Twenty weeks.

Big Lots.  That’s where I was when my daughter called.  “Mom, can y’all come home? I’m really sick.”  I hung up and stopped looking at Halloween decorations and cup towels and  scratchy sheets.  “We have to go,” I told my friend.  In less than five minutes we were in my daughter’s living room and she was standing in front of me with zero color in her face.  My gut clenched.  What was wrong?  I had thought a stomach bug or maybe an earache, but this was something bigger. She opened her hand and held it out to me. Three pregnancy tests.  All saying the same thing.  My daughter was pregnant.  Pregnant.  A baby was coming.  A baby. Before summer.  I cried.

Richard and I are making plans to go see his mom for Thanksgiving and her birthday.  We are so thrilled to get to go.  His mom is the best at visits.  She will make us so much food and we will eat all of it! There will be tons of family around and everything will be even more special this year because Summer has decided to keep the baby secret until we are there.  We find ourselves in a Hallmark store looking for the perfect ornament to put an ultra-sound picture in.  We’re going to wrap it up and film her face as she opens it.  We can’t wait. We are laughing as we check out.  We are like kids.  A baby is coming.  Our grandbaby!

It’s Thanksgiving.  The room is warm and full of people who love us. Richard’s mom is in a chair and the center of attention.  Smiles so big nobody can contain them.  Summer hands her the present and she opens it to see the tiny picture of this tiny little human.  She starts to cry and laugh and cheers erupt.  The surprise went off without a hitch! By next Thanksgiving my mother-in-law will have a new person to love.

All through Christmas I find myself thinking, “This time next year we will have a baby in our lives.  We will be buying presents and planning trips to see Santa and thinking about what is breakable.”  I can’t wait. Bring it on.

We are starting to think about the nursery.  Summer calls one day and says, “Mama, I think we should put the nursery in the room with the library and I think it should be sloths.”  I smile.  Of course Summer’s baby would spend its’ beginning in a room spilling over with books.  And, of course, the nursery would be a little left of center.  I immediately start looking for sloth nurseries.  They don’t exist, but I’m not worried.  We will make this happen.  For sure.  Our grandbaby is coming!

It will be our 25th wedding anniversary this year.  We are making plans to sneak away for a week.  It will be a time to reflect on the years spent with our daughter before the baby comes.  We have passed all of the really scary markers and are letting ourselves fully accept that we are about to be grandparents.  We shake our heads.  It’s hard to believe. Us. Grandparents. How did that happen?

Forgive me for this, but I am going to stop our journey towards the birth of our grandchild at this point. As much as I want to finish that blog, I need to say something else. I need to say something else because a few weeks ago I received a call from a  young man running for Senator in our state.  Well, it wasn’t actually him, but someone working for him.  And, I liked this person I talked to. He was very courteous and respectful and I hung up glad I answered. His boss is not a member of the party I generally support, but I decide to do a little research on where he stands on the issues. The first one I check is his stance on abortion.  He supports it up to the twentieth week of pregnancy.  Some argue even further.  I am disappointed.  But not surprised.  I let it go and move on.  I’m a busy grandma now with a lot to do.  Then, I see one of his ads.  His kids are in it.  He’s talking about not wanting to let them down when they question where he was when important things were on the line.

This ad. This commercial.  This 15 seconds bought with lots of dollars devastates me.  His kids are adorable.  They obviously love him.  He obviously loves them.  So why?  Why does he think it’s ok to stop a little person’s life twenty weeks into the process of them being here?  Twenty weeks. That’s a long time.  That’s time enough to excite a Great-Grandma and buy Christmas ornaments and start planning a nursery. Time enough for two getting-older type people to find the magic in life again with the promise of a new grand-baby.  Time enough for a girl to become a mommy.

If this nice young man with the engaging smile were here in my living room right now, he would tell me very seriously that not every baby has the beginning that our baby did.  Sometimes, there is no nursery planned, no family celebration, no hope.  I know that.  How could I not?  I’ve been an educator, a friend, a mommy, a member of our society.  But, I’m sorry, I don’t think those are reasons enough to not value that little life above all else. I mean, what is more important than protecting the completely innocent? How can we build a successful society where we take care of and love all people when we don’t even do that? When it’s not accepted that that’s where we must start?  Why can’t he film a commercial where he walks through the streets with his adorable kids talking about the changes he wants to make to the adoption process? Changes that will make it cheaper and more accessible?  I’ll throw all of my tax dollars and votes to that guy.  Happily.

