~:: Being Connected ::~

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I came from a tiny family – three of us kids.  But my parents came from tinier ones: two kids in each family. I had one uncle (and his wife) and one aunt (and her husband). Four cousins in one family—two of them way older than I was and one way younger,  and I think four in the other (I was older than all of them).  My dad, who didn’t like being in groups of people, liked it that way.  So I grew up on both coasts, in city and country, finally landing (as a child in my parents’ house) in Texas, which is on another planet altogether.  And in each place, I had to start from scratch as far as having friends was concerned.

When I came up here for school, I didn’t know a living soul. Not in this state. Not in any contiguous state. Not within an area defined by major rivers, oceans of plains and ranges of mountains.  Over the six years of my undergrad and aborted Master’s degree I made a lot of new friends, mostly the college kind – who eventually get married or go home – whose lives don’t interface in adult life the way they did when we were all running wild on campus. I bought a house for myself. A wee one. I was a dental assistant for a year, then taught high school English in two cities, working with mostly married grownups. G and I met and then I spent two years wondering what, exactly, must be wrong with me, since he couldn’t seem to figure out the him of us.  Then one day we got married.

By that time we had a grand total of about two friends.  My sister lived up here for a little while.  And my brother for a moment. They didn’t stay long.

So here we were—in the land of huge, sprawling families, two people in a raw, new house (we built it—with a contractor, mostly) in a new neighborhood, far away from family.

(I always write too much, trying to get to a place where, once I explain why I’m writing, it will mean something.)

Being LDS, we went to church. For an LDS person that means we were part of a ward (a congregation – which, up here, pretty much means a neighborhood), which means that we taught Sunday School and led music, and visited neighbors and made food for people who were sick, and helped people fix their roofs and stuff. And in the course of doing all that, we built friendships. Most of our friends were people who came from those huge, sprawling families I just mentioned, but we still had a good mess of folks over for our 4th of July extravaganzas, and though we did not get along with everybody we met, we were no longer alone.

Over the years, some friends have become family. And family – my brother, G’s brother and sister – moved up here. And our children got married. And we liked our inlaws.

Last Sunday, Cam and Lorri’s brand new Gigi (named after her aunt Ginna and her great aunt Gigi – for whom Ginna was named) went to church for the first time. It is the LDS custom to make a solemn occasion of the naming of the baby. A circle of love and priesthood surrounds that baby, holding it gently, each man with one hand under the baby and the other on the shoulder of the man ahead of him in the circle, as the father – or grandfather – or whatever priesthood holder is first in love to the baby, gives the baby a blessing to last a lifetime, and establishes the baby’s name before God.

I was sitting up on the stand behind the lectern. Because I lead the music. Up there, I’m kind of not part of the congregation, facing them instead of sitting with them. Still part of them—but a watcher, too.

So often, families come in from all over to be part of this ordinance, uncles, grandparents, friends coming for the blessing.  Our congregation – usually about two hundred to three hundred people – often good naturedly finds itself bumped out of pews by the influx of people getting their early for the blessing.

It wasn’t that way for us when we blessed our babies. Often, we got permission to do it at home, so it could be done when my parents and/or G’s could get away to come all the way up here.  When we did it in church, we’d ask our dear friends to stand with us, and our little circle was dear and wonderful and fine but always very small.

But last week, when the Bishop invited the family up for the blessing, it seemed like the entire male population rose in the chapel and came forward.  I hadn’t forgotten that our baby was going to be blessed that day; we’d all planned it together. But I kept being surprised anew every time a familiar but not usual-in-the-ward person came through the doors.

When I realized how many of them there were, when I saw them all rise up and come forward—and knowing how many other men there were in that room who could have added themselves, having had a hand in Cam and Murphy’s upbringing, who love us—I was utterly overwhelmed.

G and his brother Quint, who had come with his family, came up—and Gigi’s brother-in-law Danny, who might as well be an uncle to our kids, and who had come with his family, my own brother, Murphy, Lorri’s brother (who we love dearly) and her father, and her sister’s husband (who had come with his family), dear friends of the kids’ (and us) who had come with their families and now stood with the rest of the wonderful men, and Rachel’s Brian, who was already there with his family –

When I realized how many of them there were, when I saw them all come up, knowing how many other men there were in that room who could have added themselves, having had a hand in Cam and Murphy’s upbringing, who love us, I was utterly overwhelmed.

I always think of myself of the new kid who doesn’t really belong anywhere yet.

But suddenly, I realized that I was part of a huge, sprawling family.

And I was amazed.

I suppose one of the reasons why I haven’t been writing much for the last year is that things have been flashing by so quickly – things for which there should be a thousand words written, but which also are so emotionally big, I’m not ready to try to frame them.  And then they are gone and the next thing is here. Like trying to pick out which wave to ride on a good day at the beach – and getting knocked over often enough, you miss the ones that could have counted.

This morning, I drove down to the horses. I drive a long, straight stretch of road lined with houses on one side and farms on the other. The farms hold on bravely, and I love them far more than I do the houses.

