Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Comfort and Joy

I doubt there are any worse words that can appear on your phone than a text from your daughter that reads “ive been car accident pls call.”

It took me back to all those prom and graduation nights that I sat on my front porch listening for sirens and trying to relax and wait until they came home in one piece. And, to their credit, neither of our daughters have had any kind of wreck in traffic. I think each has had a fender bender in a parking lot but nothing more. We’ve been very blessed that way.

I guess our luck ran out.

Emily described a scenario that we’ve all seen as an observer: Friday evening traffic, everybody on their way home….a car jumped the light and ran into her as she entered the intersection. They collided head-on. A policewoman appeared before Emily even got out of her car and started directing traffic. People got out of their cars to ask if she was OK. Sirens blared and the parade of ambulances and fire trucks appeared. The EMTs offered to take her and her friend to the hospital to get checked out. She described it as a surreal scene. And, in the midst of it all, she knew how thoroughly they had messed up everyone’s Friday evening drive home.

I spent the rest of the weekend thanking God it was nothing worse than a bruises on both knees and from the seatbelt; especially thanking God for the invention of the seat belt. And for good insurance.

My advice to anyone from a high school Sunday School class to a Harvard graduating class is that the one thing, other than prayer, that can make a difference in the quality of your life is good insurance: auto, home and health-- especially mental health benefits. My advice is always “Scrimp on shoes, splurge on insurance.” Remember the classic line in Fried Green Tomatoes? “I’m older and I have more insurance.” It’s the ultimate revenge of the nerds.

Even with great insurance and so much to be thankful for, my weekend was looking like a bummer. I went in search of comfort.

Since I was already in town Saturday morning and Emily just needed to rest in bed, I found myself awake and hungry just in time for Community Breakfast at our church. Once I got there and started working I wasn’t even hungry anymore. But I found comfort. I flitted between different jobs—making pancakes and filling plates. I finally settled into washing and drying dishes.

It has always been my theory that some of the greatest fellowship at church is found doing the dishes. Years ago, when they wanted to buy a new dishwasher for the kitchen I found myself amused by the idea. I predicted, quite accurately as it turned out, that nobody would use the dishwasher. When you are feeding hundreds of people it’s much easier to just wash the dishes by hand. It’s also the best fellowship you can find in a church. People enjoy standing close to their friends and having a quiet conversation while you mindlessly do the washing and drying. You can almost guarantee that you won’t be interrupted, there is no agenda; you get to talk about anything that you want.

My partner Saturday was Diana Williams and I enjoy any chance I get to stand next to her and discuss the world’s problems and our own stellar solutions.

At one point we talked about couches. I had gone shopping for a new one after our current sofa was declared unacceptable over Thanksgiving weekend. The problem with the current one is that it’s really a love seat and we need room for three people, plus room for a good nap.

Beaven and I went to three stores. At one store we found what surely must be the Cadillac of couches: it was billed as “theatre seating.” It consisted of three reclining sections with two consoles between them that had a cup holders, electric outlets, USB ports and space to store magazines. About the only thing it didn’t have was a gyroscope for travel to the moon. Beaven loved it. His eyes glazed over just a bit. It was the ultimate Captain Kirk master control. Sarah and Essie would have their own space and we wouldn’t hear anymore “Get off of me! She’s touching me!”


But there was something about it that put me off. And the more we looked at it, Beaven started having second thoughts, too.

Barriers.

It had barriers. You couldn’t stretch out on it to take a nap. It was like three awesome recliners upholstered together. Not really separate but not together.

Standing next to Diana I realized why washing dishes at church is so much fun. There are no barriers. We shared a common sink. She washed in one half of the sink and I rinsed in the other. Our shoulders were practically touching. Sometimes Sandy came over to dry and joined our conversation. One of the descriptions I hear of our church most often is that we are a family. We have our quirky relatives and our steadfast ones. Sometimes our opinions differ but always respectfully because we share a Sanctuary every Sunday. When it comes times for the silent confession of sin it gets just as quiet at the other end of our pew as it does on my end.

Our pews are like a good sofa in a living room: there are no barriers between us. If a child wants to lay down during the sermon they know their feet might be in somebody’s lap. But the chances are that person has known them all their life, just as your aunt or uncle has.

As comforting as breakfast was, when I was finished I still needed comfort. What I needed was a mall. And I knew just the one.

Town East mall was “the” hangout place for my kids when they were teens. Both daughters worked there in high school. We shopped there for every important dress from the eight grade dance to the prom. They often spent Saturday afternoons hanging out and pretending they were grown. You could leave your kids there and assume they would be safe. They could pretend they didn’t need parents and were independently wealthy. There is a different mall filling that purpose now for Sarah and Essie and we have shifted our attention to it. Sarah and Essie will build their own memories at Firewheel mall. So Town East has become more a place for nostalgia than actual shopping.

I hadn’t been there in years but it was not shopping I was after, I was seeking comfort in the few things that I expected to be the same and the memories of those that had changed. Uncle Bob’s Ice Cream shop was gone but now there’s a Marble Slab Creamery. Sadly, both bookstores that competed for my business were gone.

They have added one shop that was just what I had come looking for: a whole shop of comfort food.


It went by the name Max n Cheese. They sell macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and—maybe the ultimate comfort food-- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was tempted until I saw what I had come for: my favorite grilled sub shop was still there and the menu hadn’t changed. I got my usual: a veggie sub with a side of some of the best French fries you’ll ever eat. You can tell by looking at me I have had my share of French fries and know what I’m talking about. I know my fries. It was heavenly comfort.

Christmas music played softly over the PA system: Tidings of comfort and joy. Bring it on. I’m ready.

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