I don’t have a farm story from this week.
I do have a story from just about a year ago.
I wanted to talk some about Alex, who was from Chiapas, Mexico, who spent a couple of years working with our family. He was like a brother to our boys (read: they picked on each other mercilessly), and he called me his American mother. He grew to love mashed potatoes which he’d never had before (and requested them the last time he came down from New York, where he moved when his younger brothers came to America) and taught us to eat corn on the cob with mayonnaise and cheese and lime. (Not a fan, 😉.)
We introduced him to American fast food (he had heard of it but never tried it—Taco Bell is NOT Mexican food, he said, LOL) and loved our local Mexican restaurant, where the owners and half the servers now congregate at our table when we go, talking politics and business.
Alex’s native language was Tojolabal, which, I believe, is a Mayan language. He learned Spanish when he went to school and studied English in his teens.
He didn’t understand us at first, but eventually, we communicated pretty well. He wanted to learn to read English better, and he and I spent a lot of time in the evenings after work studying.
Being a homeschooler (one of the first questions Alex asked us was why our kids weren’t in school, LOL), I had plenty of books, and I even had some with CDs to go with them (Audible would have been very helpful!), which I gave to Alex and he’d study them before bed.
One year for Christmas, I gave him Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand, translated into Spanish, which he LOVED. : )
He taught my boys to play soccer and to speak (a little) Tojolabal; we took him truck pulling. Actually, everywhere we went, he went too, including church, family get-togethers, and on vacation to the Outer Banks where he saw and swam in the ocean for the first time. He was truly a part of our family.
Alex was 19 when he came to America. (Where Alex lived in Chiapas was very rural, and he was almost like a child in many ways.) He had gotten married just a few months before he left Chiapas, and his wife was expecting. His daughter was born in Mexico while he was here. There were a lot of problems, and I know Alex had heartaches that we couldn’t help him with.
There are politics involved, but it’s way more complicated than talking points on the news. I guess I’ll say the Bible says we are to obey man’s laws as long as they don’t interfere with God’s laws.
Alright, I said all that because Jillian, the heroine of my book Anything for You, is from Mexico. Alex, and the men we met because of him, was my inspiration for her character. Here’s my dedication for Anything for You:
To: Francesco Sanchez y Gomez (Alex)
Also to: Lydia, his wife, and Kela, the daughter he never met.
Thank you for adopting me as your American mother. I’ll never see you again, but I cherish the memories.
I’m not going to complain about this because God planned our family, but I have one son that was born on May 7th and one born on May 11th. Growing up, I liked to combine their birthdays, but that was problematic, because then they didn’t have a “special” day of their own.
So, as much as I could, we celebrated their birthday on their day.
They’re men now—20 and 24 years old—and they claim they really don’t care about their birthdays. But I’m their mom, and I told them until they have a wife, it’s my job to make sure they get a hug and a meal on their birthday. (And I’ll find them, wherever they are! LOL.)
So, last Thursday, I planned to drive up to Pennsylvania and have a meal with my youngest son before turning around and coming back to Virginia. I had to return on the same day, because Watson spends Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in PA, and someone had to be here to check the cows and make sure they were still in. (And we actually did have a calf born that evening after we got home.)
On Wednesday, my oldest son called me. “Mom, I don’t want you to come up tomorrow.”
Me: Why not?
Him: You’re too old to do all that driving in one day.
Me (in a very soft voice): What’s the name of that spider that eats their progeny?
Him: Is progeny in the broccoli family? Because if it is, it’s a hard no for me. (dramatic pause) You know, Mom, maybe we’re dealing with some Alzheimer’s too, because we were not talking about spiders and broccoli. I think you’re confused.
Me. I’m not sure how you survived childhood. (Maybe there’s a reason God has me in Virginia.)
Him: Mom, stay down there. You’re too old to drive that much, and if you get confused, I don’t want to find you wandering around West Virginia six weeks from now.
Me: I’m coming up.
Him: Stay down, Mom. That’s too much for you, and I don’t want you to do it.
Me (even softer): Growing up, there were a lot of things I didn’t want you to do. I’m pretty sure you did every single one of them. If you want to win this argument, you’re going to have to come up with a different line. That one rings hollow.
He called during lunch and must have had me on speaker, because I heard laughter, then one of my other boys called out, “She has you there.”
Him: Mom, that’s a lot of driving for someone your age, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.
(I’m starting to think he doesn’t want me up there because he doesn’t want me to see all the nursing home brochures he’s got lying around to try to figure out which one they’re going to stick me in. Next week.)
