Grief on a Train: Meeting Marguerite

She’s the absolute picture of grief: petite, aged, black coat draped across her torso and fingers pressed against her lips as she looks blankly towards the curtained window.

“Are you alright?”

She shakes her head no, the tears springing up immediately. She opens up the slim volume in front of her– Psalms and Proverbs, maybe a few other books as well- and shows me a picture of a lovely woman, dyed blond hair, in her forties.

“My daughter,” she says, in an accented voice, “She’s had a five year battle with cancer.”

I’ve started rubbing her shoulder almost immediately. Her sweater is soft, and I try to make my eyes sympathetic.

“She’s beautiful.”

“She was only forty-seven. Too young…what’s your name?”

“Chloe.”

“I’m Marguerite.”

 

Sweet Cherry-Hots

“Daddy, will you sing the Cherry Hot song?” I twisted and squirmed until I found a comfortable position, chin pressed against my soft Barney the Dinosaur sheets. My teeth were brushed, my nightgown was on, it’s time for bed.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

I finally rested my head on my pillow, face turned towards his. He ran his finger over my forehead and down my nose, again and again.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

It was hard to keep my eyes open; with each stroke of his finger, I’d blink, and my eyes would open a little slower each time.

His voice swung low, tone-deaf, but I couldn’t tell. Its deepness resonated through my chest.

The words didn’t matter, it was just the cadence with which he said them, the same way he did in church when I’d rest my head against his chest and hear his deepness resonating out through vibrations into my ear. No one else could hear the way he shook the earth with each word, but I could.

“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…”

He’s what brings me home.

High-Fives From The Trees

When I was little, I biked through the streets of suburbia, attempting to get lost in the maze of tract homes, all made from four  different floor plans but flipped and painted to create the illusion of variety. My own house was such a nondescript shade that I couldn’t tell you if it was gray or green or blue, merely that it was on the corner of Maria and Stone Creek Drive.

Sometimes I would ride with my eyes on the sky, craning my neck to keep track of where the flocks of birds were going and attempting to modify my route through the streets to match their path above the rooftops. I imagined I was like DaVinci, studying their movements and trying to understand how they flew.

Other times, I’d race down the sidewalks and imagine that all the trees were cheering me on. They reached out to give me high fives with their overhanging branches, and I let the leaves slap against my outstretched palm, one hand gripping the handle bar, the other reaching out to receive the encouragement.

Eventually I’d park the bike behind a bush, and climb up into my tree, up into the smaller branches until I was as high as they would allow. The wind against my face felt like the world reaffirming my right to enjoy the day; I was Pocahontas, watching the horizon for any strange clouds that might come to change my life.

Sunday Storytime: A Collection of Fairy Tales

I grew up with a copy of The Random House Book of Fairy Tales, which is a pretty comprehensive collection of classic stories from Hans Christian Andersen, The Brothers Grimm, and more. I was obsessed with the illustrations; they were so different from what I was accustomed to seeing.

There’s the usual tales: Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White. The Emperor’s New Clothes, Puss in Boots, The Elves and The Shoemaker. Sleeping Beauty, Jack in the Bean Stock, Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince. Familiar story lines, illustrated with unique characters bordering on caricature.

Then there’s the less popular stories, like The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which had the saddest ending. I felt so betrayed each time, because that’s not how fairy tales are supposed to end.

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The Valiant Little Tailor is a story about a tailor who I remember to be quite clever, but upon rereading, he starts off being mostly arrogant. He swats seven flies dead, and decides the whole world must know, so he immediately makes a belt that says, “Seven at one blow” and then sets off into the world. He pretends to squeeze milk out of a rock by hiding cheese in his hand, and tricks a giant into doing him all sorts of favors.

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Watching Frozen, I realized that its loosely based on The Snow Queen, a story about a queen who shoots ice into the heart of a little boy, and takes him captive. Fortunately, his sister loves him quite a lot, and rescues him and melts the ice. I always marveled at how brave she was, venturing into the unknown to save her brother.

So it doesn’t have to be THIS exact collection, but traditional fairy tales should be a staple to any child’s reading, if only to provide a broader understanding of where Disney gets its movie ideas.

Sunday Storytime: The Bear on the Moon

This book features a curious polar bear who is different from the other bears because she “wondered about things no other bear thought about.” She swims as deep as she can to see what’s below, and she swims to the horizon to see what the aurora borealis is all about.

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Seriously, look at how beautiful this page is.

When no one can answer your questions, go and find the answers yourself. If you persevere, despite what others say, you just might get to touch the shining lights at the horizon.