A Wonderful Day (Or Two)
I’ve said it before but, today, it bears repeating: God dreams so much bigger than me.
The last two days have been a whirlwind of excitement and good news. Yesterday morning, I took the girls to a fancy tea party at Scarlet’s Garden & Tea Room. We enjoyed a pot of their Georgia Peach loose-leaf tea (made even better by a couple teaspoons of honey). We talked like British Royalty while the American Girl dolls chattered about how adorable the tea sets were. My youngest fell in absolute love with hand-held fans on display in the gift shop. This tea set the tone for the rest of the day. We came back home for awhile and put on a puppet show and spent time talking. We carved out a little more time for ourselves. And then, late in the afternoon, we ate an early dinner before heading out to the Williamson County Fair. Alight could practically live at the fair and be forever happy. That child is my daredevil. Anything that moves, she wants to ride. In fact, one of the more thoughtful aspects of the fair is that they have golf carts that carry you, free of charge, from your parking lot (which is located about a gazillion miles away) to the fair ticket booth. My daughters thought that the golf cart was an awesome ride, probably because the driver went exceptionally fast. $75 dollars bought us three armbands worth unlimited rides; at the first sight of all the neon lights and roller coasters, Alight fell in love. Breathe is more cautious and apt to opt out of rides that even remotely resemble fear. For five hours, we rode rides like the Yoppi roller coaster (most awesome kid coaster ever), the Seattle Wheel, the tea cups, the Super Slide, the Kite Flyer and more. We watched the Ultimate Air Dog competition where three dogs participated in dock jumping. We thoroughly enjoyed the trek through the Little People’s Barn, which gave the girls the opportunity to “be a farmer” for the day. They picked apples, went fishing, milked a cow, brushed a sheep, planted corn and then sold their goods to the “farmer’s market” before visiting the “country store” and “buying” a treat with their “money” (choices were apples, chocolate milk, mini ice cream sandwiches, etc). The girls really, really enjoyed this part. We also tried to throw 5 balls into tiny cups in order to win a hermit crab (we lost, much to Alight’s relief) and we enjoyed the water-shooting Midway game so much we played it twice; the girls each won a stuffed animal. As night fell, we took to the skies on the Seattle Wheel again and got their faces painted as butterflies. They each got to choose a souvenir; Alight chose a pony, light-up necklace and Breathe wanted a light up saber. Finally, at 10:00p, the sky lit up with a sparkling display of fireworks. No, it wasn’t the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen, but it delighted my girls and that was all I cared about.
We got home at 11:45p and the girls went right to sleep. As they lay dreaming, I reflected upon the day we’d had. A beautiful day of sharing, of talking and giggling and laughing. No one fought, no one cried. We played together and we grew. Memories were made. And, as I thought about that, I realized that even if I did die tomorrow, Breathe and Alight would remember me. Even if their memories turned faint with time, they would grow and remember they had a mother who loved them. That knowledge, in and of itself, is powerful enough to help them mature into confidant and happy women. My oldest recently gave me a letter in which she wrote that I “made her have 100 percent faith in” herself. What else could a mother hope for? Today is the last day of Summer for us. Our homeschooling year officially begins tomorrow. The girls are very excited. I am very excited. Lesson plans are laid out, bookbags are ready, It’s going to be a tender and intense year of work and growth. And, through it all, we’ll share all the ups and downs. How blessed am I.
They play that they are mothers. Almost every day, one of the baby dolls gets dragged around and pulled by the ear. They get changed, fed and hugged, too. I used to play the same thing. I had two baby dolls, Christopher and Matthew, whom I absolutely adored. I remember pretending to care for them, remember pretending to be their mother. I thought it would be exhausting. I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be hard work. I thought they would always obey me. I never, ever imagined, not once in all the years of playing House, that they would flush panties down the toilet or deliberately flood my bathroom with up to ankle-deep water three times. But, in all the many games I played in which I was the Mommy, I never dreamed I could feel as rewarded or as joyful as I really do when I watch them. I never imagined that I could love someone else so much that the very thought of her in pain makes my heart hurt. I never imagined the level of pride I’d feel when they learned something new or did something especially thoughtful all on their own. I never knew how important hand-drawn pictures of stick people could be, or of how my heart would expand by watching small children sleep. I never imagined that it would be a five-year-old that would make me stop in my tracks and think to myself, you were five years old once, too, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember. I never knew how addictive their laughter is or of how my heart breaks when they are sad. Motherhood isn’t about a steady flow of joy; it’s about a full gammit of emotions that changes the way you think. Suddenly, all that matters is their safety and emotional well-being. I never imagined that breast-feeding a baby or changing a thousand dirty diapers would be a bonding experience like none other in my life. But God did. God knew all the minute ways in which being a mother would forever alter my being. He knew it was something I not only wanted but needed. I never dreamed a love this all-encompassing existed—but God did. While I dreamed of someone to play with and take care of, He dreamed of tangible healing in my life.