But, and I’m completely sure of this, I can’t pretend like this isn’t a big deal to me long enough to vote.  Because it is the biggest deal to me.  The very biggest. To me, it is the jumping off point for everything else. I know that not everyone agrees with me and I’m ok with that.  But, if you love me and I have a voice in your life, I will never stop trying to convince you otherwise. Again with the big deal thing. I don’t hate you, but I can never agree with you and the charming, young man with the nice smile never, ever gets my vote. Ever.

 

 

family.

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I grew up in a tiny place in Texas. Eight kids in my graduating class and less than five hundred folks in the whole town. It was life in the middle of nowhere and intensely up-close with those sharing the space. It couldn’t be helped.  You get to know people on a deeper level when all you have is each other.  You know which house hands out the best treats on Halloween–The Bostons. (I still think about those popcorn balls!) You know which local business is most likely to hire you when you really need school clothes money and haven’t turned sixteen yet. The Cafe. (Who didn’t wash dishes there?) You learn who is most likely to tell on you for sneaking out with your boyfriend. (You know who you are…)  In essence, you learn what community means.  What it means to wrap your life up with people who aren’t even related to you. When those people die, you make casseroles.  When they got married, you buy Corningware and spatulas. (I still have mine from my shower twenty-five years ago.)  And, when a baby is born, you gather around to welcome it into the world. A joyous welcome usually reserved for a blood relation.  But, in a small town, in the middle of nothing, everyone is a relation.  Everyone is family.

For a long time, you live in that little pocket where you know every single person who lives in every single house.  You know who has scary dogs and who bought a new boat and who is having an affair.  You feel like nothing could ever change. You will always be in your hometown. But, it changes. Of course it changes. Friends begin to scatter. They leave for college.  They quit going home for the holidays or the reunions.  Their parents pass away. Then, one day, you scatter too.  And, before you know it, it’s been years since you’ve seen people from your home town.  But, you don’t forget.

You don’t forget what it felt like that first afternoon of Christmas break when the fire trucks would roll down main street throwing out bags of candy and you knew your folks had gifts hidden at home for you. You don’t forget what it felt like to see your classmates in tuxedos and prom dresses for the first time–a brief glimpse of what they would be like as adults that made you sad and excited at the same time.  You don’t forget what it felt like to cry over your team’s loss in a basketball game and feel an immeasurable pride as you sang the school song anyway (Out upon the rolling prairie….).

So, because you don’t forget, you always have that feeling of family for anyone from your hometown. If they fly into town for the weekend, you change the guest room sheets and welcome them.  If they lose their son or mom or anyone, you drive to the funeral.  If their daughter graduates, you send a gift.  If they get married, you spend all weekend on the road to be at that wedding.  And, if they are in trouble, you help.  You do that because that’s what your folks taught you to do.  All those casseroles and popcorn balls and Corningware  were our parents teaching us that the people God puts in our life are ours.  We’re meant to involve ourselves in their triumph and in their heartache.  We are their folks.  Their safe spot to land.  Their hometown.

What a blessing that is.  It means that, with these people, we share the memory of what it felt like to come over that last hill from Booker and see our little town spread out in front of us. We share the memory of the day the park downtown was forever dedicated to Jimmy.  The memory of how good a bierox tastes and what it sounds like when the crowd erupts into cheers after the melodrama. We share our growing up years with these people.  All the afternoons and choices and conversations and church services that turned us into who we are today.  Who can they be but family?

And, what better way to honor all that our little town gave us than to keep looking out for each other like family would. To attend those funerals, and send those gift cards and make each other a priority.  And, if one of us is in trouble, to push a button and donate what we can.  To send a clear message to each other and the world that where we grew up made a difference in our lives.  We are small-town kids with a huge family.  A family created in a tiny town in the far north-east corner of the Panhandle that will withstand time, and distance and scattering.  A town that, when I close my eyes, I can still walk the streets of  and that will always be a part of me.  Maybe, the best part.