FROM A DISTANCE
Written as a word of the day exercise. The word was Distance.
From a distance I see a little girl moving along a dirt road to catch the school bus. The home she just left this morning is a shabby unfinished basement structure. The front yard is dirt and weeds. But she is scrubbed clean wearing a freshly starched and ironed homemade dress, crafted by a loving mother. Her bony long legs are skipping along decked with scuffed, well-worn saddle oxfords and neatly folded white socks. Her light brown hair is nicely braided in long bouncing plaits. Her mouth and teeth are too big for her face, which is covered with large "angel kisses," as her mother calls her freckles. There are those who might call her homely but not her mother, grandmother and aunts, who fuss over her and that is all that matters to the girl. Her eyes are bright with eager anticipation for a new day at school. She is a good student, has lots of friends and with many reasons to disparage her life, she doesn’t.
From a distance I see the girl again as a teen dressed in a blue chiffon dress with puffy sleeves and full gathered skirt. After many years of long hair she now has the coif of the day—ratted bouffant, smoothed to a round orbit, framing her face. Her teeth are still big and she has one large noticeable dark freckle on the right cheek. Her body shape is stick like and she is a head taller than almost everyone in the room. She is standing on the wall in the cultural hall at the Ward’s Gold and Green Ball, trying to choke back tears because no one is asking her to dance, but then who would want to dance with a giant who has freckles and big teeth. If you could read her heart you would hear a pleading prayer, "Please God, help me get through this time and find a happy place." She will wish on stars, dream and pray. She will learn to fight back the tears of disappointment on numerous occasions, but God will be with her, leading her to joyful surprises. Surprises that if told her in a fortune at the time she would say, "impossible, that will never happen to me."
The girl didn’t see then that many of the young ladies floating around the dance floor pressed tightly against one of the local boys would end up getting married and divorced with children before our girl even had a chance to date. Now from a distance she understands that being a wallflower can protect you from youthful calamity and save you for something better when you are ready. Not dating gives you time to grow up and acquire life skills. This girl learned to sew, cook and develop her artistic talents. She got a scholarship and graduated from college. She learned that life is filled with sweetness you can find on your own. She learned to cherish the women in her life. Getting through is a lot about attitude and spiritual strength.
Golda Meir wrote in her autobiography: "I was never a beauty. There was a time when I was sorry about that, when I was old enough to understand the importance of it. Looking in the mirror, I realized it was something I was never going to have...It was much later that I realized that not being beautiful was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to develop my inner resources. I came to understand that women who cannot lean on their beauty and need to make something on their own have an advantage." (Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, Harold Kushner, p.73)
On a road trip recently, with a group of empty nester friends, someone brought a CD of oldies songs. I could feel my chest tighten and my eyes begin to well up as some of the dreamy melodies drifted through the car and my memory. You Belong to Me—"Yes I do belong to someone", I reminded myself—someone who has given me space, opportunities, encouragement, honor, financial security and yes, love. Why would I ever want to trade my happiness now for a few cheek to cheek slow dances in the past. God knew what I needed. Perspective from a distance may be the most valuable tool of our human sojourn.
"Oh, now I understand."