Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

in praise of grandparents

granddad letter to homophobic daughterI LVE this letter from a grandfather to his gay-hating daughter. The idea that there is shame attached to gender makes me crazy. I can’t imagine disowning a child for anything, and something as fixed as gender identification?? If it ever came to not speaking to one of my sons — which seems impossible — it would be far more likely to be in a case of overt cruelty, like this mother.

Once, many years ago, race occupied a similarly fraught place in American culture. (Some of us would contend it still does, if a bit differently.) For a young white female to date a black boy was heresy — not to be condoned. Even in an international community, old prejudices lived and breathed.

But when my father had me formally deported as a result of my declared intention to marry my African-American boyfriend (deportation being necessary to prevent me returning, as I was 18), my grandmother — a Texan born & bred, from a time when that normally meant racial ‘attitudes’ — took me in and loved me.

She said nothing to reprimand me, and although my father had said I could never see my sisters or my mother again, my grandmother assured me that things would change. She held my shattered heart in her arthritic blue-veined hands and helped it heal. Such is the power of grandparent love. Emma

This letter reminds me that grandparents are necessary. No one questions that parents are critical. But as children grow and decide their own life choices, there is need for love that does not question. Love that accepts a child as s/he is, not as prejudices and hate might desire. I miss my old ladies: the grandmother who rocked a big 18-year-old girl in her lap and soothed her tears, the great-aunt who never asked a single question about my precipitous, unaccompanied return — just cooked me cobblers & creamed corn.

When I think of the best kinds of love, I think of grandparents. I remember what it is to be accepted w/out question. Just held and loved and loved some more. And I wish I was capable of it more often.

tea and sympathy

tea & cookies2This has NOT been a good week. It’s gone steadily downhill since Monday… :( But it’s taken a turn for the better, and it’s all because I did a shamefully easy good deed: I lent 1/4 jar of molasses to my next-door neighbour.

Laura was making her beloved sister’s recipe of iced ginger cookies, and realised she didn’t have enough molasses. Turns out, I had plenty — even the right type & brand! A few hours later, Laura appeared at our door, fragrant warm cookies in hand. How cool is THAT?

Not only did Laura bring the cookies: she returned a full jar of molasses and a hand-written recipe card! Old-fashioned goodness is alive and well. Right next door!

So I made tea, and ate home-made ginger cookies (my family’s FAVOURITES), and life is once again good. Of course, now I have to try out the hand-written recipe and make an entire batch, so I can take some back to Laura. The sacrifices we make. :)

If your week has been equally disrupted by the shutdown, by the partisan name-calling, by your own anger (as mine has!), make some cookies. Brew some tea while they’re cooling. Invite a friend over. And then sit down and remember: all we have is this moment. Why waste it on being unhappy? Try some old-fashioned goodness instead.

the blame game, compromise, and windows

blame gameYesterday I overdosed on politics. I read blog after article after news piece after FB post. Ugh. I was left more than slightly nauseous, and wondering how American politics came to such an ugly place.

Of course I have my own interpretation of what’s going on, but what saddens me is that politics now seems to be far more about pseudo-religious principles than representation of the American people as a whole. I’m a firm believer in separation of church & state. As a long-time resident overseas — where religious law was the main law — and as a woman in a male-dominated world, I’m pretty sensitive to having other folks put their religious beliefs on me. And what seems pretty sad is that most Americans would NOT want someone else’s religious principles used as whips on them.

More wars have been committed in the name of religion — even if greed was the real focus — than in the name of any other ‘principle.’ For something that’s supposed to bring peace on earth, religion is fraught with.. well, violence. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years Wars, Lebanese Civil War, Israel vs Palestine…the list is long.

peace on earth parade balloon

Tulsa Parade of Lights

Plus, it’s hard to get people to talk rationally about their spiritual beliefs. Folks don’t want to ‘compromise’ on religion. An example: In Tulsa, we had a Christmas Parade for years. Then a couple of years ago, the word Christmas was dropped, in an effort to include other religions as well. A large number of Christians were upset, and split off to hold their own parade.

This year, efforts on behalf of including Christmas in the title were successful, and it was renamed the Tulsa Downtown Parade of Lights: a celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough. The original splinter group apparently wanted only the word Christmas included, and no inclusion of other religions or winter holidays. In other words, like many groups these days, ‘compromise’ really meant ‘my way or the highway.’ So they did just that, this splinter group: moved their parade down the highway.

An aside: Tulsa has a very active Jewish population, as well as large Muslim & Hindu groups. Not to mention your Buddhists, like yours truly. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get together as Tulsa neighbours and celebrate our similarities, especially the children of Abraham? And please: don’t tell me that Christianity is marginalised. It’s the dominant religion of the country, folks. Try saying you’ve converted to Islam, as a friend of my son has. THAT will get you marginalised.

windowHere’s what I wish for us, as a friend with four children wonders how she will feed them, since WIC is closing during the government shutdown. Here’s what I hope for, as elderly widows on food stamps wonder how they will eat, and parents  at Tinker are furloughed without pay. I hope and wish that somehow we can return to seeing each other as fellow travelers, wanting only the best (including health care!) for each other. Not antagonists who must somehow win in what should never have been a fight, but cordial colleagues who may well disagree. My sister is a Christian. I’m not. But I can respect her devotion, and love her for it. Why must difference be a wall? Why can’t it be a window, looking somewhere unfamiliar, but beautiful?

As the old song says, Why can’t we be friends? (Even if you’re in the CIA… :))

 

accents, stereotypes, and get over it

y'allAt my niece’s wedding this past weekend, we all lapsed into Okie-speak: y’all, huh?, yep, et al. We were all family, and no one was judging us.

Which isn’t the case lots of times. Saying just y’all in a meeting will — I guarantee you — garner more  raised eyebrows than a profanity. For some folks, apparently, y’all is like wearing a sign on your back that says “I’m stupid!” Or so I gather from my own experience, which friends assure me is NOT isolated.

I shared this in the weekly writing workshop I lead, and each of us had our own anecdote (and more than one!) about being dismissed as ‘dumb Okies.’ Since there are several multiply degreed writers in any of my workshops, I find this telling.

A few years ago, I had a brilliant student from down around Durant, OK (Okies know to pronounce it DOO-rant). K spoke w/ the ubiquitous southwestern Okie accent — we all know it (and yep — WE can tease each other about it; WE aren’t outsiders). You know, like Boomhauer on King of the Hill?

K’s papers were exemplars of elegant logic — well-researched & well-written. When I told him how much I appreciated his keen mind, he hemmed & hawed, flustered. And then shared: Most folks thank Ah’m an idjit cuz of muh aksent.

I was furious. Not at K, obviously, but at a culture — a world — that teaches a young man to internalise bad appraisals of his worth because of where  he learns to speak?? GET OVER IT!

Instead of fuming, I told K what I offer to all of us: I may speak with an accent, but I don’t think with one. NOT that it would matter to me if we did!

Previous Posts

the other side
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posted 6:41:49pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

it doesn't have to be perfect (the enemy of good)
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posted 12:59:47pm Dec. 17, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 9:35:25pm Dec. 15, 2014 | read full post »

love (and happiness) like ribbon
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posted 10:21:22pm Dec. 13, 2014 | read full post »

the curse of the holiday meltdown
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posted 6:43:01pm Dec. 11, 2014 | read full post »


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