Sunday, February 25, 2007

Learning from Memory Lane - 1

Mom found this old Easter picture from the house where we lived with a friend when I was little. I am the little 3.5 yr old girl in the greenish dress. The others you see are her friend's kids. I was happy then. I loved my sisters. I loved my Mom & my 'other Mom.'

We moved in with C. in beach area, when Mom was invited up there to join the psychic people after her divorce. She didn't get much child support for me, or anything else, even though she was the injured party. She needed a situation that would let her take care of her baby and still supply needs & they offered to help, impressed by her gifts. They arranged the situation with C.

When C. moved out to the countryside, she needed Mom to come with her and help take care of things, as C.'s health was in tatters by then and her husband was deployed most of the time. For a time Mom was paid to care for her, but other times Mom was simply a regarded as a roomie, paying rent, watching all the kids & contributing toward groceries. It was a back to Earth kinda life, with an old manse to live in and an old farm/garden to keep up behind the house. We had chickens, goats, puppies, and a large black snake which adopted us whether we wanted to be adopted or not. lol I have a lot of happy memories from back then. I remember eating veggies fresh from the garden, walking through the crisp clean woods, getting M &M's along with the mail at the antique, but still functional, post office next door, my Mom teaching me to read on the sunny front porch, and playing so many games with my pals.

We stayed with C. until her marriage broke up. Afterward we moved in with a not-quite-hippie (VERY basic mindset, odd teas, but no illicit substances, and the father had a good paying job) Jesus-is-just-alright-with-me kinda family in an adjoining county until my mother remarried some months later.

My memories of C. were entirely positive. Every time we saw her, she taught me more about herbals, meditation, & massage techniques - all of which have proved very helpful over the years. I always wondered as a kid why we didn't see more of each other. Our visits, when we came to see her at - her own invitation, (she never visited us) always seemed a bit tense. C. often took off after only a few hours, leaving us alone with her kids. Eventually we quit trying to see her and only kept in touch by mail, and that only very irregularly.

Then we were invited by her daughter - years back now - to come by & renew ties. We visited with C. as well, and before long, C. made a confession. It seems that both she and her ex had said ugly things not only about each other, but about my Mom, trying to better their own deal in the divorce proceedings. The slander injured my mother's reputation and prospects in the area in such a lasting way that I now understood why she'd felt so guilty. I am glad she finally told us why she had been so nervous when we came. Now I only wish she had cleared the air years ago. I would have loved to seen more of her. I am glad she at least made her peace with us then. As it was, we got a few years where we knew she was just able to enjoy the contact and what little things we could do for her.

The other thing I wish is that her children, who I remembered as sisters, would have chosen to remember me the same way. We tried visiting with them, & (again) we did all the traveling & bore the entire expense of the effort. We tried to be helpful, to bring what we could to supply their needs at their house, doing little services while there, and not asking for anything but their friendship in return. At first the reunion was a joyful one. They have beautiful kids & it was great to hear about their walk with God- their trials and joys...until it became clear they weren't quite as interested in our stories. They were glad to see us but felt it was our fault we weren't closer. They liked the extra food, blankets, & other supplies they'd hinted broadly that they needed - but it became apparent after a bit that they seemed to regard all this as their due somehow. Sometimes they'd compare our gifts happily and other times unfavorably with other offerings they'd received from other friends & family. They seemed irritated we couldn't do more, like get them newer stuff, move close to take care of their Mom again, contribute significant financial amounts towards her upkeep, & be more available as unpaid house cleaners, repairers, & babysitters 'since we want to be family.' This whole time they kept introducing us to their friends & neighbors as the family of 'the hired help' oblivious to the implicit insult. It became increasingly evident that we weren't regarded as equals. It was more than just a tactless phrase.

When we didn't drop everything and move, and promise more than we had to ease their problems, they were offended. They were also offended when we didn't keep to their schedules, didn't immediately adopt whatever dietary fad they had going, didn't agree with with whatever quarrels the sisters had with one another. (I DID see the trap in that. The next week they could all make it up and then be angry with us for agreeing.) Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. It probably WAS crazy. Amazingly we actually prayed seriously about finding work there and moving closer to them because they asked us to. [btw We got a definite 'no.' Unsurprisingly, we found they didn't accept that answer very graciously.]

As always, every trial has its opportunities to fail and succeed. Unfortunately, their 'off' attitudes elicited a prideful response from me. I thought of myself as coming in humility and love, but I am very aware I have an excellent pedigree and that I was blessed with a good mind, and I HAD come offering good gifts (supposedly because we were doing so much better than they were). Surely they should be a bit nicer to me? I started tartly reminding my 'sister' that I WAS a guest and wasn't being paid for anything I did there. We weren't as quick to go along with their plans, although we tried to remain 'helpful.' Internally I was looking down on them a bit, thinking on the failings I felt they had, and balancing this against the accusations I felt were leveled at me. Now whether I was right or wrong about their attitudes or failings isn't the point. We are all of us jerks when we don't walk closely enough with Christ, and it wasn't for me to judge them. The only thing that gets through to anyone is love. They had hurt my pride, and in the spirit of offense, I was letting my love for them die. God didn't like that.

After one week of prayer and fasting at their church - I gained a fresh desire to have a Christ-like servant's heart, and began to study St Francis' life more seriously as a model. I haven't been the same person since. So...what the enemy did to hurt me, God used to call me closer to himself. I have been able to care about them anyway, and while this didn't result in the close relationships I would have liked to have forged, it did save me from the guilt I might otherwise have felt.

& - while I am at it - Hurray for the Jesus Freaks, the truly open-minded searchers for the Truth, the dedicated Christians, & other counter-culture folks. Seems like they are the only ones I ever met who took Jesus' commandment to 'judge not' seriously. My early years would have been a whole lot worse without them.

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