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Every Memorial day, the scout troup down that way plants a huge flag in each yard that lines the street, all the way down to the little airport road. I’ve posted pictures of the flags before. That morning, still in the flush of amazement from Sunday’s blessing, I was moved by the line of snapping stars and stripes.  Thinking about my father who was in the Navy during WWII.  On the radio they were interviewing the Marines who have to tell the families when a Marine is killed in service. A man said, “The Marine who came to our door had been crying before we had the door open. He stood there, a big black man in formal uniform, with tears running down his cheeks.”  It was hard and dear to hear them say what they said,  a three minute Tour de Force.

This morning as I drove down to the horses, I was surprised to see the flags still up.  Not only still up, but multiplied – both sides of the street lined with this big flags, flapping in a wind that had just brought us blessed rain. And there were people standing on both sides of the road, clumps of folks at corners, all looking down the street towards the airport road.

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One of the people jumped up and waved at me at I drove past—Rachel, in a baseball cap, camera in her hand.  I pulled over and rolled down the window.

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Then she told me—they were bringing a fallen soldier home from the Middle East, a boy from down-valley who was being flown into our little airport. A scouting family had gotten up at dawn to line the streets with the red white and blue – hundreds of flags along the mile and a half to airport road.  People had come from all over to park along that street and wait, some sitting in lawn chairs, for the procession to come up from the airport, heading for the highway that would take him home.

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The mom of the scouting family that did all the flags.

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I went down to let the horses out, having to oouuch by a big truck that had settled in my pasture drive, waiting for the procession. Then I went home for my camera so I could stand with my friends/family, to wait.  Which we did for some little time.

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And then it came.

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Moving ponderously, using both lanes, headlights on, first the big emergency vehicles that would make sure the way was clear, then a phalanx of police on motorcycles rolled solemnly by. Some military vehicles followed them.  Then came the white hearse. Then more military vehicles.

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Then an SUV; the dark window had been rolled down, and a sweet faced woman was looking out – she’d passed a mess of people on the way before us, people waving flags, standing silently with their hands over their hearts.  As she passed, she looked at us and she said, “Thank you,” with a tone of quiet amazement.

Then hundreds of bikers, moustached and bandana-ed, with their leather vests and their flags.

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Then came lines and lines of fire trucks and police cars and Sheriffs’ vehicles, all with their lights flashing, and I realized – I am looking at a parade that is all about the people whose lives stand daily between us and what life might otherwise be.  These are the people who put themselves between us and tragedy, between us and evil, between us and the thing that hungers after the lives we so easily think of as “free.”

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 I am shooting Rachel and Kathy’s sons because mine were not there. And this was a parade for a son, just as beloved.

We stood with our covered hearts, tears running down our faces, surrounded by the children who will be the Watchers in another decade, feeling part of something very great.  Something very good and dear.

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Connected.

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—–

May I add here that I believe we live forever. And that the “heaven” our Father promises us will actually be built out of “human” connection, the loves we forge in our time on earth, the service and exchange that creates bonds stronger than anything on a quantum level. Our connectedness is the fabric of the Kingdom of God, and the gift we lay on the alter—in return for our privilege to live, to love, to give.

And that’s fine with me.  Because that’s really all I want.

So thank you, dear ones.  For sharing your lives with me.  For allowing me to be part of yours. And for decorating my little life with your beauty.

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This entry was posted in Epiphanies and Meditations, Events, Family, friends, The g-kids, The kids, The outside world and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to ~:: Being Connected ::~

  1. Dawn says:

    Thank you Kristen, for sharing your life with us. I was so happy to read a new post from you, and this was such a good one. I got teary eyed reading about your community’s response to the fallen soldier returning home. I love what you said about our connectedness being a gift that we lay on the altar. We were made for community, to love and give.

    • K says:

      I believe this, too, Dawn. And it’s sad how people can fight against their own nature, trying to find the very thing they are rebuffing. Some people’s brains don’t let them feel the relief and joy of connectedness, and that is a terrible – I’m trying to find a word – bump in the road. We all have bumps in our physical situation. That is a tough one. It makes me tired, imagining it, but there are important people in my life that have that challenge. Actually, we have just learned that about twenty percent of the women who nurse have an anxiety response in their brain chem when they do it, the opposite of what seems to be the common design – that flood of oxytocin that gives the nursing mother a sense of cessation of anxiety. Some people have that when they have to interact on a personal level. I wish I could touch them and take that away.

  2. Rachel says:

    I thought the same thing this past Sunday! Look at all of those men! The circle was so big, could they reach the baby?

    Today. What an event. A young man brought home who is only a year older than Brennan. I sat and looked at my boys and my mama heart burst. With the pain this mother must be feeling, with the pain of knowing my boys will fight one way or another for freedom, and from the pride of seeing my sons standing there with their hands over their hearts. So proud of my boys.

    I need to download the video I took so we can add it to this story.

    • K says:

      How long ago was this now? Only two weeks? It feels like months. And here I am, in Santa Fe, finally separated from all the voices in my house (not the ones in the computer – which is haunted), finally sitting in an ambiance that requires only my presence, not my guilt, and trying to pick up a conversation I should have been part of when it happened. Glad I heard your voice an hour ago.

