i’d be twins

img_0176“You see my finger?
See my thumb?
See my fist?
You’d better run!”

He shook a muscled fist in mocking threat, and we made feint to run, watching the twinkling blue eyes under the salt-and-pepper flat-top for the next joke. Forty-something years of dairy-farming made Grandpa’s hands thick and strong, and the rough-handling of life left him laughing.

“How are you, Grandpa?” we’d ask. And maybe he’d been hugging his heart-shaped pillow after that long-ago bypass surgery, or maybe he’d been fumbling for a pain-pill, or maybe we’d just watched him struggle to transfer from wheelchair to recliner on neuropathic feet. But he wouldn’t let-on that he was hurting: “If I was any better, I’d be twins!” he would grin.

Cue remark from one of the grown-folks in the room that one Grandpa was quite enough to handle!

When my daddy was a boy, Grandpa’s hands beaned a bull between the eyes with a fence post, because said bull dared to chase my dad. In my memories, those hands dig fence posts, grab my toddler toes, hold Grandma’s hand — across the yard, across the parking lot, in the car, in their chairs at home.

He always joked that Grandma let him be the boss once a week — Fridays, usually — if he behaved himself. But behind the raillery was romance. He kept the nickel she gave him when they met — “Call me!” — for long years afterwards, so that he could even show it to me, the eleventh of forty-six grandchildren.

We approached his seat at the head of the long table in the kitchen where his eight sons and five daughters — our parents — had eaten their childhood meals with reverence, “Yes sir” and “No sir” ready on our lips, pleasantly apprehensive of his teasing, but certain of his love.

“Why, it’s the prettiest girl in Mississippi!” he’d exclaim. (I was the only granddaughter from Mississippi.) “It sure is good to see you!” When I was tiny, he called me “Stacy Lucindy.”

In the hospital two weeks ago, he was still glad to see me, but he didn’t reference Mississippi or my name. The IV pole had a faulty line and kept beeping and beeping, the room was hot, my baby hungry. I let other people do the talking — habitual for me — but didn’t follow the conversation very well.

Then he asked it: “What did you marry?” Classic Grandpa. I don’t remember what was said that inspired the question, but there it was. He knew me, and recognized my little family with his usual teasing. We caught the moment on an iPhone screen: an old man in a hospital bed holding my baby’s hand. Root, meet fruit.

It must take time and distance to be able to sum up a life. I’ve had one full day and the distance between Florida and Mississippi. There are too many things to say and too few words.

My baby won’t understand all the ins and outs of the large family tree from which he springs, but I’m pretty sure he’ll know that his mama had a good grandpa.

Because she did.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday: joy (small and glad, day 23)

(You’ll notice that I’ve skipped days 21 and 22 . . . because I missed them. And I might catch up sometime, but today is day 23, so I’m writing it.)

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The RSVPs have been coming in. It’s amazing how small and glad this makes me feel.

Overwhelmed really, that so many people are willing to travel so far just to celebrate my wedding. Overwhelmed, feeling so very loved.

The gifts have been doing that to me, too: generous packages arriving from hither and yon, with sweet notes. . . . and I really just had no idea.

Every year I’m overwhelmed by my birthday on social media. I’ve made it a rule to actually type a “thank you” on each “Happy Birthday,” and it leaves me feeling so very very glad.

But this: a gift, a road-trip, a plane ticket? (And-food-and-clothes-and-flowers-and-decorations-and-plates-and-cups-and-signs-and . . .?) For my day?

I’m not trying to sound like a #basicwhitegirl, but I literally can’t even.

I used to think that getting married was all about the love between two people, and it is — I mean, that’s why it happens — but this wedding is about how a huge number of other people love the two of us.

And, well, I’m grateful.

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Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, joy. The “joy” button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday: family (small and glad, day 2)

heart string 2

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1

Stop and see. Not just called His children, but in fact His children. Such we are, by the blood of His Son, shed for us, and not by any merits of our own.

Feel small, knowing this, but oh yes, feel glad.

©2015 Stacy Nott

Five Minute Friday (on Saturday): Nothing

Waking and looking up, I glimpse tropical pink flowers hanging from the bush outside my window. Every year of my life I’ve visited this house, stayed in this room, but this is the first time I remember seeing those flowers.

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This has been the family home for forty-one years — many more than I’ve been visiting — and it’s always had a quality of foreverness for me. Come down the long grassy driveway between the pines, and you’re entering the land of Tennyson’s “Lotus Eaters:” “A land where all things always seem’d the same.”

But they don’t. The hall is lined with photos of babies who have long since left babyhood behind. The dogs which I persisted in regarding as the “new” dogs have passed on and been replaced by one which is truly new.

I’ve come here, year after year, from twelve different houses in eight different states, looking for the comforting sameness, and finding it less and less, learning that, even if my last name is set in bricks and cement outside the door of this house, this is no permanent haven. As there is nothing new under this hot Florida sun, there is also nothing forever.

So I turn from this to the God whom nothing can change, whose promise is that I shall lack nothing. He holds me, forever, and nothing — NOTHING, can snatch me from His hand, separate me from His love.

Thanks, Lisa-Jo!Joining Lisa-Jo and her Five Minute Friday writers today. Use the button above to join in, too!

©2014 by Stacy Nott

 

Naming: Word-Wonder Day 6

In the beginning, after creating Adam, the first man, God gave Adam the task of naming “every beast of the field and every bird of the sky.”

Names. These are very special kinds of words. Around them, we accrue special connotations, depending on the people to whom they belong.

