Part 2: Walking Good Miles in Your Shoes

You have been through a lot.  So much that you can hardly recall.  Much is stored up in memory boxes of the heart.  You have childhood memories.  Holding your dad’s hand as you walk across the street.  Toy boxes.  Your little brother’s squishy hands and toes.  Your mom’s annual April Fool’s jokes.  Being queen for a day at grandmas.  You might remember road trips, camping trips or trips to time out.  For the most part, this memory box feels like warm sun on your face; it feels like licking an ice cream cone or sucking on a lollipop.  Whether sweet fantasy or true bliss, the good stuff drips down your chin, and since this is your childhood, you don’t mind at all.

The happenings of childhood are marked by innocence, naivety and blind love.  Children don’t pick birth places, living spaces or whether they get a silver spoon.  Children arrive into the environment prepared for them by imperfect human beings.  Your birthday suit probably did not include a tag stamped with equality, justice or life without bumps.  You got a partial clean slate, promises for good and a large serving of hope for who you just might be.

As time ticks forward, childhood innocence, naivety and blind love metamorphose.   As time ticks forward, who you are fills the space between your growing bones.  Independence and personal choice roll in.  As you discover the facts of your life, you can choose what may have been or you can choose to be who you were made to be.  In other words, you can choose to bloom or stay a sprout.

As you realize personal choice, you both stumble and discover over time spent becoming who you are.  If you check your memory boxes, there are whole periods of your life marked by an initial decision.   Whole periods of your life marked by an initial decision.  It is hard to imagine that there was an initial decision that defined a period of your life.  But that is how it happens.

Even if in the most subtle way, decisions are hued in darkness or light.  If you couldn’t see it then, you can see it now.  Looking behind you.  You may have thought there was one door of choice, but there was not.  There were at least two.  Perhaps the door you opened looked like the only one.  Perhaps that door was not wholly inviting, but it did appear to be the sole knob.  Looking back with later-found wisdom and clarity, you now see that it was not.

We all have our was nots.  Sometimes personal choice causes you horrible pain in remembrance.  Sometimes was nots make you feel quite stupid.  Sometimes it is unintentional mistakes that stab us in the chest for years to come.  Sometimes, should have, was not and wish for different compete to define whole periods of your life.  But no, that is not who you are.

You can walk good miles in shoes worn down by a few was nots.  In fact, you have walked many good miles in your shoes.  Perhaps some miles were not initially tagged as good, but eventually . . . your discoveries along life’s time line have healed you.  The memory box that used to haunt you is now covered by wisdom and truth.  It may be that it takes some time to get to these memory boxes; they are farther down your life’s time line.  But these boxes better represent the substance of you.  You chose to be who you are and the beauty of the box is remarkable.

Something in the Air

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

Perhaps it’s the cool winds after the three months of blistering, sweltering heat. Or the beauty and richness of gold, maroon, and marigold colored leaves.

Or perhaps it’s the memories of yesteryear…of a new school year…of homecoming dances…football games…band practice…

 Or maybe it’s the beginning of holiday season…a season of festivities…of dressing up for Halloween…of pumpkins…pumpkin spiced lattes…and pumpkin pie.

Or maybe it’s Thanksgiving itself…buttery corn on the cob…sweet, candied potato casserole, succulent juicy turkey, and yes, more pumpkin pie.

Or maybe it’s the prelude to Christmas…the smell of fresh pine needles in the house…candles laced in sweet cinnamon and vanilla scents…colorful trees decorated in memories of Christmas past.

 There is something undoubtedly magical about this time of year, isn’t it?

 Growing up, it was the spring that I always longed for…or summer…but now as an adult, it’s the Fall…the months of October through December that somehow bring a smile to my lips and a warmth to my heart. There is a festivity and an excitement in the air…of things to come and of memories past.

 Tomorrow as you sit around the table with your family, I hope that you, too, feel the beauty and wonder of this season.

 This season is our modern day harvest. A time where we can sit around and enjoy the fruits of our labor and the bountiful blessings of our merciful, generous God. So tomorrow…Eat. Drink. Enjoy. Give thanks.

 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings are indeed great!

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

The Rose

Go to fullsize imageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

When most of us look back at our youth, particularly our teens and our twenties, it is often the great loves in our life that come to mind…that first playground crush in elementary school. That first love in high school whom you spent Friday nights with at Pizza Hut after the football game. The scruffy haired college boyfriend who had a penchant for cafés and Nietzsche. And that first serious “real world” boyfriend who had a “real” job and took you to “real” restaurants, always insisting that you never ever pay even though you offered.

For me, I met my first love at 30 and married him at 31. While my youth and twenties were spotted with unrequited crushes, those are not the relationships that come to mind when I think of my past.

But I, too, had some serious loves in my life. 7 to be exact.  Yep, lucky 7.

You read about the first one last week…Becky Dunn. She moved away after 6th grade. But our story didn’t end there. We wrote to each other pretty regularly even after she moved. In fact, we wrote to each other throughout our junior high and high school years. True, our letters decreased with each passing year, but distance hadn’t changed our friendship. Any time we spoke, it was like no time had passed. Like the sign of any good friendship, we’d pick up right where we had left off. And then one day, those months turned into years. But even then, we somehow managed to “catch up” on each other’s lives. Until slowly one day, I got the distinct feeling she no longer wanted to keep it up anymore. There were subtle hints, like I’d always be the one initiating contact…and she’d be slow to respond…until one day, she didn’t return my phone call. And when I followed up a few weeks later, she had moved with no forwarding phone number or address for me to reach her. And in a blink of an eye, a 20+ year friendship was seemingly over.

