Nov 10, 2012

The milkman

My friend Emily spent her October writing a series about rest - or, as she so endearingly dubbed it, hush.[1]  Now, I'm the type of person who's in constant pursuit of rest - yes, I mean sleep, but rest is broader than that.  Rest is different.  Rest - at least, for me - is more buoyed by perfect calm, more intertwined with joy and its lightness, more anchored by the hopeful heart.[2]  So as October slipped by, I eagerly followed, read, commented, absorbed the lessons she was teaching me, and delighted in walking beside her.

I almost finished October beside her, too.  But toward the end of that month, life dealt my family a rough hand.  The cards haven't been staying in my hands, either - on the contrary, they've been flying everywhere, bouncing off the walls.  And on examination, none of them say anything resembling rest.  (I may be asking too much when it hasn't even been two weeks yet, but like I said, this is a constant pursuit.)

This morning, I woke much later than usual - long after the sun had made his debut.  Why?  Well, for one thing, it takes a lot longer for me to get to sleep these days.  Also, it's Saturday.  There's no pressure to go to class.

But there is pressure to whittle away at my to-do list (which never seems to end, by the way.  Does yours, friend?)  I stumbled out of bed to turn on the kettle.  My bare toes curled against the tiles in a deliciously quiet kitchen.  Sensing that everything outside me was so still, my mind decided to compensate.  It stirred to life:

Is this the hush I've been looking for?  There's no way I'd find this kind of quiet - at least, not this easily - at Union.  Maybe this is why I'm abroad.  Maybe this is why I ended up here instead of in York.  (York, friends, was my backup choice if I didn't get accepted into this term abroad.)  As comfortable as I would've been in a city, maybe this hush, here, is what I wanted all along.

The water in the kettle began to bubble and hiss, and I saw the button on top glaring an angry red.  I unwrapped my arms from around my waist to flip it off.  Where's my mug?  Maybe I'll skip the coffee this morning; I feel more like tea, anyway.

And as I lifted the milk out of its shelf in the mini-fridge, set it on the counter, my breath caught somewhere in my chest.
I was swinging on the back gate by just an arm and a leg.  How old was I, I wonder...well, I was young enough to swing on that gate with no apprehension at all.  She'd probably grown tired of warning me that I'd fall, and sat contentedly in her chair by the window.  From my perch on the wrought-iron gate, I could watch life happen outside and love happen inside.  Even at that age, I knew that I could always run to her for a hug without saying a word.

The milkman ambled by, his bicycle swaying with the weight of his precious cargo.  Excited by this new development, I jumped off the gate and ran inside, calling to her that we needed to buy the milk now.  She was already there, her change purse in a wrinkled hand that had magical power to soothe an aching tummy.  She smiled in her gentle way, made light conversation, and I took no notice.  It was normal, watching her love on everyone who came to visit.  Family, neighbor, didn't matter.  Everyone saw her heart.

After the milkman had moved on to the house across the street, she peered into the fridge to make room for the milk on one of the shelves.  I joined her there for a moment, studying the milk, and asked why it didn't come in cartons like it did at home.  But what was her answer?  Why can I remember so much else but not this?  Are things disappearing already?
nandini milk
I opened my eyes, spied my mug hidden behind the toaster, and poured the water with a trembling hand.  Memory has a way of knocking me off my feet.  Okay, you're okay, you're okay.  It's okay, now.  Take a breath.  What comes next?  Find the tea.  A spoon for the sugar.

And her voice, in my ear: don't forget to put the milk back in the fridge, doll.  It'll spoil.

[1] This friend's writing is like oxygen.  Do click over to say hello to her (or even thank her, on my behalf) if you have the time.
[2] Maybe you’ve thrown up your hands just now, thinking, oh, just what I need.  Another Christian, telling me what to do.  If I could quietly interject, friend: the most important definitions in my life stem from my faith, simple as that.  Still, I want to be aware of certain sensitivities, and hope that these references haven’t offended you or come off as pushy.  If you are balking at your computer screen right now, will you forgive me?

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