Purpose – Five Minute Friday

“It helped so much when I realized it all has purpose,” I said.

“So God destroys your life because he has a purpose?” Z asked.

“No. God doesn’t throw us down the stairs to break us into shards that He can fix,” I said. “But when life breaks us, He uses the shards to make something beautiful, if we let Him.”

“If God is all powerful, He can prevent the destruction,” Z said.

St. Mina - Coptic Icon“Yes, He could,” I said. “But He doesn’t. He doesn’t stop people from doing wicked things. He doesn’t stop nature from being broken. He rarely suspends the laws of creation to protect us from the consequences of a broken world. Our freedom, even when we break the world and destroy each other, is more important than protecting our lives and dreams.”

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“How can you insist God loves you when He didn’t protect you from all the horrible things that happened to you?” Z asked. “He could have at least given you a replacement family that loved you. You’re lovable, you know. My mother would have taken great care of you.”

I nodded, “He could have,” I said. “But that would have interfered with Siobhan’s and the minister’s freedom. God doesn’t interfere with our freedom even when we do evil things, even when we shatter other people into tiny shards. But He does pick up the shards and make them into beautiful mosaics.”

“It would be better to be whole,” Z said.

I nodded. “I’ll never be who or what I would have been if my Grandpère hadn’t been killed, or my parents, or if I had lived with people who loved me. I’ll never be the woman who wasn’t raped or abused for most of her childhood.”

“But it’s okay because God has purpose,” Z said.

“No, it’s not okay. What makes you think it could ever be okay?” I asked.

“You’re don’t make sense” Z said.

“Even though it’s not okay and will never be okay, my life is good and beautiful. When I step back, I see glimpses of the portrait God is making with my shards. I’ll never be the unbroken glass I might have been if people had chosen good instead of evil. But their choice isn’t the final word. God has the last word and my shards are already more than I could imagine.”

“So you don’t mind being broken to bits?” Z asked.

“Most of the time, I’m too busy discovering the depths of the portrait He’s making,” I said. “I still hurt but my life is also filed love and joy and the knowledge that the hurt will eventually be healed. It’s like pain management but better. The pain’s hasn’t disappeared but it’s sufficiently healed so that I can live abundantly and the pain has given me purpose, even though it’s not the purpose I would have had. I’m happy to be my shattered and reworked self.”

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

(I’ve not made a Five Minute Friday post for some time but this prompt segues into something I’ve been writing in my mind and it’s time to get it down.)

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I Want My Marmar

I waited outside my classroom in the damp chill for Claire and Gerrard. The other children had all left but no one came for me.

“I can walk,” I told my Friend. “I know the way.”

Two blocks past the school four big boys jumped from behind a thick hedge. Gerard and Charles quarreled with them after school.

“That’s Gerard’s sister,” one of them called out.

“Let’s get her,” another boy said.

Suddenly I was lying prone on the ground. Their fists pommeled my back. A sneaker crashed into my side.

“Let’s go,” a boy said. “Old man Marcus’ll see us.”

Pain throbbed in my arm and back as I pulled myself to my feet. My knees ached. My book and lunch pail were in a puddle. I picked them up and limped home stunned and sobbing.

“I want my Marmar,” I begged my Friend. “I want my Marmar.”

The woman met me at the door, blocked my entrance.

Her fist on her hip, she asked, “Where have you been?!”

“They forgot me so I walked by myself but some big boys beat me up,” I wailed.

“You should have gone back to school and reported them to the principal,” she told me.

The sky was growing dark. Big rain drops had begun to fall.

She pointed towards the school, “Go and report them to the principal.” She stepped back inside, closed the door, and watched me through the glass panes.

As twilight fell, I limped back in the rain with scraped hands, bloody knees, wet shoes and clothes. More tears leaked out when I discovered a rip in my navy, corduroy skirt; my chest hurt.

“It wasn’t her!” I sobbed at my Friend. “It wasn’t her! It was that woman!”

Something dark made me jump. I peered closer, pouted at the shadow of a shrub. “They’re waiting for me,” I said.

The principal, Mr. Evans, gave me a puzzled look as I entered his office, “Did they forget you?”

Tears became heh-huh hiccups as I choked out the story.

When I was quiet, Mr. Evans lifted me into an armchair and dried my tears. His hands shook as he emptied the contents of a packet into a styrofoam cup and added water from an electric kettle. With a smile, he handed me the cup of cocoa. “Let’s see if we can do something about those cuts,” he said. “This will sting.” He cleaned and bandaged my wounds, then drove me back to the house and walked me to the door.