  3. Ginna says:

    Thanks for sharing mom. Love you and wish I could been around for any of this stuff you were describing. Glad you have so much support and love around you. That’s a huge blessing and so special!

    • K says:

      And now, here I am with you – but you will never know it, because you won’t go back to find this comment. You don’t have time. And, as I was just helping you with paperwork, I understand why.

  4. Guy Randle says:

    We were down the street on a lunch break from a studio session…didn’t know what was happening but saw all the flags and then saw the procession. Was quite moving to just come upon in the middle of the working day. Thanks for giving us a seat along the road.

    Guy

    • K says:

      You got to see the big flag. I only saw it from far away. What a strange thing to see, passing the sandwich shop on a working day -

  5. Marilyn says:

    I got teary-eyed too! I wonder how people knew the family would be coming at that time? What a respectful tribute. It makes me happy to have these reminders of community, since I often feel like we don’t have it anymore (I look back to my childhood, like an old lady, and think “these days it’s just not the same”…). But I’m wrong. It can be the same, and sometimes is. :)

    • K says:

      I didn’t know. Rachel knew. It was a mystery to me – the scout people knew. And not only were those flags all along Center, they were all along the nearly empty mile of airport road – and past that, all the way up to the door of the airplane that bore him home. And from the freeway exit all the way back into the mountain. It was a heart breaking amount of work. And when I think of the poor Vietnam vets who came home and were treated like they should have been ashamed to have answered the draft, it makes me sick. They were given no love, no honor – those were dark days, the beginning of a pulling away from honor, from compassion, from simple civility. Some good things have happened, beginning with those times, but those times when people actually knew the people in their communities fade in the face of easy transportation and communication. You always lose something when you gain something, I think. But you’re right. Sometimes it is -

  6. wsw says:

    Yeah, teary-eyed here too. And a lump in my throat. Breathe…

    I am flummoxed by how difficult I have found it to record thoughts, events, anything. It’s been so long since there was a flow. Then I am stymied by the accumulation of events. I mean, how can I write about this one current thing without writing about all of the other wonderful things that preceded it?

    Such a beautiful naming custom. I can envision it, a long line of blessings. Never-ending.

    • K says:

      This is exactly how I feel. The flow stutters. The accumulation of events. All of it. Why now? Why suddenly for so many of us?

  7. Donna says:

    Well, I love this post, but I am finding myself in a shrinking circle instead of a growing one. A circle of seriously kindred hearts with little room for casual or superficial. But, also yearning to be a servant to whomever….odd place.
    The bearing witness for the lost soldier, standing in the gap for his family….amazing. America the beautiful.

    • K says:

      The odd place is, I think, the new commonplace. Especially for us now – we are the aging generation – we see the end from the beginning. When you are young and even youngish, everything is novel and nothing will ever end. For us, reality has traction.

      I love America. And I wish we had a government that felt the same way.

  8. Murphy says:

    Mom, thank you for writing that. I too was amazed at the love and strength connected to us during that priesthood blessing.

    Also, I hadn’t known about the fallen soldier, nor the procession. So here I am, on the train, crying. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Kathy V says:

    You captured that day on Center Street beautifully, just as I knew you would, and I was grateful at the time that you were there to capture it. Makes me tear up again.

  10. Crying now. Beautiful words and pictures. I too feel part of something big.

    Last weekend one of my dearest friends baptized his 3 children at the river near their home. It was hard being so far away (they are in Montana) but our spirits were united as they celebrated.

    Hugs, Debbie

    • K says:

      In the river. Wow. Back to basics. We have a friend who just did the same thing for his son, far away. Doing such a huge thing in such a huge setting – magnificent. Quietly so. Sometimes spiritual things are so big, you wonder how your body can encompass it. There is a spiritual connection that is still bigger and stronger than some people can begin to understand. I want to keep myself part of it and never lose that thing – never make choices that leave me in the silence. Hugs back.

  11. Julie says:

    Completely humbling to see your community respond with such love, respect and benevolence in honoring a fallen soldier. The connections that we feel with others whether they live next door or half a world away are so life affirming. Your beautifully written and poignant post brings that clearly into perspective Kristen. Birth and death can be seen as the parts of life when we are most alone but those connections you’ve observed bind us all together into something much more than the sum of all of our parts. Thanks so much for sharing your words with us, they reach far and wide and today my day is much better for reading them xxx

    • K says:

      You are right – something invisible to the eyes, but not to that part of us – how do you say it? The sum has to be felt – in the heart. Literally, I think. They are finding that there are unexpected receptors in the heart itself, and really, all through us, that participate in sensing those most important things – literal connections, I believe, that are physical in the way of physics – that we respond to some sea of love that, when we talk about it, sounds sentimental or metaphysical, but it more real than most of the things human beings put so much stock in these days, stupid things of the moment.

      YOu might as well be next door to me, for the way I feel. Distance means very little, I think. So very little.

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