Today, it’s continued.
I’ve been confirmed to participate in the Author’s Circle’s Franklin Festival of Books August 24-25, 2013. At 1:00 on Saturday, the 24th, I will be on a panel with a couple of other authors and will be able to discuss my writing for 40 minutes. After that, I will be able to sign books and talk to readers for an additional twenty minutes. I absolutely cannot wait for this event; I would love to see you and have you share the date with any TN friends! There will be about sixteen authors (including me!) talking about their work and eager to hear the thoughts of readers! In October, I will participate in the Southern Festival of Books. Do you have any idea what it does to my heart every time I get to sign a copy of a book for a reader? Do you know how many years I spent practicing and perfecting my autograph, dreaming of the day when I would be asked to sign a book for real? No, I wasn’t inspired by the readers. Yes, I would have written books even if I knew with one hundred percent certainty I would never sell a single one. If I knew without doubt I’d never sell another book, I’d still write them, even if I had to do so on blue lined paper again. But having others read and talk about my books is something very, very special in my life.
When I was young, sure, I dreamed of a day when I would have a book signing. But I had no real concept of what it would feel like to be sitting at a table with a line of people waiting to talk to me. No one could have described the feeling I had the first time I saw one of my books on a shelf in a bookstore. It’s not just neat or awesome, it’s healing. It’s affirmation that my words and thoughts and feelings matter. I never dreamed that writing would be a way for me to feel accepted or valued or whole and yet it does help me feel all of those things. All day, I’ve tried to picture in my mind what the Franklin Festival of Books will be like. I’ve spoken in front of large groups before. I know the nerves involved and then the wash of tenderness that crashes over me when acceptance follows my words. I’m dreaming of walking in and there being a group of, I don’t know, fifty people. They won’t all be there for me, but they’ll learn about me while they are there. The Character and Broken, and all the others, will be introduced to them. People will ask me questions, questions about the book, about writing in general, about my characters. I’m trying to picture what it will be like…. but I can’t. Because I never dreamed I’d be invited to such an event. But God did.
I think of one of the core lessons in the story of Queen Esther in the Bible: for such a time as this.
I am a mother today for a reason. I am a mother to Breathe and Alight, in particular, for a reason. I am a writer for a reason. I write about the things I write about for a reason. Maybe I don’t know what all of those reasons are just yet. Maybe I don’t see the direction they are guiding my life. No dream I could have right now could compare with the reality that is to come. The Character was the product of intense emotion and memories I didn’t think I could wade my way through. I was so drained, physically and emotionally, through some parts of that book that I cried myself to sleep at night. I had no idea I would get e-mail after e-mail from readers, telling me things like, “it helped me tell my grandma” or “Taya is my hero.” What do you do with that kind of emotion from perfect strangers? What do you do with the kind of gratitude that fills my ever fiber upon reading something like that? And how am I supposed to capture in mere words the feeling of joy that surrounds me when my daughter wraps her small arms around my neck? How am I supposed to say thank You when she tells me she loves me? The paralyzing pain of my past isn’t forgotten. But it does not hold me captive anymore. I see joy in all its vibrant and beautiful colors. I hear hope in all its rich, magnificent timbres. Even on my darkest day now, I see slivers of light at the end of that tunnel. And why?
Because I believe. It’s not that I believe in myself or my own abilities because, frankly, I haven’t done much in way of promoting my work or in going above and beyond in caring for my girls. It’s not that I believe in my own dreams because not even my own vivid imagination could conjure up the peace that my girls and writing has showered upon on my life. I believe in miracles; miracles like children and book signings; miracles like acceptance and joy. I believe in miracles. And a miracle is nothing more than God’s dream coming true.