The woman let me in, “Go change into something dry.”

Mr. Evans smiled at me from the porch. As I began to turn away, anger replaced his smile. He didn’t come in but kept the woman at the door for a long time.

Next morning, the pain in my knees woke me. The bandages had slipped; my pajama bottoms had stuck to my scraped knees.

“Stop!” I screamed when the man ripped the fabric from my wounds.

“Gros bébé,” he sneered and smacked my thigh.

 

Janet and Mark

“Let’s welcome Mel. She’s joining our class,” Mrs. Lawson said.

In unison, the boys and girls said, “Welcome, Mel.”

“You may sit with Ellie,” Mrs. Lawson said directing me to a table in the first row.

The last hour of the day, eight of us sat around a low, round table in the reading corner. Mrs. Lawson gave me a thin, book, “Janet and Mark.” (1)

“Janet,” I read on the first page and then from the second, “Mark.”

When the bell rang, Mrs. Lawson said, “Take your books home and practice reading the first two pages again.”

At the dining room table, I read aloud, “Janet. Mark.” I itched to turn the page but Mrs. Lawson had not given me permission so I closed the book.

The woman was peeling potatoes in the kitchen. “May I read the big Bible,” I asked her.

She scrubbed my hands and set the book before me. I read of Joseph’s death in Exodus.

(1) Mabel O’Donnell, Janet and Mark, Harper & Row (1966)

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The Gingerbread Man

“Run, run, as fast as you can,” I read softly. “You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!” (1) Salty tears spilled down my cheeks blurring the words. I hugged the book to my chest and began to sing quietly to my Friend, “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Runcie asked.

My heart leaped, Maybe I could tell her.

“Why don’t you try this one?” She held out The Golden Book ABC’s.

“That’s a baby book,” I said sniffing in the trickle from my nose.

“What about Goodnight Moon?” she asked.

“The pictures are pretty but there’s no story.”

She looked intently at me, “No story?”

“I like books that have a story,” I said in a small, high voice.

“Will you read the story to me?” she asked.

“I ran away from an old woman. I ran away from an old man. I ran away from a cow, and I can run away from you! I can!” (2)

“Try this,” she handed me another book.

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” (3)

With a puzzled smile she said, “You can read.”

(1)  The Gingerbread Man, http://www.storyit.com/Classics/Stories/gingerbreadman.htm

(2) ibid.

(3) Madeline, Ludwig Bemelman, New York : Simon and Schuster, 1939.

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A Humming Machine

In the night quiet, I heard humming downstairs. I dressed myself in robe and slippers and tip toed down the steps. The woman sat at a small table that was usually covered with an embroidered cloth leaning over a white humming machine.

“What’s that?” I asked drawing close to the machine.

The woman jumped. “Oh! You’re awake!,” she said. “Can’t you sleep?”

I wanted to say, “I’m always awake.” I asked again, “What is that?”

“My sewing machine,” she replied. “I’m making you a dress for your first day of school.”
She lifted a blue dress and a cream coloured cotton pinafore printed with yellow flowers and cocker spaniels puppies.

“Do you like it?” she asked. “I had to dye Claire’s old yellow dress but I added the pinafore so the stains won’t show.” I touched the crisp fabric of the pinafore. “Do you like the pockets?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” I said suddenly needing to blink. I glanced at the television. “Why isn’t there any colour? Is it broken?”

“That’s an old movie. Old movies aren’t in colour.” She smoothed the pinafore fabric then tilted her head peering at me, “Are you hungry? Would you like some ice cream?”
I nodded.

She went to the kitchen and returned with two bowls of vanilla ice cream. “Now eat that,” she said. “Then you’ll have to get back in bed.”

We ate and watched in silence. When I finished, the woman took my bowl and said, “Back to bed with you but first wash your face and hands and brush your teeth.

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I’ll Give You Reason To Cry

“Sit up,” the man shouted at me.

I tried to lift my head from the table and winced as my bottom settled in the chair.

“She had vaccinations in both sides of her bottom,” the woman said.

“If she can’t sit straight, then send her to bed,” he said.

“The doctor said she’s too thin. She must eat more,” she said.

“I’ve been telling you to make her eat!” he said. “You let her leave food on her plate.”

“She throws up so easily,” the woman said, her voice shrill.

He pointed at the creamy, white liquid in my glass, “What’s she drinking?”