And then there was Noemi Dominguez. If Becky was my childhood, Noemi was my adolescence. From 7th grade on, we became fast friends. Fellow French horn players, we also played on the school tennis team and shared a wicked sense of humor coupled with a wicked love of romance novels. She is the reason I know every important line of the original Star Wars trilogy. She is the reason I had a crush on Davy Jones and watched every episode of The Monkees. We had a secret language that often required nothing more than a look and a giggle…and after taking shorthand together in high school, we could also literally write notes “in code” to each other.  We were best friends until the day she was murdered in 1999. Another friendship over before its time.

And then there was the best friend I made my freshman year in college. Naturally very shy and introverted, she opened up to me and clung to me like life support all four years of college. When I started my first job, she’d often call me at work on the days she was off. Sometimes we’d meet up for dinner or happy hour after work. And since these were the days before cell phones were so prevalent, by the time I got home, she’d call me again… “just to talk…” I loved to talk and I had nothing better to do, so at the time I didn’t mind. Neither did I mind when I moved away for grad school, and the following year she also moved into my apartment complex and started grad school at another nearby college. It almost sounds very SWF (Single White Female), but it was innocent enough. We both came from strict Indian families and faced similar family dynamics and pressures regarding marriage, career, etc. Neither of us had ever had boyfriends or any luck with boys being interested in us. So for 8 years we probably talked almost every day. Until one day, her parents set her up with someone. Two weeks after meeting him, the phone calls decreased dramatically. One weekend she didn’t even bother returning any of my phone calls. When I later asked her about it, she said she wanted to call me back but had “forgotten my phone number…” Yeah, except that this was the same number she had been calling for 8 years. When I reminded her of that, she laughed and said, “You know what a bad memory I have…”  Apparently so…she hadn’t just forgotten my number but apparently also 8 solid years of friendship.

And then there was M.  Another college friend. We became close my senior year in college. She was also Indian, faced similar pressures regarding marriage and career, but she was what I would call the rebel. She was the bohemian hippy who lived by her own rules. She eschewed tradition and embraced her own ideals. But despite my conservatism and her anti-traditional Indian views, we somehow also became good friends. Our friendship waned briefly when I moved away for grad school, but once I was back in town, our friendship was on like Donkey Kong! Shopping, eating out all the time, movies—all the things good friends do…we were full-force right through the day I said my “I do’s” and moved away. And then suddenly my friendship with her hit a brick wall. Then she, too, avoided my phone calls. No fighting. No falling out. Just another 10+ year friendship…gone with the wind.

Not all of my friendships have ended so dramatically, of course…but most of them have changed in intensity. Some of it is natural, of course. Most of us are now married, and most of us have children. (Except maybe M.) But between work, kids, spouses, and everything in between, keeping up friendships can be challenging even if the heart is willing.

There was a time when I was bitter about my lost friendships. I had invested so much energy, so much time into them that to have them end at all, was upsetting. For a long time I couldn’t understand how my friends who once said things like, “You’re the sister I never had…” or “I’m closer to you than my own sisters…” could later treat me like some casual acquaintance they had barely known. But in that way, I’ve learned, friendships are like romantic relationships…for them to work, both people have to want them. Both people have to want to put the time in.

I think one of the reasons that the show Sex and the City always appealed so strongly to me was not the crazy, outrageous risqué topics that were discussed on the show. Nor was it the beautiful clothes and shoes. Nor was it the chic clubs and restaurants featured. For me, it was always about the friendships. The fashion, the men, and even New York City, were nothing more than accessories and backdrops to the main feature—the beauty and power of female friendships. Even though the men often never lasted, there was a beauty in knowing that at the end of the day, the four of them had each other. That was all I had ever wanted from any of my own friendships…and until my mid to late 20s, that’s all I had ever known.

But I’m no longer in my twenties, and I’ve learned the hard way that not all friendships are meant to last. Like every season in our lives, all we can do is cherish them for how they blessed us at the time. Yes, there are those die-hard friends, the ones who will truly stick to you like glue. No matter what, till death do you part. Yes, some friendships are meant to ride off into the sunset together. But there are other friendships that bloomed once so beautifully, so fragrantly, but are now nothing more than a dried up rose, a reminder of what once was.  True, we must lay them to rest and let them lie where they belong…in the Past. But that doesn’t mean we have to forget. Like a dried flower in a book, those memories can still be preserved. At any given time, we can pick them up, savoring the Sweetness that once was…the Beauty it once had….the Joy it once gave… Reminiscing. Remembering. Reliving. But never Regretting.

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Old…But Always Gold

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                                          By Bindu Adai-Mathew

                                          Her hair was the color of the sun.
                                          My hair was the color of night.

                                         Her eyes were blue and bright.
                                         Mine were dark and brown.

                                         Her skin was milky white.
                                         My skin was chocolate milk.

                                         She was the tallest in our class.
                                          I was the shortest in our school.

                                         Her favorite color was green.
                                          I lied and said mine was, too.

                                         Her family was the All American.
                                          My family was the Immigrant Indian.

                                          We couldn’t have been more opposite physically.
                                          But inside, where it counted, we were soul sisters.

                                          With a shared loved of books, learning, and Jesus,
                                          You were my childhood.

                                          Wherever you are, Becky Michelle Dunn,
                                          You were…are…and will always be…
                                           My very first best friend.