the size of a half inch socket), I just happened to return with a palmier for her. “I thought you could use a little something,” I said. “It was perfect,” she told me later. “Just what I needed to finish my work…and my tea.” We talked shop for awhile (she’s a freelance journalist with a five-year-old son) and about how hard it is to be a writer and a mom in the same body. We shook hands. We blessed one another and parted ways.
I just received my first update from charity:water since the fundraising phase of my project began. The $1,000 we collected has now been sent to Ethiopia along with that collected by other projects, and the work will soon begin on the well.
I’m pretty sure all the wonderful, amazing, benevolent, swanky, hip, funky-fresh-for-the-nineties folks who donated will be getting these updates, but I also want to share them here so everyone can see that this charity works in a tangible way. In a year or so, we’ll actually have the GPS coordinates where the well can be found as well as pictures of it and the people it has blessed. I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked!
**FYI, if you click on the images, they are easier to read.**
By nature, most kids aren’t inclined to share. Whether it be toys, the backseat of a car, or even a box of Cheez-Its, the chances are better than average that at least one fight is going to break out over the desired object in question. That’s why I find it so odd that my brother and I have no trouble whatsoever sharing a birthday. We’ve always celebrated the day together on April 21st.
But here’s the wacky thing….we’re not twins. Nope, I am three years older than my lil’ brudder. But do you want to hear something even stranger than the fact that we were born on the exact same day? We were also born on the exact same minute—3:38 AM—and in the exact same room in the hospital. Yep, three years later to the minute, my mother found herself in the exact same awkward, painful, and compromising position. According to this thread at physicsforum.com, there is a 1 in 525,600 chance of two people in the same family being born like we were, and that’s just pretty John Brown awesome if I do say so myself. That’s why I’ve never known what it’s like to have my own party, my own cake, or my own day; Jarrod’s just always been there right beside me. When I started school, I remember thinking my classmates were weird because they didn’t celebrate their birthdays with a baby brother or sister!
There were a few differences between our arrivals. For instance, my brother was born breech (because he’s a show off) while I came into the world “in the usual way” as Harry Chapin once wrote. Also, our dad was present for Jarrod’s birth but not for mine because no one, including fathers, was allowed in the delivery room in the 1970s. We were both late, but Jarrod was only ten days behind schedule. It took me an extra eighteen days before I was ready to make my appearance. He’s a left handed weirdo; I’m a righty. He’s great at math, which makes my head hurt, and I’m the whiz when it comes to language and literature. We might not quite be as “country and rock and roll” as Donny and Marie, but you get the drift.
This year, we turned 34 and 31 respectively, and it was one of those birthdays that called for a moment of contemplation because quite a bit has changed since the last time we attempted to simultaneously blow out candles without spitting on the cake. I changed career fields and moved into a major metropolitan area. Jarrod one-upped me by getting married and buying a house. We’re both “grown ups” now for lack of a better term; we work in full time jobs, pay taxes, buy insurance, and do all those other less than stellar activities we never even knew existed before we went to college and were required to make something of ourselves. How we both managed that successfully I’ll never know. 🙂
This was also the first year buying gifts for one another was relatively difficult (at least for me) because we don’t spend as much time together. When we were living under the same roof and were constantly involved in the other’s business, we knew what movies, music, hobbies, and collectibles the other one had on the brain. We were even roommates in college, at least until I went and got myself married in 2000. However, now that we live six hours apart and communicate once a week rather than once a day, it’s harder to keep up with that kind of stuff. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different—one more piece of evidence that times they are a’changing—and it makes me a little more melancholy for birthdays past.
Our family has always been close-knit and loving, and we are both blessed beyond measure to be part of it. However, we are all getting older, and life just keeps on getting infinitely more complicated. For instance, our grandparents are now in their 70s and are dealing with health issues that are altogether new to them. The way they live their lives has changed, and it’s a little jarring when you have it presented to you in such sharp contrast to previous years.
This was the also the first year I can remember that our father couldn’t be present for the festivities because he had to conduct his store’s yearly inventory. Our only cousin on this side of the family also couldn’t be there because he was in Orlando at a state level math competition. Despite all the joy of the day, I found myself thinking the same question Jo asks in Little Women, “Will we never all be together again?”
It’s things like this that make me truly realize how short life is and how quickly things can change. A few years ago, Alex (the aforementioned cousin) was all chubby cheeks and totally hooked on Barney. Now, he’s a junior in high school, driving a car, and starting to apply for college. It just hit me that, this year, he will turn seventeen, the same age I was when he was born. It puts things in perspective, that’s for sure.
I can’t stop anyone from getting older anymore than I can tell the moon to stop changing its shape. Time is going to soldier on like it has for centuries, and life as I knew it will always be changing. Before long, I’ll be an aunt and will attend birthday parties at Jarrod’s house for children that seem utterly impossible because, to me, he’s still a child himself.
I suppose that’s why I’m grateful to have a brother to share a birthday with, and I can’t imagine what life is like for people who don’t have a similar arrangement with their siblings. No matter how many other things in life change, this is a constant we can rely on. Even if we’re miles apart and can’t celebrate it together one year, we know there is another soul somewhere on this planet who is thinking about us and wishing us well that April 21st. Our shared day isn’t an inconvenience or a hindrance; it’s a privilege God allows us to share. And I, for one, wouldn’t trade it for anything.