Word-Wonder

Shakespeare’s Juliet famously wondered, “What’s in a name?” speculating that “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley opines, however, that a rose couldn’t smell as sweet if it were called a “skunk cabbage.” Caught betwixt the two, sometimes, I ponder how much our names may or may not impact our identities.

My name, for instance, has different meanings depending on the source you consult. My parents chose it for the meaning which derives from the Greek “Anastasia”: “of the resurrection.” Other sources have it as “dependable.” Somehow, both have proved true for me. It’s safe to say that “dependable” describes me: I’m a conscientious eldest child, carefully aware of rules and commitments. But I also belong to the resurrection, purchased by Christ’s death: His death at work for life in me. I can depend on that.

On most days, though, I don’t walk around aware of the meaning of my name. Most days, it just means “me,” and the complicated emotional package that I am.

Your given name indicates individuality, announces that you are one particular person, not all people. To learn a person’s name is to acknowledge that personhood and uniqueness. When I learn and use your name, I indicate that I value you at some level, as yourself rather than just anyone.

In addition to given names, however, we also have surnames, the names which indicate relationship and belonging: children receive their parents’ last name. Wives generally receive their husbands’ last name. The last name marks you as part of a larger group. (It also determines your placement in the telephone book, and whether you’ll bring a dessert or a side-dish to the church potluck.) If the given name announces individuality, the surname announces solidarity.

My surname connects me not only to my immediate family, but to my father’s parents and his dozen siblings and their multitude of offspring. I belong to a diverse bunch, where differences are often much more obvious that similarities, but we’re bound by a shared name, a shared heritage. And sometimes I’m surprised to look at the pictures and see how my nose matches, how the lines of our smiles are the same.

I don’t announce all that when I introduce myself — I’m more likely to explain the history behind the name itself, to help you to remember how its spelled — but all wrapped up into the “me-ness” I announce with my name is that background, that belonging.

Names matter. I don’t think I’d be quite the same person if I were called “skunk cabbage,” (though I mightn’t smell any different). Though I’ve answered to “Sarah” and “Stephanie” and “Tracy” rather pliantly at various points in my life — because somehow people have tended to call me all those things — it makes a difference to hear my own name, not someone else’s.

Names also matter to God. He has counted and named all the stars (Ps. 147:4). We name things which we value and know: think of a being capable of knowing, valuing, differentiating amongst all those billions of stars in the heavens which are infinite and yet expanding. Yet in the midst of all that vast knowledge of places and things large enough to swallow our entire solar system in flames, He also knows and names us, the tiny inhabitants of a tiny speck in a tiny solar system.

More, He has written my name on His hands (Is. 49:16). My name. My tiny name. Written — engraved — on the palms of the hands which flung the stars into space.

But there’s also this: God has given me His name, too, lavished such a love upon me that I should be called His daughter (1 John 3:1). He gives me individual knowledge, but He also tells me that I belong to the larger group of those who are His own.

Here then, in my name, I find that I am valued, known, precious.

If I could walk around every day aware of that, wouldn’t all the days be better?

 

©2013 by Stacy Nott

collecting lives

Long hours in the car.  The week disappeared.  It was Monday; it is Saturday.  The rest of the days were lost in a wrinkle, whisked away to Florida for a sudden family reunion.  Strange how a death can inspire a collection of lives.

He sat on a stool behind me at the piano years ago, after asking me to play “pretty music.”  I played the songs he knew, but he sang them differently than I played them.  That was the way of the pastor at his service, too: he held notes longer than I held them; I had to watch and follow the pastor’s breaths to make it work.  So even though he wasn’t at his service, it was familiar.

We took pictures afterwards: the first time all ten of us had been in one spot in four years, maybe.  Somewhere I read that in order for your smile to look natural in a picture, you have to smile twice as wide as you think you should.  I haven’t seen those pictures yet, so I don’t know if it worked.   One asked why the pictures, grumbling at our need to keep history like that.

But it’s the way we seem always to do it, taking pictures of the extraordinary moments, ignoring the years between them.  So that at the end of a life, most of the pictures aren’t so much of the life.  There is the graduate in a suit, but not the boy on the average day he went to school.  The man dressed up for some ceremony or other, but not in the work clothes he wore nearly every day of his life.  The softball team arrayed in rows and grinning, but not on the field with dirty knees and scowls of concentration. A snapshot celebrating fifty years of marriage, but none of most of the days which made those years.

But we remember the between-things.  The dirt under his fingernails, the snaps of his plaid shirts, the blue rubber ball he used to throw for the little gray dog, the velour curtains of his conversion van, the hours pouring over maps from AAA, the cassettes of old tunes.  Things left over from the days when it wasn’t strange for all ten of us to be in one place.

And so we’re scattered again, and I’m trying to fit Tuesday-through-Friday into one Saturday, doing it poorly, thinking of a thousand things besides the paper I’m supposed to write, trying to make all the bits of thoughts into something for you to take away.  The ways we celebrate life all along the way: the boy who went home from the hospital last week, and the man who went home to glory at the beginning of this one, and the baby displaying her new teeth for all the gathered family after the service.

We made her get into the picture with us, the woman who has her own room for the first time in sixty years, who wore his wedding ring on a chain around her neck, and there were eleven in the picture, and though I was trying to smile wider than ordinarily, it was real smile.  Not just for that extraordinary moment, but for all the between-things that made it.  Later, the picture will stand in for walks through a dark pasture, evenings telling stories in a lamp-lit living room, ham and potatoes eaten at a card table with our names written on plastic cups.

I’ll look at it and smile again.