The woman jumped, then raised one shoulder. The shrill note still edged her voice, “Extra rich milk. Dr. DeBrun told me to get it. She needs the protein and calories.”

“Rene knows how many children I have to feed,” the man said in a resounding undertone

“Sit up and eat your food,” he said.

I put a piece of dry meat, chewed, and washed it down with a sip of milk.

“Your vegetables too,” he commanded.

I swallowed a forkful of the faded green leaves and gagged at the bitterness.

“You can’t let them waste food,” the man grumbled.

She and the other children finished their meals and left the table. The man sat in his seat at the far end watching me.

“Take your elbows off the table and eat!” he shouted when I propped one elbow on the table and rested my head on one hand.

“Why are you limping,” he demanded as I carried my empty plate to the kitchen.

“My bottom hurts,” I whimpered.

He followed me into the kitchen.

“Come here!” he commanded. “Hold the refrigerator handle.”

I held it with one hand.

“Use both hands!: He grabbed my other hand and pushed it onto the handle so that I faced the refrigerator. “Now bend your knee and lift your leg. Like this,” he bent one knee and raised his thigh to the height of his waist. I bent my knee and raised my thigh a few inches.

“It hurts!” I squeaked. Slimy salty liquid filled the back of my throat; it spilled from my eyes.

“I’ll give you reason to cry if you don’t stop that right now! Raise your leg!” he said.
I tried again but lifted it no higher.

The man pulled his belt from the loops on his trousers. “I’ll make you lift your leg!”

The belt smacked my bottom hitting one of the spots where the nurse had jabbed me. I screamed.

“Lift your leg!” he commanded again. Again, I tried and failed. Over and over he hit me until I was jumping to get away from the pain of his blows, mucus streaming from my nose, tears from my eyes.

“Now get to bed,” he finally said.

I limped away. At the kitchen doorway, my stomach heaved. A slimy green and brown pile of food and curdled milk lay on the floor.

Children’s Missal

From the doorway, I watched the woman sitting on her bed. She removed items from a round, red velvet box. I moved closer, saw lying next to her a small, cream coloured book with gold edged pages.

“What’s this?” I asked stroking the picture of the cup on the smooth cover.

“A children’s missal. My father gave it to me.”

I opened it. A man raised a cup and a small, white round above his head. I was suddenly very still inside. The woman gently took the book from my hands and returned it to the box.

“Go play, now,” she said.

At the door, I stopped and looked back at the red velvet box.

The door ajar, I sat inside the closet of the room I shared. A door closed. The woman walk down the stairs. After the sound of her steps died away, I tip toed into her room. The red, velvet box was no longer on her bed.

Her closet? I asked my Friend and opened the door.

The box sat on a shelf above my head. I climbed the lower shelves and lifted it down. The missal lay nestled between yellowing envelopes, photographs, and ticket stubs. I took it back to the room I shared and slowly read each page, drank in each picture.

On the page with the man holding the cup and the small, white round, I read: “Look, the priest is holding up Jesus so you can see him.” Something pulled at my heart. My chest heaved. “Cluh! Cluh! Cluh!” coughed out my throat. The well of tears gushed over. When the waters receded, I pushed the missal as far under my mattress as I could.

“Oh! You’re Here.” – Final Rewrite

I have reached the final rewrite stage. From time-to-time, I’ll post excerpts.

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The light switch snapped me on as I stood in darkness. The cool air penetrated my pajamas and robe, chilled my slippered feet. I clasped an old, ragged bear with no eyes. People stood watching as smoke poured from the side of the house. With flashing lights and screeching sirens, giant red trucks pulled up. Men in yellow suits and big black boots sprayed water onto the house.

The woman held the hand of a little boy.

A man came out the back door holding a girl’s hand, “Can you believe it! Eve locked herself in the bathroom. Quelle stupide!”

The man and woman called names. Children responded, “I’m here.”

After the fire was out, I reentered the house. The woman looked down at me, “Oh!” her eyes widened. “You’re here.”

The Bracelet – Giving the Gift

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The Bracelet – Giving the Gift

“When she saw the bracelet she cried out, ‘Now I know you’ve really forgiven me,'” I said shaking my head. “She flew at me, knocked over napkins, banged into chairs to hug me.” My head continued to shake from side-to-side, “The bracelet doesn’t mean what she thinks.”

“I still don’t know why you gave it to her,” Jenna replied.

“It was her birthday,” I shrugged. “She wanted real jewelry. It was on clearance, less than I’d budgeted, I knew she’d love it, so I got it for her.”

