This place called home is meant to be.
Flowers bloom, roots grow deep.
A special day: time to keep.
—Judy “Juju” Garrett
The sun was a dribbling mess of boiling heat. It hung low and giant in the sky, and I swear it was about to stretch out one of its pointy beams and poke me. Mama was dragging me along Main Street, and I saw my glassy reflection in the windows as we scurried by. It was a busy and hot Saturday afternoon, and I clutched Mama’s porcelain hand, but not too hard, cause I was afraid I might shatter it. And if I shattered her hand, I would have to live in the dusty prairie with the tumbleweeds for the rest of my life, cause her hands did every single thing in the whole wide world. Mama held Babs’ hand in her other one, and we held our breaths as we walked by the saloon so the stale rusty beer smell wouldn’t intrude our nostrils and churn our tummies. I looked in the window of Kresses and saw red lipstick on display.
“Mommy wait! Can I get some red lipstick to wear? Sally Harrison wears hers to school and so do the other girls.”
“Heavens ti-betsy’s no! You may never wear red lipstick! Hussies wear red lipstick, and I will never ever raise a polite, godly daughter just to see her become a low-down hussy. Now hurry along, Aunt Kate is waitin’ on us!”
I wasn’t quite sure what a hussy was, but it musta been bad, since Mama got real shook up about that. I looked at Babs and her eyes were so wide her red little veins were popping out all over me. I figured I shouldn’t say anything else about the red lipstick.
Daddy was still overseas, and we prayed for him every night before dinner. Sometimes Mama gets so into her prayers and keeps on talking to Jesus that I get too hungry and start eating. But I pray with all my heart, cause I miss Daddy a whole lot too.
Finally we reach Marizons, and Babs and me let go of Mama’s perfect hands. We find some fur hats and gloves to play dress up with as our Aunts do grown up talk. We pretend we live in one of the big mansions in the middle of town, and sip our fancy glasses with our pinkies in the air like the fancy ladies do. I walk over to the window and see a girl with blond hair looking in. I freeze and pretend to be a model, but I start giggling instead.
My grandma has a special ability to spark memories to life through rhyming words and poems. The words flow so smoothly you want take a butter knife and spread them over your heart so they stick thick and creamy like peanut butter. Last Saturday, I peered into the sun-caked window of old Marizons and studied my reflection. I could almost see the little girl that my grandma used to be looking back at me, with huge eyes and curly hair. The wind was so forceful that morning I thought it might be attempting to braid my hair, but the wind has too many fingers to braid correctly so my hair looked more like a tumbleweed instead. I stood on the deserted Main Street in Amarillo, Texas, and thought of all the people who had walked these streets before and looked into this same exact window with wide eyes and hopeful hearts.
All the memories my grandma Juju brings to life and whips into rhyming poems helps me see that they are precious and deserve to be in poem form. They are beautiful and simple memories tangled in joy and suffering, but the jumble paints its own sunset of home and life and God and family. No matter where these lovely people are, they will carry those things with them forever: home and life and God and family. The Main Street in Amarillo seemed barren to me that day, just a few stores and restaurants still open here and there. All the empty storefronts looked hungry and were growling and aching to tell their story. They are walls that have experienced decades of humanity in it’s raw and sometimes un-pretty form. They have so much history plastered into them, but they are forgotten now.
In a place so gutted and lonely, my family’s memories ignite and cause the vapid street to sing again. Every word that comes out of the story-teller’s mouth soars high above the buildings and forgotten signs and becomes real in the crispy, anxious sky. I was there last weekend to celebrate my grandma’s close cousins’ 80th birthdays, and the joy in their hearts made me realize that despite heartache and suffering and uncertain times, there is always home. Home, though, isn’t a star on a map, or even a dot. Home isn’t a place overgrown and uncharted, for hearts that feel lost. Home is in a true and sincere hug of someone who loves you. Home is the beating heart of your family member, thumping along despite it’s cracks and bruises. Home is being with people who shape and mold you into someone spectacular. Home is crying and laughing all at the same time.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong where I am. Like I need to be over there, up there, way past the white borders around the edge of a paper map and onto the table, and then keep going until I’m falling off the table and running out the door. Constantly on the move. Sometimes I think that if I run fast enough and far enough, I’ll never get caught being who I actually am. My soul won’t catch me if my body keeps galloping into the next scene. I’m a tumbleweed. I’ll come out of nowhere and leave the next second. Who needs a home when you never have time to breathe?
Maybe you’ve been running so fast you’ve hit a brick wall and feel like a giant splattery mess. Maybe you feel bored with “home,” like there’s nowhere for you to go or nothing to do. Maybe the thought of home invites sad memories to enter in and make a mess of your dreams.
In uncertain and stressful times: strike a match. Watch the fire devour your material home, and see all your possessions melt. What if they were all gone? What would you do? It’s your family and you standing out on the road in front of the fire, with pebbles burrowing into your bare feet. Where’s home now?
With or without a charted town to call your own, home is in the suffocating embrace of a God who adores every detail of who you are. Home is faithfully loving your family and putting them before your own interests, ideas or plans. Home is knowing that you can’t escape from your soul, and instead placing your spirit back inside of your body and zipping it up tight so you can take off flying. Both sides of my family have accomplished some incredible things, and even though they aren’t in any fancy history books, they constructed their real homes in heaven, so wherever they were on earth they felt rooted and ready to change the world around them.
Knock on the door of your heart, your home. Knock until your knuckles are raw and bleeding, and then keep on knocking. Knock until you discover that Jesus was standing right beside you on the welcome mat the whole time, ready to show you home. He is so excited at the thought of making this extraordinary home known to you. He will hold your injured hand and make you close your eyes until he guides you in and you open them to the unpredictable joy and beauty of your true home, which has been with you all along. You are a heaven person. You have an identity in an unimaginably holy and perfect place, and society or your mistakes can never steal that from you.
So welcome home. Your family is your quirky and one-of-a-kind house, and Jesus is your city with starlights twinkling in every possible direction.
Palo Duro Canyon
Georgia O’Keeffe and Friends in Palo Duro Canyon
(I did not take this picture nor was I there in 1912 when it was taken, darn, but I felt this needed to be here because it’s too perfect not to be)
Cadillac Ranch. People just graffiti all over these cars with no restrictions, like giant blank metal canvases. My mom said she thought it was disturbing, but I think it’s intriguingly grotesque. 🙂
Rose in the Middle of Nowhere with Spray Paint
My summer has been a big giant adventure so far. First off, Texas was a party. The road trip there and back was…interesting…my 13 year old cousin had been staying with us for a week, and we’ve basically adopted him by now so we just took him to Texas with us. The seven hour drive consisted of laughing hysterically at absolutely nothing and trying to get semi-trucks to honk. On the way back, I was driving as fast as I could manage through New Mexico while Ethan, my very mature and respectable cousin (who had six burgers within the course of like two days), was dur dur durrrrrring in the back seat complaining about his drowning fish and rolling like a ball on the floor of the car crying about needing to pee. He also thinks he’s some great back seat driver. Thank you, there are cars, so I’m not going to go, shut up, have a nice day. 🙂 I also got a job at a retirement home serving food to the residents. It’s basically like being a waitress, I take orders and carry out heavy trays and bus tables. Today one of the residents had her 100th birthday!
Me and my cousins, you and your cousins
It’s a line that is always running.