Sunday, May 9, 2010

Plastic Bags and New Life

I remember the night my little brother was born.

My four and a half year old self was shuffled off to stay with a family friend. They had a little girl, younger than me, and a little boy just my age. We were terrific pals. And if we really were as wild that night as I remember, those friends of my parents probably had headaches when they woke the next day to send me home with my dad.

I think we watched The Land Before Time like 7 times or something. And we spent the rest of the night throwing stuffed animals onto the canopy of the little sister's bed, and then trying to jump into it ourselves from the top of her dresser.

And that's all I remember until the part where Dad came to take me to the hospital to meet my new baby brother.

I climbed into that big blue van I so adored (the one dad didn't have a key for because it was so old - he used his pen knife to start it up), and we went to Ingles, for some last-minute groceries. I spent that time leaping from one white tile to the next, convinced that the white tiles were safe and the orange tiles were molten lava.

Since mom was in the hospital, it was up to my dad to remember to bring a jacket for me, in case it rained. Which... he didn't.

And rain it did. Scratch that... it poured.

And when we pulled into a parking space at the hospital, little me had no desire to go out in that rain without a raincoat.

My dad didn't panic for a second. He simply reached into the back seat, pulled some plastic grocery bags up, and dumped the contents out onto the floor.

He then proceeded to punch two holes in the bottom of one of them. Two holes for my legs to go through, and the handles went over my shoulders.

One plastic bag for a hat, two more for over my shoes, and I was not only waterproof - but the proud new owner of what I thought was absolutely the coolest rain gear on the block.

I took Dad's hand and marched proudly into the hospital to meet my new brother.

The security guard at the door took one look at me and said "Nice raincoat you got there!"

"Thanks", I beamed, "My Daddy made it for me"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

At The End of The Squish

Because telling stories is what I do:

It was a few years back when I was in Japan with my sweet friend Zoe, who made it possible.

We were participating in one of those summer classes that took you to a foreign country for 2 weeks to study art.

It was a beautiful trip - a bit of a "Breakfast Club" experience in a way, in that we bonded with our classmates only to say farewell and pretty much lose touch when we all got back home.

There was one guy tho. we'll call him Sam. He was (I say this with extreme affection) as stereotypically gay as they come. And by that I mean: stylish, polished, squeaky clean, and always, ALWAYS, smelling delicious. (Not that straight guys can't be all of those things, but Sam was pickier about always being this way than any straight fella I've met thus far).

Sam was absolutely precious with wonderfully unexpected (and extremely entertaining) reactions. I suspect we disagreed on many fronts, but our conversations were light and conflict free. He became the friend I tended to hang back with when Zoe was busy elsewhere.

One day towards the end of the trip, we found ourselves at a Japanese beach of sorts.

I was SO RELIEVED to be away from the neon lights, concrete and skyscrapers of tokyo- I longed for nothing more than to get my feet in the ocean.

zoe concurred and we decided to go for it. one problem though. the ocean lay beyond what seemed like an infinite sheet of... sea mud.

Closest to where we stood was regular sand. Beyond the sand, a strip in which Japanese people were digging for and collecting clams. Past that... it didn't look pretty.

But we both felt equally compelled to roll up our jeans and get to the water's edge.

Of course, we easily breezed over the sand. Oh! And how grateful we were to feel that sand under our toes!!!

The first sign of trouble hit us about halfway through the clam diggers' strip.

I put my foot down in sea shell infused gray mud....

and it sank.

I was in up to my ankle. Ok not so bad!

"Ugh! this is gonna be narly!!!" I shouted.

Zoe stopped and looked at me. Should we go on? Yes. But slower. One step at a time.

Watching our feet. Watching the mud... Watching our feet disappearing deeper into the gray slime with every step.

Halfway there.

Press on.

One step at a time.

Gray mud up to our knees.

Past our knees.


I confess. I screamed. My inner tomboy who grew up on 8 acres of NC mtn meadow and forest catching anything that moved with my little bare hands gave way to a 22 year old version of me screeching like a mtn lioness on crack.

"ZOE!!!! ITS MOVING!!!!!!!!" I grabbed my knee-pit and pulled my leg out of the mud. It made a gratifying "Sllluuuurrrrrruuuupah". And I was doing an action that would have been hopping up and down if my other leg wasn't still. stuck. in. the. mud.

Zoe, of course, was less than thrilled to realize the reality that potentially poisenous, dangerous, razor-toothed, mysterious, Japanese, killer, just... sliding around our calves in the slimy gray muuuuuaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! SARAH!!!! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO TELL ME THAT??!?!?!!" She wailed, struggling to sprint back to sand and safety and little Japanese tourist shops.

She was however... making almost zero progress. So she finally stopped the struggle.

So did I.

Terrified as we were of possible death by Creature-of-The-Squish, we also felt equally passionate about reaching our goal.

I might even be so bold as to say that I had a touch of a feeling - a pull on my stomach that surpassed rational desire for an ordinary dip in the ocean. I had that same wild craving to continue forward that tends to find me in life when God has something for me; either in the journey, or at the finish line.

But, what??? Why would He ever want me to go through the squish??? What could possibly be at the end (or... the middle ???) of this mess to make this journey worth it?

My spirit rebelliously desired to keep going forward while my flesh (revolted at the idea wanted only clean, dry sand... and... honestly... an american sized glass of sweet tea.)

Zoe and I looked back at the beginning. we were, as it turned out, much closer to the shore than we thought!

So we hiked up our jeans just a little bit further and proceeded onward.

Sllluuuurrruuuupah, splaaaaaaoush, eeeeeew. Sluuurrruuupah, splaaaooouush, whhhyyyy.

It was misery.

And then i realized it was only calf deep again.

And then ankle deep.

And then my feet, at long last, were level with the sand made of sea-beaten chips of shells.

For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, Zoe and I looked up.


We gasped with absolute glee! (Yes, yes we did!)

Because, there, at our feet - and covering the ground to the left and the right just as far as we could see, all the way into the shallowest waters lapping smooth, wet sand, were starfish.

Gorgeous orange and purple starfish. it. was. glorious.

And just as glorious, as we looked back at The Squish; we didn't die! No dagger-jawed squish-creature could get the best of us after all!

We knew it was a gift. And we soaked it in.

We also knew this meant a few more trips through the squish were inevitable.

We had to go back and get a camera! And we had to tell everyone else so they could come see too!

So we made the trek back - fearless, this time - laughing and musing over what a sweet God we serve.

We exploded breathlessly back onto the sidewalk where our group sat, snacking on Japanese candy, octopus on a stick (no joke), and/or tiny cups of aloe flavored drink.

Excitedly, we told our friends of our adventure and offered to navigate everyone through the squish so they could see too.

We were met with silence. Blank stares. Nobody was ecstatic. Nobody wanted to come see.

I couldn't believe it. Zoe looked dumbfounded as well.

Squeaky-clean Sam raised his eyebrows.

"SAM!!!" I exclaimed, "You'll come! Won't you??!"

He looked down at his shiney name brand shoes.

"Leave your socks and shoes here! We won't let anything eat you!"


I honestly don't know to this day how we managed to talk Sam into braving The Squish. But somehow... we did.

And despite the grimace he maintained for the duration of the experience, and the non-deliciousness of how we all smelled upon return to dry land (ever smelt low-tide? yeah... we smelled like low tide.) - I think he was glad he went.

We all felt stronger and more courageous for it.

Not to mention, thanks to Sam's photography skills, we happily kept pictures to always remember by.

So that's that. The story of the Squish.