Well, when you turn off the TV, you all of a sudden have a lot more time than you did before, even if you "weren't watching it much." Humph. I guess I was watching it even more than I was admitting to myself!
Anyway, finished Somehow Form a Family: Stories that are Mostly True by Tony Earley. He also wrote Jim the Boy, which is on my "to read" list. (No, don't ask me how many things are on the "to read" list. It would be frightening to count them up. I might fall into despair of ever getting to them all. For a kid whose dream was to one day read every single book in the children's section of the Abilene Public Library, it would be more than I could take to have to learn that not only could I not read the entire children's library, I can't even read my own abstract of the total books available!)
This is another Southern writer--this time from North Carolina. But he admits to being an in betweener--too young to be a Boomer, too old to be a Gen X'er. One foot in the hills of North Carolina, another in the split level ranch house of the Brady Bunch. Nowhere near the depth of the book listed below, but then not intended to be. Funnier, sometimes, but then he was richer than Bragg was. It's probably easier to be funny when your mama's not walkin' around with her toes hanging out of raggedy sneakers.
Still, he's good. My favorite in the book was the essay "The Courting Garden." He and his soon to be wife decide to start a garden together, which is then decimated by the worst drought in years. Nothing grows. Everything dies. Everything except the one perfect pepper that manages to exist. Here he writes:
Weddings, of course, have less to do with being married than with the simple fact that it is best to begn the most arduous journeys surrounded by friends and wearing nice clothes. And while our journey together has at times been arduous, I have never regretted it. God has never failed to provide, in the midst of every drought, and from the most seemingly barren soil, the single, perfect pepper that, on finding it green at our feet, makes us glad we are traveling together. We bought our first house during the middle of a harsh winter, and found, come spring, that one whole side was covered with grapevines. At those moments we smile like spies from the same small country, on spotting the other in a foreign airport, each bearing half the secret we need for survival. We click our rings together and move on, watching the ground, toward whatever miracle comes up next.
And then this, which he writes upon being asked to be godfather to a friend's baby daughter:
And now I am about to be a godfather, charged with leading a child into the faith, which proves, if nothing else, that God has a sense of humor. Jessie is a beautiful child, five months old, who beams at the world as it passes; a dog trotting by or a stranger leaning in fills her face with brightest joy. She knows nothing but good in the world, and I spend a lot of time wondering about what I should tell her. I suppose I should tell her first that I believe. I still doubt most everything, including the motives of all organized religions and the journalistic integrity of the gospels, but I do believe that I am watched over by a God who loves me, who kept me alive, for reasons known only to him, all the years I wanted to die. I will tell her I have no idea what God wants me to do, only that every time I arrive at a desperate place, usually of my own devising, a path opens up in front of me, whether I have prayed for a path or not. I will tell Jessie that I have come to have faith in the path opening up, that I keep going because I believe. I will tell her that when I remember I say thank you. So I suppose I will tell my goddaughter she should always say thank you and please.
When Jessie is old enough I will tell her about the dark places I have been, the ways I hurt myself and other people because I was angry. I will tell her of the years I tried to convince myself that I was an atheist, how I made fun of Christians with the single-minded zeal of a preconversion Saul. I will tell her about the night God pulled me out of the ice and into his house. I will tell her to drink beer only moderately, and never around boys. Jessie lives in the mountains in Tenneessee, and I like to think we'll walk along the ridges near her house until we come to a place where we can see a long way, maybe even all the way to the blue mountains of North Carolina. I will tell her that there are people out there who will love her and people who will hurt her, that sometimes they will be the same person. I will tell her how Granny Earley loved me and tried to turn me against my mother at the same time. I will also tell her that I rarely find the strength to forgive the people who hurt me, that I nurse and enjoy a multitude of small hatreds, and that I am ahsamed for it. On the way home I will show her poison oak, and tell her how in our part of the world the leaves of all the poisonous plants grow in groups of three; I will tell her that in our part of the world all the poisonous snakes have triangular shaped heads. (The lone exception, the coral snake, is also unmistakably marked.) I will tell her that these things are miracles, at once reminders that we live in a fallen world, and proof of God's great love. I will tell Jessie that as we walk through the world, even along the dangerous paths we have chosen for ourselves, God worries about where we put our feet.