“Always remember that you are absolutely unique.
Just like everyone else.”~Margaret Mead.
Many years ago, when I was a child in England, I somehow got drawn into a small playground game. This older girl was pulling the caps off the younger boys’ heads and throwing them up in the air. I have no idea how I become involved in it, but when one of the caps went sailing over the high wall that surrounded the playground, she disappeared and somehow I was left to be the alleged perpetrator. The cap was gone, stuck somewhere between the library next door, and the school. The owner of the cap tormented me for days after the event, by threatening me with his father, a policeman. Each day I trembled at the thought. I don’t remember details (I was probably only six or seven at the time), but somehow the situation was resolved by my parents taking me, and the contents of my piggybank, to the school to meet with the ‘headmistress’. She accepted my coins in repayment for the lost cap. This, it appeared, would resolve the conflict. At the end of the uncomfortable meeting, after she was sure I had learned my lesson, she informed me that the cap had been retrieved by the janitor, and returned to the boy in question. But she would be keeping my coins, and donating them to a charity of her choice. I may not remember the details, but I remember very clearly how disgusted I was. Why did I have to give up my savings if he didn’t need a new cap? When I heard we were moving to Jamaica, I was happy that I would not have to see him again.
But giving to charity, donating to those who were less fortunate than you was a concept I was used to. As long as I could remember we would have some sort of collection box on our mantelpiece. There was the boat that we would put our ha’pennies in (half a penny: big coin, little money!) that would go to helping missionary work around the world. Once a month, my parents would go to the prison entrance, and offer small gifts to those recently released to help them get started. Sometimes they would find them odd jobs, or introduce them to possible employers. It was part of my father’s work, helping to give people a second chance. Extending a helping hand. Society is not always kind to those who have broken the rules. Even after they have paid their debt, their punishment lingers on. Their record may prevent them from being hired, or voting. Despite the fact that many live by the concept of forgiveness and redemption, we often like the idea in theory, but not in practice.
The life of a minister’s family can be quite exciting. In my case I was transplanted from England to Jamaica at a young age. Between birth and my early twenties I moved six times. I learned to adapt and make friends easily. Even though I was often the odd one out in a group, I loved nothing better than to fit in. As far as I was concerned, I was no different from anyone else. And yet I was. From growing up white in rural Jamaica, to going back to England for nursing school, and having parents who lived in Jamaica, my story was irregular. When I landed in Miami I was finally home. I was no longer the odd man out. Just about everyone I met had a story. They were all transplants, they were all irregulars. We were all living in a city of misfits. But my extraordinary life has also given me options: I can feel as if I am home in many places. I have now lived in South Florida for over 38 years, and for 37 of those years I lived in the same house. The family across the street were there when I moved in. My next door neighbor moved in one year after me. Continuity. Familiarity. Comfort. So last week when I uprooted myself from the familiar, and moved into a new home, it was both exciting and scary. My next door neighbor declared it to be ‘devastating’. Where was he to turn for health advice, for a quick consultation, for someone to tie his tie for him?
But sometimes we have to shake things up, to reinvent ourselves. When we get too comfortable in one spot we stop growing. I am one of those lucky parents who never experienced the empty nest syndrome. It always happened that as one child would move out, one (or more!) would move back in. It meant that I never had to worry about getting locked out, there was usually someone there to let me back in. Errands to run? There would be someone who could run to the store for me, fill up my car with gas, get some money out of the ATM. So this is new. To move into a new nest with no grandkids marching into my room, demanding that I answer their questions, or solve their fights. No one in the kitchen making something delicious.
Yet I have been given the opportunity to see life from a new perspective. Even as I have downsized, I have upsized; into a two story home with a large circular bathroom window that gives me elevated views of the sunrise (I have been late for work twice this week as a result! Not to mention the longer commute!). The window on the opposite wall gives me views of the sunset. I have a corner outside to sit under a live oak tree draped in Spanish moss, feeling the breeze and unwinding after a long day. It is no mansion, but it is my castle, a place to create new memories. It will be a while before I know where anything is, which at times makes me quite anxious, but it will also create an opportunity for me to discover anew things I forgot I had, and discard old junk that I have been clinging on to for no reason.
This Friday morning I hope you are happy with your choices to be who you are, unapologetically you. I hope you love the life you are living, and as a friend posted on facebook this week, I hope you can laugh with abandon. Life gives us many opportunities to be frustrated, challenged, or scared. Yet we can choose to see opportunities and jokes, be excited instead of afraid.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!