MayBelle Gets More than She Ordered

It doesn’t take much for MayBelle to stop and think of her precious parents. The backdoor neighbor’s cigar smoke makes her hope, just for the tiniest moment, that her father has come for one of their long, rambling conversations that serpentined among politics, religion, books, and culture. He’s been gone for twenty years, and still she gleans from those chats. She enjoyed talking with him over anyone else in the world.

Taking some items to a local nonprofit last week channeled her mother, who seemed always to sense someone in need. Whatever you do, don’t ask MayBelle about the time she want looking for her favorite pair of jeans, the ones with the apple appliqués, only to be told they had been donated. Same goes for her middle sister, whose dolls were given away to some Methodist missionaries’ children without her permission.

“You have plenty,” their mother would say. And they did.

Just yesterday, this:

MayBelle was leaving one of her favorite Nashville lunch spots, The Picnic*, when she stopped for a car to pull into a spot. It was shiny, four-door Mercedes. Gleaming white. An older gentleman parked the car, got out, and walked around to the passenger side. He was smartly dressed, handsome. She’d swear she spotted a pocket square. He helped an older woman out of the car. Probably his wife? Also well dressed, everything matching. Sensible shoes. He placed his left hand on the small of her back and guided her toward the door. They were both elegant, slow movers. And then: A teenage boy opened the door to the restaurant and waited for them to make their way inside. Patient. Kind. In such a world as today’s where rudeness seems to prevail and manners seem almost obsolete, these tender gestures about broke MayBelle. (MayBelle apologizes if she seems a bit jaded today. A weekend trip to a crowded mall has her evaluating all of civilization.)

These two intimate interactions made MayBelle think of all the ways her parents cared for one another, with such concern and respect. And it made her think of how hard her oldest sister and brother-in-law have worked to raise their three lovely children to be thoughtful and courteous. And it especially made her want to find this picture, in which one of MayBelle’s nephews helped her mother to the car after a family lunch. MayBelle’s father was gone by this time, so a new escort was needed.

MayBelle stood for a minute or two after the couple and the boy were no longer in view, mesmerized. She’s not sure what rooted her to that spot, but what she had witnessed felt holy to her. Most days she tries to pay attention, MayBelle does, just in case a routine chicken salad run might turn into an extraordinary encounter with the Divine. In that one instance, MayBelle felt connected to her ancestors, experienced compassion for her elders, and was inspired by the next generation. Not bad for an ordinary afternoon in May.

*Best fruit tea in town.

A Good Enough Day

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Upon returning home from an idyllic two-week trip to my favorite place, Chautauqua , I was met by a frantic puppy with sharp little teeth, loads of laundry, work to catch up on, and a world in upheaval. Being the highly sensitive person that I am–a middle-aged goober who can feel overwhelmed in crowds or when witnessing conflict–it all seemed too much. So yesterday I concentrated on the basics: Take a shower, make at least a little progress on an editorial assignment, and keep the two appointments I had scheduled. I’m glad I did, as I’m always made better when I get up and go, even if the movement is slight, like a short walk through my neighborhood. As evening settled over Nashville, I headed for my gratitude journal. This practice of stopping and taking stock both reassures and renews me, and I can get off center fairly easily if I don’t do it. Honoring that which matters is a sacred act.

To wit: Friends who didn’t freak out when I met them for lunch and said, “Good to see you. I may cry while we eat.” Instead, they offered, “Go ahead. We might, too.” The three of us are in that stage of life where we’ve lost—or our losing—our parents; our health is throwing us curve balls; and we’re letting go of some time-bound dreams while still pursuing the ones we care about the most. We are doing the best we can, and we are not giving up even if we have to slow down a bit and order salads instead of cheeseburgers.

In my younger days, I probably thought “good enough” meant I wasn’t living up to my potential, or that I was settling. At this stage of my life, I know it means the freedom and self-assurance to live well, without comparison to others’ accomplishments or accumulations, without wondering “Would my life have been better if…?”

So on this day, I’m thankful for a good therapist, the playfulness of said frantic puppy with the sharp little teeth, a husband who knows how to cook, my writing partner who sat across from me for three hours as we wrote our hearts out, and this amazing sky.

It is good enough and plenty.

Amy Lyles Wilson

P.S. What are you grateful for, at this very minute?

Watch Your Step {On Noticing}

IMG_7718While walking in the Radnor Lake Natural Area near her home in Nashville over the weekend, MayBelle stopped to watch some deer feeding among the trees. Lovely, calm creatures nourishing their bodies while MayBelle filled her soul. It was one of those quiet, still moments that keeps MayBelle going when she thinks all the noise and unsettledness in the world at large might overtake her. She has come to crave time in nature, finding it to be as sacred as any brick and mortar church she’s ever knelt down in.

Soon she heard some Very Loud People headed her way, in the form of two young women debating with enthusiasm the best bars in Tuscaloosa. MayBelle heard enough to be able to make some recommendations, so let her know the next time you’re headed that way and she’ll hook you up. Consumed by their chatter, they almost ran smack into MayBelle, who had stepped to the far side of the trail. She had not called out to the women so as not to disturb the deer. MayBelle is nothing if not polite, even when meandering in the woods.

“Oh,” said one of the women as she stopped short in front of MayBelle. “What are you looking at?”

MayBelle tiled her head in the direction of the deer.

“Wow,” the other woman said. “We hadn’t even noticed.”

Indeed, thought MayBelle as the deer skittered away.

There were other delights during MayBelle’s time in nature, like the big woodpecker beating his heart out; the call of the turkeys; lines of turtles on logs. And, alas, there were other Very Loud People. But MayBelle is learning, slowly, how to tune out what she doesn’t need to hear and instead concentrate on what really matters.

 

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