I was born and raised a true Southern Baptist complete with dinner on the grounds, summer revivals, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. My week was planned before it even started - days were for school, but Sunday and Wednesday nights, church. But for me, the best part of all, was seeing my friends and getting that extra 'bud' time that school days just didn't provide. In the disguise of GAs and Acteens, I met my 'bestest' friends, spent hours of doing what teenage girls do best, jabbering! We made some memorable (and questionable) decisions - like when Carol, Pam, Susan and I stuffed into Brenda's Henry (a.k.a. a pea green late 60s Mustang) and rolled our Acteen leader's house, or when we borrowed my dad's 48 Chevy and spent my 16th birthday at the drive-in (THAT is a another tale). It was fabulous. As an only child, I lived for church because that is where I found the sisters I never knew I had.
At that time, I had no idea what a lucky girl I was. Not only did I make some of the most enduring and long-lasting friendships of my life, but I also formed a relationship with God that would carry me through my unpredicted later years. Although I'm not as consistent, shall we say, as I once was, when it comes to walking through the church doors on a weekly basis, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't look UP and converse.
With that said, I am most assuredly not Catholic, but my husband is. Much like me, my husband's life was resurrected around the church, its traditions and beliefs. I tell him I would have been a horrible Catholic, with all that kneeling and stuff - terrible knees. I have visited St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, purchased a beautiful pearl-like rosary and even lit a candle for my daddy. I'm sure I didn't "do" it right, but in my simple mind, I was close to God and my daddy.
Every year since the beginning of my life with Len, we have celebrated Christmas by attending Midnight Mass at St. Joseph's in Athens. Much of the time, I was lost, but followed my husband's movements as best I could. It was a long way from Bethlehem Baptist! If my prayers were answered, Rev. David McGinness would lead the service. I first met him at St. Mary's Hospital when he comforted Len as his mother was slipping away. Such peace, humility and grace he brought with him.
He's a man of small statue, heavy on the Irish brogue, and shockingly, very entertaining. At masses, he always began his remarks with a comical tale and then shifted into a deeper lesson. He did so this Christmas night when he began with a scale and ended with a birth. "There was no room in the Inn," he began matter-of-factly. Such a disappointment for those who missed this blessing, he continued. And why is there no room today? Such clutter. Such unnecessary stuff.
As life begins in 2012, I want that stuff gone. Those thoughts erased. Those people that make me sad. The events that I can't change. The lives that I can't touch. I don't want to miss out because I didn't make room for the important moments, people, events.
This year, I will make room - daily, moment by moment, breath by breath. For my husband who unselfishly gives me his heart; for my children who still hug me and want to spend time with mom; for family who never forgets the history that glues us together; for my heritage, one that has built my character and won't let me down; for my career, one that gives me such enjoyment; for friends who make me a priority in their life, not an option. I don't want to wake up this time next year and realize, with disappointment, that I missed the King.
The attic is a scary place where boxes turn in to headless monsters devouring once empty space. And inside those monsters, well, that can be equally daunting. Once you move past the aged smell of something that has been sealed for far too long and the massive amount of black (and white I have discovered) mouse droppings, it's all downhill.
There's endless quantities of outdated clothes, unused kitchen utensils, unopened (regrettable) gifts, worn-out shoes, discarded computer equipment, dead TVs, packaged Christmas decorations, busted lamps, unnecessary nick-knacks, and more and more of the same. Most you fly right by, but there are some objects that require a closer look.
I can't begin to explain how many Hallmark cards can fit into a box about waist high. I believe Veta (Len's mom) kept them in business. Whether it was the sending or the receiving, she did her part in establishing Hallmark as a billion dollar enterprise. It may appear to be just paper, but you have to attach humans to these mailings. Think of those who sent the cards - how they perused the aisle in the grocery store, reading card after card until the right one made them smile. Jackpot! And then, days later, Veta, sitting in her green Lazy Boy, going through the mail, finding a colored envelope and realizing it wasn't a bill. With her trusty letter opener, she slit open the envelope and then magic, a smile from ear to ear. Thoughts from far away! No matter if the occasion was a birthday, a holiday or even a death, a smile was there because someone cared enough to send a card. Not an email, a hand-written card.
And in the old steam truck of mom's, one single greeting card that stood out from all the others: the first Valentine from what would turn out to be one of many during a very long, love affair. He only signed his name, Kimsey, and added no thoughts or phrases. His name was enough. I wonder how many times she read the card while tracing the imprint of his name with the tips of her fingers. Ah, the romantic in me!
When you least expect it, you will find treasures wrapped securely in 1980s newspaper pages. There's the Drag-ula car made by my husband for his pine-wood derby years ago. Wrapped securely in browned paper, hours and hours of work lay in my palm. Before I even knew he existed, he carved it with his hands and crafted it with his heart. Then, there's the SoSewSoldier sewing kit that belonged to Neil, Len's father. He carried this government-issued necessity to France, through Belgium and then home again during WWII. Both will have a new home, free of stuffy air.
Finally, I'm going through a heaping box of towels, dishcloths and crocheted throws and stumble upon a beautiful blush linen tablecloth, complete with eight matching napkins - still in its original box, unused with creases still crisp. As with all things cotton packed away, a wash is required. As I'm tossing the tablecloth in the washer, I read the tag: Made Right in America. Not Made in America, but Made Right in America. Pride jumped off the tag and smacked me in the face. I don't recall seeing that wording ever. I'm sure that in 2011, those aren't the words added to tags on linens or toys or computers or anything else for that matter.
There are lessons to be learned from the attic. Mice can get into any box, I don't care how secure you think it is. Most of us have way too much stuff. Those clothes you wouldn't wear in the 70s will NOT come back in style and even if they did, you wouldn't or couldn't wear them then so you won't wear them now, so get rid of them. Dead TVs and computers are just that, dead. And, when you dig through the clutter, there are gems of lasting worth that must be saved. There are stories of accomplishments and failure, of loneliness and hope, of holidays and dreams - magical seconds of a lifetime made concrete by materials stored in an attic.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.