“But why would you give Caroline such a great present after she abandoned you?” Jenna demanded. “I just don’t get it.”

“I wasn’t thinking of that,” I shrugged. “The bracelet was so wonderful and I was so happy that’s she’d love it,”

“She didn’t deserve it,” Jenna pouted.

“Maybe not. But can you imagine looking for a gift based on what someone deserves?” I shuddered.

“Yes,” Jenna said.

“What a lot of wasted energy,” I said. “I’d rather not give any gift.”

“Why go to her party?”

“Her sister invited me; the girls wanted me there,” I raised one shoulder in a shrug. “I thought it would be okay since there were other people.” I shook my head again, “I just wish she understood.”

“That you don’t trust her?”

“Yeah. NO. I do trust her.She’ll do the same thing again.”

“Of course she will,” Jenna said.

“She hasn’t changed. It’s all about her. She feels safe around me now she knows I don’t have cancer. She doesn’t even imagine how I feel.”

“So you shouldn’t have given her the bracelet.”

“I couldn’t go without giving her a gift. Why would I give her something she didn’t want? That would be no gift at all.”

“Why go to the party?” Jenna asked.

“I can’t just abandon Farrah and Adhita.”

“I guess not,” Jenna mused. She shuddered, “But you’ll be around Caroline.”

“Maybe I’ll learn to forgive her,” I said.

“She doesn’t deserve it,” Jenna replied.

One corner of my mouth lifted in a half smile, “Probably not. Who does?”

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Worth Something – Assignment 6

our-lady-of-sorrows-1

Even the painful things are worth something

“He used to say, ‘I’m doing the best I can,'” I said staring at the icon of Our Lady of Sorrows above Dr. Vogwall’s head.

“Was he?”

“I never thought so before,” I sighed looking down. “But now…” My eyes returned to the icon.

“Yes?”

“His best was deficient, but it would still be his best.” I longed to press my face into the folds of Mary’s blue mantle.

“It would,” Dr. Vogwall said.

Mary’s eyes encouraged me to say more.

“If it was his best,” a tear threatened to spill onto my face. I sniffed it away. “If he did his best,” I sniffed again, “no matter how deficient, it’s worth something. Don’t you think?”

“What do you think?”

I took in a deep breath, “I think it must have some value.”

“What does that look like?”

“I don’t know.” I scratched my head and glanced up again at Mary, “Must I be able to quantify it in some way? Isn’t it enough to know there was value even if I can’t delineate it?”

“We’ve talked about the problems with abstractions,” he sighed.

“Yes. I need to be able to see reality.” A tear ran down my cheek, splashed onto my charcoal grey skirt leaving a tiny damp spot that slowly disappeared in the knitted wool. “He saved my life.”

“Tell me about that.”

“He interfered.  When I kept trying to kill myself, he distracted me.”

“Brutally,” Dr. Vogwall said.

I nodded my head, “I was taking more and more pills. Eventually, I’d have succeeded,” I sighed. “I was so busy fighting him, I forgot about killing myself.”

“You weren’t willing to let him do the job?”

“Precisely!” I sat up straight in the chair. “I could kill myself but I’d be damned if I let him destroy me.” My eyes sought the tears on Mary’s face, “He engaged my stubbornness subroutine,” I said in a small voice. “That’s worth something.” More tears tracked down my cheek. I lowered my eyes to Dr. Vogwall’s, “Fighting him, I learned to fight myself. That’s worth a lot.”

“You think that came as a result of him doing his best?”

“I think his best was absolutely crazy and exactly what I needed.”

“But he didn’t know,” Dr. Vogwall replied.

“So?” I asked. “I get credit for so many things I do thoughtlessly or instinctively. Everyone does. Shouldn’t he?”

“Should he?”

“Yes,” my head nodded in agreement. “If I get credit, he should too.”

“So the cruelty doesn’t matter?”

“Of course it matters. It was horrible. But things can be horrible and necessary at the same time.

“Dr. Vogwall, I would be dead if not for him. He saved my life and,” my face crumpled, tears flowed, “I’m grateful to him for that.” My hand flew up, covered my mouth but the words had already escaped. “I never thought I’d say that.”

“Do you think he wanted to save your life?”

“No, he wanted to control me, to own me. But it’s like Joseph’s brothers — the minister meant it for evil but God meant it for good — my good.” I sniffed and wiped away tears. “I wish he had taken it for his good too.”

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Assignment: In words and/or images, compose a piece grounded in the possibility, distant as it may be, of hope and reconciliation.

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