Last week I had the opportunity to be a part of an interesting, productive, and exhausting workshop. At the end of the three days, our group presented to both our direct management group and senior leadership in the hospital. It was intimidating and wonderful. Work has been so very hard lately. This group gave me the flicker of hope I needed to keep at it a little while longer.
Still, it takes more than hope to get through the regular workday. I sat in my car before work this morning, gathering strength and joy and mostly just trying not to cry. Gathering my things, I headed to the elevator, taking just a moment to soak up the gorgeous view from the top of the garage.
“Isn’t it beautiful up here?” A voice startled me. Not just amy voice. A senior leader voice. The kind with Chief at the front of her title.
“It is!” I was not wearing my work badge yet and wasn’t sure she would recognize me.
We step into the elevator and I brace myself for five stories of small talk. Or silence.
“You all did a great job on Friday presenting. Thank you for the effort you put in.”
What?? She took the time to tell me that? My spirits were lifted, if a bit confused.
The workday began in a dizzy mess of catching up, fixing, returning messages. The sort of busy that comes after you’ve been away from your desk for four days. It felt impossible. Everything felt impossible.
And then the strangest thing happened. I walked past the free shelf and saw my Christmas tree. The Christmas tree I’d bought with money I couldn’t really afford to spare when I was a student and clinicals felt insurmountable and Pablo and I had decided to not be married anymore and the smallish bears were so far away and it was Christmas and I was all alone. I’d left it behind in the student house and now, out of the blue, it was sitting on the free shelf waiting for me. A little whisper (shout?) from the Universe saying, “This too shall pass.”
I laughed as I saw the bent paper-clips used as ornament hooks. The star was nowhere to be found. But the green and blue and silver and purple ornaments were there. My tree.
It rode home in my work bag and fits right in. Four and a half years later, my color preferences are still the same. Some things remain strong, other things are just for a season. I am encouraged. My tree!
Disneyland in Tokyo was one of the last places we visited in Japan before returning to Maryland. It was a long day, full of surprises. I brought my trusty camera and got to take bunches of my own pictures.
When we first got to the park, my parents told us what to do if we got separated. Meet at the Cinderella castle! Go there, stay there. I’m pretty sure they told us this four hundred times and who could blame them? We didn’t speak much Japanese. We were very small. It was good to have a plan. Our family will still sometimes say, “Where’s the Cinderella castle for this place?”
We spent some time at Character Corner and then headed to the planet museum, Space Mountain. Seriously. My dad told us it was a ride through a planet museum. My mom thought it was odd there were signs warning us that people with serious heart conditions shouldn’t go in, but it didn’t stop us. I can still remember how we all sounded screaming in the dark, on the fastest, scariest ride any of us had ever seen. To this day I don’t enjoy roller coasters and my father insists he didn’t know it would be like that!
I don’t remember any of the food from that day. Maybe Mickey Mouse ice cream bars?
We went through the Haunted Mansion. I still have the occasional nightmare involving shiny green goblins. The whole thing upset me so much, my parents scrambled to think of something that would make me feel better. It’s a Small World was full of creepy puppet things that moved stiffly and frightened me even more.
A music book in one of the shops distracted me just long enough to lose sight of my family. All thoughts of the Cinderella castle and the plan were lost. I panicked. An elderly Japanese man tried his best to calm me. My parents, less than twelve feet away heard me and got my attention. I was not nearly as lost as I’d believed.
I am glad we got to be there. It is not something I feel the need to repeat. Thank goodness for grandparents or the smallish bears might never have made it to Orlando at all.
My mom bought two piano books that day. I played through them for years and years. This is why I can sing with great sincerity all of the lesser known ballads: My Heart Was an Island, La-la-lu, Candle on the Water, Lavender’s Blue. The music was the lasting gift from that day.
And those photographs I took? Well, let’s just say it was a good thing someone else took pictures too.
The Christmas pageant at the Joy School preschool co-op was a big to-do. We had a Mary to be Mary and a host of other small ones filling out all the parts. I was not a part of this group, it was my little sister’s class. Little sisters, little brothers, none of them interesting to me. I remember much of their excitement revolved around being allowed to wear bathrobes in public.
The star of this Christmas production, in my eyes at least, is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in Mary’s arms. That is my prized and beloved baby doll, Susie.
Susie the Effanbee doll, started out as Baby, then Judy, then I finally settled on Susie after, so the story goes, a brief evening as Taco Bell. Her eyes blinked closed when she was in her bed and flipped wide open when she was upright. She smelled like the best sort of plastic. A smell that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. I loved that doll. As far as I was concerned there was no one in the world better qualified to play Baby Jesus than my own Baby Susie.
Susie had an amazing feature – you could squeeze her and she would cry. Some little squeaker inside emitted a strange plastic-y sound through a small circle of holes in her back. I’m sure the idea was to squeeze her body, but my hands weren’t big or strong enough for that so I always squished the top of her hollow head in to achieve the same result.
I brought Susie in for show and tell in kindergarten. It was terribly exciting to talk to everyone about my precious doll. On my way out, my teacher threw out a remark that might have been meant to make a connection or be funny, but it came off all wrong. “If I squeezed your head like that, would you cry too?”
Brownie Troop 22 was a fun group to be a part of. From Good Deed Beads to exchanges with Japanese girls’ groups to Father-Daughter dances, it was an all-around good time. I made good friends (two Angelas and a Meagan if I remember correctly) and obtained my very own amazing bandana.
I remember going to one event and having to wear my pink Strawberry Shortcake snow boots the entire time because I’d forgotten my shoes. My feet were so hot!
My Brownie career was short-lived. When we returned to Maryland our troop was getting ready to do a unit on a foreign culture and they picked Japan. I was excited! And then suddenly I was no longer going to meetings. Years later I learned there was a little conflict between leaders when my mother, who had lived in Japan for years, offered resources and her help and the offer was soundly rejected. So many grown-up interactions unnoticed. That is what childhood should be, I suppose. It was a great relief to finally know why I wasn’t part of the troop anymore. I’m not one for not knowing.
Sometimes I wish I’d been able to participate longer, but eventually they would have gotten to all of the outside stuff and I’m not sure how well that would have gone then. And if there was still Girl Scouts, there might not have been orchestra, Pioneer Clubs, theatre. Those turned out to be pretty good things too.
I had fully intended to write with the A to Z bloggers this month. Then work exploded (volume and duties, not actual flames) and I forgot all about it. So I may not get to all of the letters, but the writing is begun and that feels like a good thing.
Art class the first day of first grade set the tone for the rest of the year, maybe for the rest of my schooling altogether. I remember it partly from true memory, but mostly because at the end of the day our teacher had us write about the first day and I read that story over and over, returning to it each time I browsed the envelope of “treasures” my mother saved. As I began this project, I looked for the story again, but it is likely buried in the office of my parents’ home and was not easily accessible.
In art class I had to go to the bathroom so I asked Mrs. Rose and she said yes. I went in and saw the biggest spider I have ever seen. I ran out of there as fast as I could. I was so scared I forgot to flush.
I can’t get enough of it.
Our 250th anniversary celebration is this weekend. On Saturday, we’re hosting an art exhibition filled with photos, paintings, and drawings of the church. (1:00 PM – 4:00 PM) On Sunday at 3:00 PM we will have the official celebration. There will be music. Lots of music. In this beautiful space. I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be.
First Congregational United Church of Christ • 27 East Street Pittsfield, MA