Nothing monumental happened to help us decide. It’s all the little things.
It’s drinking our morning coffee on the front porch swing, and watching the sun set into the bay after the babies go to sleep. It’s wondering if we’ve enjoyed the sunset long enough, so we can get our ice cream and hurry to our beloved couch and tv.
It’s that I haven’t bought anything but food since April 1, and even so, I can’t think of a single thing that I need or want.
It’s that I quit locking our front door, and started leaving the car keys in the console.
It’s that we’re a WE here. Instead of 5 I’s…we’re a WE. What little there is to do, we do together.
It’s letting Amma do the driving on most of our errands. She’s only two, but she can maneuver that golf cart like nobody’s business.
It’s watching Chase stroll down to our dock with his net thrown over his shoulder like an Asian Tom Sawyer. It’s seeing him joyfully catch NINE SHRIMP, MOM and together driving the golf cart over to Bubba’s and Tisha’s to sell Bubba the shrimp. It’s giggling with Tisha while Chase and Bubba haggle over shrimp prices, finally settling on ten cents a shrimp. It’s watching Bubba hand over the ninety cents, grumbling about inflation, knowing that the second we leave he’s gonna pour those shrimp right back in the bay.
It’s roadside time-outs in corn fields. Nothing fixes a whiny road trip faster than pulling over and placing a shocked little naughty Melton bottom firmly between two stalks of corn. It’s smiling and waving to all the concerned passersby, while Tish screams, “MOMMY! YOU CAN’T JUST DO THIS! IM IN THE CORN!!
It’s that I’ve found more space in my day and heart to let Tish be Tish. If the girl wants to spend thirty minutes deciding which pair of wool tights to wear to the beach on a ninety degree day…so be it. We’ve got time. It’s discovering that she is so beautiful with a tan, so brave when she jumps off the dock into the bay, so gentle, so often, with her baby sister. It’s noticing that she’s actually not just a challenging part of my day. She’s a whole person, with her own days. Some of her days are harder than others, like mine. It’s noticing her more.
It’s walking to my mama’s house a few times a day to talk things over. That one could keep me here forever.
It’s finding out, along the way, that this place isn’t perfect for us. Nowhere will be. That was important to accept.
It’s that recently at church, our minister Valerie asked our tiny congregation for announcements. An elderly lady in the choir stood up in her shiny blue robe and held a spoon in the air. Not a special serving spoon, just a plain, metal cereal spoon. The dainty elderly choir lady said very slowly, “I think someone left this spoon at my house. I thought it might be someone from church. If it’s yours, I’d like to get it back it to you.” My eyes widened and immediately searched the sanctuary, expecting to see the knowing smiles of people tolerating this woman who was boldly spending their precious time on a single spoon. Nope. In fact, everyone was smiling earnestly at the choir lady and the spoon, including Pastor Valerie, because they were both theirs. The choir lady and the spoon. And they, the choir lady and the spoon, deserved to be treated with respect. And I thought, Oh, My. I have much to learn from these people. Because they know that God is in the details. They know that old ladies and spoons are infinitely more important than time.
It’s that I haven’t colored my hair or waxed my eyebrows or painted my nails or used a hair dryer for two months. I like figuring out what I actually look like. A little shabby, but not TOO shabby. No complaints from Craig. I read awhile ago that it’s not how a woman looks for a man that matters to him, but how she looks at a man. I’ve been testing that theory. So far, so good.
It’s Wednesday afternoons on the front porch steps, waiting with the kids for a glimpse of Craig’s red truck coming down Main Street. It’s watching them jump up and down as he climbs out of the truck and they prepare to attack. It’s watching him struggle to untangle himself from their little hands, so he can get to me first. It’s taking in his suit and tie, his shiny black shoes, his cologne. It’s knowing that over the next several days he’ll transform from business man to outdoors man. His clean shaven face will get a little scruffier each day. The smell of cologne will be replaced by sweat and salt and sunscreen. His button down will be replaced by nothing but dark, smooth skin and tattoos. Tattoos that say family.
It’s that last week in the car, the radio station stopped mid-song to announce that a little boy named John had lost his dog. The dog was black with white spots, and answered to the name of Rudy. Apparently John was extremely distraught. So could everyone keep an eye out and call the station if anybody saw Rudy? Then the all-call was over and the song resumed. I started crying a little. Chase heard me and said from the back seat, “It’s okay, mommy. They’ll find Rudy.” And I told him that I knew they would, I was crying happy tears because there are places where people want to stop and help. Where lost puppies and heartsick little boys are worthy of interruptions.
It’s that it’s harder to pretend that people or moments are dispensable here. You have to be careful in a small town. If someone has a loud, mean, barking dog, or is driving way too slow, you should not give the dog dirty looks or cut the slow person off. Because then you will forever be The Lady Who Gives Dogs Dirty Looks and Cuts People Off. There is no anonymity here. People are responsible for their actions. And if you don’t like your neighbor, well you best find something you like. Because nobody’s going anywhere. And there’s just not enough folks to keep trying people out till you find one that matches you perfectly. I’m learning to practice what I preach to the kids….you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
It’s that here, there are not six degrees of separation between God’s creation and our survival. Bubba introduced us to the local fisherman, and we watch them take their boats out each morning to catch the fish that we eat for dinner, the fish that they sell to feed their families. Chase has gone out fishing with the fishermen twice and each time he’s caught a week’s worth of dinner. Our freezer is full of rockfish, and when Craig grills it and serves it, Chase watches us chew each bite, pride filling his teeny chest. He’s also met the local farmers and visited the farms, and as we pass by the crops, he examine them and says things like, “The corn is looking a little short, mom. It should be knee high by the fourth of July. We need some rain, mom. Rain is what we need.” And then during his evening prayers he prays for rain for his farmer friends. He is starting to know the people who work the land and the water to feed America. He’s learning how it works. That real people and real miracles put his dinner on the table. That’s really, really important to me.
It’s that in the absence of buildings and highways, it’s easier for me to remember God’s providence. Living here is a constant reminder that God made it all, and what God made is enough. Enough to feed us, to entertain us, to satisfy us. Back home all the concrete and highways and business and hyper- organization tricked me into believing that we must provide for ourselves. That we must stay very, very busy in order to keep things running. But we don’t, really. We can just do our work for the day and then watch things grow.
It’s standing in the kitchen in the evening, cutting local veggies while Craig chases the kids and they laugh so hard they can’t stand anymore, so they flop down and roll on the kitchen floor, holding their bellies. It’s looking out the back window to the water and singing along with my country music. It’s realizing that my life matches my music now. That’s what I really wanted. Just a safe, pretty place to let my faith, family, and bangs grow.
I’ll catch ya back here next Monday with Tangled Up in Blue, Part Two. I don’t feel like rushing anymore. I’m feeling slow.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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