ant hills, mud pies, & rainy drives (part 4)

Jamie bucket bath1976

fast-forward a dozen years … just Jamie and me … in a car … winding our way through a blinding, slippery, Oklahoma summer thunderstorm …

As the sun’s slipping beyond the trees and hills, lightening flashing all around and thunder shaking the car I am driving, I nearly panic.   The road disappearing in the puddles.  The tires tugging and churning.  The spattering rain on the windshield deafening my sanity…

We had just spent… a couple early evening hours… hanging out with other teens we’d met through my high school church youth group.  We underestimated the clouds pace and forbearing intensity as they crowded out the sun.  My fear of running late coupled with Jamie’s relief to leave these strangers led us to hop away in a hurry…

Jamie’s family sent him to spend time with me every summer.  They now lived in a suburb of Denver, Colorado while my family lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We both attended large public high schools.  Since his freshman year, he’d been battling disappointment after disappointment.  He always had the big dreams.  The step by step strategy figured out, and the fortitude to overcome challenges.  Like many from our era, he dreamed of flying fighter jets via the Air Force Academy.  And eventually at Top Gun and in combat.  In the meantime, football served as the training ground.  Saturday’s autumn allegiance granted to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Sunday’s filled, first with church in the morning, of course, but the afternoon’s rest rang with the Denver Bronco games.  Jamie never tired of watching, strategizing, and then, of course, running outside to “coach” and practice with his younger brother and any mildly willing neighbor friends.  That is… until Hinckley High …

Instead of tryouts, they simply signed up for football even as freshman.  A game, Jamie anticipated playing for years, became a place and time of personal pain and unraveling destruction.  We’ll never know all Jamie endured as he watched his dreams of playing high school ball dissolve into a crass and cruel heap on the field by coaches …and  follow-up tormenting in the locker room by teammates.

My middle school years had been rough ones.  After moving from a rural Wyoming town of 1,000 people to Tulsa, Oklahoma and nearly 1,000 people in my middle school, I found myself in rural vs. city culture shock.  From styles to class sizes to “knowing my place” in a small community to “learning my place” in a larger one… at least basketball ought to be a familiar place for me to settle in… my sport of choice at the time.

However, can you even believe six-man basketball was what girls were still playing when I moved to Tulsa in the late 1980s?  I had played recreation league style five-man for a couple years before moving, and I loved basketball. Sprinting down the court, dribbling through the legs, and swishing buckets… oh, and competing as hard as I could against my hardy athletic peers in Wyoming.  But, in Oklahoma… I tried the six-man version  (unfamiliar?  Basically, three offensive players stayed on one side of half court line and only played offense while three defensive players defending the goal only on their side)… and it nearly killed my love for the game.  Somehow, I’m not even sure of the details now, my Mom signed me up for a dance team with an amazingly talented dance teacher who also happen to see potential in me… Remember, me, the tomboy from Wyoming?

Dance spoke a physical language I learned and loved.  I possessed just enough flexibility and determination to overcome my memory lapses and awkward angst against spandex and sequins.   Through a rather quick succession of events, I accepted a special invitation to join a try-out competition squad which led to dancing for a competitive school team in middle school as well as on a freshman competitive team, and making the varsity dancing team with only two other sophomores.  Honestly, I was never one of the best dancers on any of the teams I felt honored to dance among.  However, I can say, some people approach dance to execute the eight-counts or maybe simply to be seen,  but I danced from the heart.  I preferred practices to performances because I loved dancing for the joy of dancing, and team-building… the absolute best part.

All this to say, my high school experiences seemed to be widening my dreams and confidence… as Jamie’s seemed to be waning…

yet, we return to car in the storm… my sanctity shaky – like my steering, but not Jamie…

No, Jamie spoke calmly, quietly, and even confidently: 

“We’re fine, Heidi.  Just keep the car tight between the lines.  Brake easy.  We’re alright.  Drive as slow as you need.  The storm’ll pass.  You’re doing great.   We’re fine.  We’re almost home.” 

Mile by mile, his patient and persistent reassurance always calmed me.  Sure, I probably blabbed and blubbered on, spewing my doubts, but his outer calm always balmed my inner chaos. 

And he was right, that night, we were fine… and we made it home.

“Who knows what the ‘the communion of saints’ means, but surely it means more than just that we all of us haunted by ghosts because they are not ghosts, these people we once knew, not just echoes of voices that have years ceased to speak, but saints in the sense that through them something of the power and richness of life itself not only touched us once long ago, but continues to touch us.”

– Frederick Buechner The Sacred Journey pg.23



4 thoughts on “ant hills, mud pies, & rainy drives (part 4)

  1. Pingback: ant hills, mud pies, & rainy drives (part 3) | Shadows Presence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s