Alright, I won that argument, because the girls and I left early Thursday morning to drive up.
At 5:30 on Thursday morning as I stepped out of our house in Virginia and walked across the yard toward my car, I could just see the orange glow of the sunrise in the eastern sky. In the western sky, the big, full moon hung suspended over the mountains, casting a white glow over the awakening hills.
Over in the far pasture, I could see our cows, dark shapes outlined where moonlight and sunrise collide, lying content. The thick smell of spring hung heavy in the air—lilacs and lilies, honeysuckle and fresh pine, threaded with a faint whiff of the river running just below. A couple of early rising birds sang over the faint splash of the creek echoing up from the hollow.
An exquisite morning made special by the full moon and spring scents. One I’ve never experienced before and might never again.
God is really pulling out all the stops to try to make me fall in love with Virginia.
Four and a half hours later, I was surrounded by my family for the first time in six weeks—the longest I’d ever been separated from them.
My parents came up, and it almost felt like nothing had changed and we had never left.
As I carried the cake out, I asked one of the boys to start singing “Happy Birthday” (since I can’t sing), and he started in on a robust rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” (That apple is still hanging on the tree. LOL.)
We laughed and lingered and talked business and trucks, babies and car seats, music and late frosts for a long time, but there’s always work to do, my dad had an appointment, and the girls and I needed to get home to check the cows.
I didn’t have enough room to take my violin and banjo down with me when we moved, so I grab them before we go. I don’t play the violin that well (I just fiddle around, LOL), and I’m even worse on the banjo, but I’m a big believer in making a joyful noise. 😊 Seriously, music is a balm to the soul, right? And God delights in our praise.
I was tempted to cry as I drove south, but I didn’t. I’d like to say it’s because I was excited about looking forward to going into this new chapter God has for me or some other great spiritual thing where I think positively, as Philippians commands, but it was more because I’m not a great driver in the best of circumstances, and I’d be downright dangerous if I were trying to sob and drive at the same time.
Just a little note—we stop at Sheetz in Berkeley Springs, WV. It’s not quite halfway, but Sheetz has the best restrooms. It’s a female thing, I think. : ) Anyway, I pumped gas while the girls walked the dog and went in. Then, I ran in to use the restroom.
I admit I’m sad, wondering what, exactly, I’m doing in Virginia when everyone I love and the people who need me are back home in PA. Maybe I’m a little resentful that I didn’t get my way.
Sometimes, I grin at strangers, just to see if I can get them to smile back at me. (You know how hard it is to NOT smile at someone who is smiling? And it is IMPOSSIBLE to not smile at a baby that is smiling at you, just saying.) But I wasn’t doing that. I was in my own head, ignoring the people around me, focusing on me and my pity party as I walk into the store.
In the hall, standing between the doors to the men’s and ladies’ restrooms, where I couldn’t avoid him, was a man holding the hand of a little girl, maybe about five years old.
He looked at me as I approached. “Do you think this is the family restroom?” he asked, indicating a skinny door between the two restroom doors.
There was no sign on the door, and it looked like it was probably a supply closet to me, but I shrugged and said, “I don’t think so?”
His lips flattened, and he nodded. I’m sure he’d known it wasn’t. He scrunched his face up and looked down at the little girl.
I knew what his problem was. He couldn’t take her into the men’s restroom (and, ladies, if you’ve never been in a men’s restroom, just trust me on this one. And don’t ask me how I know what the inside of a men’s restroom looks like. THAT is a story that’s never getting told.), and he couldn’t go into the ladies’ room himself.
Thankfully, his question got me out of my head and I stopped. I might be able to help. “Would you like me to take her in and keep an eye on her?” I asked.
“Would you? That’d be great!” He lifted their joined hands and said, “Here. You go with the lady. She’ll make sure you’re okay, and I’ll be right here.”
I am thinking: Really? You’re just going to let her go with me? Don’t you want a driver’s license or child clearances or a kidney or something?
Then I realized—my son had called me old, and I think he was right! I must look like a cute, harmless, little old lady. I didn’t cry about leaving home, but…no. I’m kidding. I didn’t cry. I held out my hand and said, “Come on, Hun Bun. Let’s do this thing.”
She smiled (a toothless smile), took my hand, and bounced into the restroom alongside of me. (And yes, it was that easy. She didn’t turn a hair about walking away, holding the hand of a stranger. I guess when you look like a little old lady, everyone trusts you?)
So, I might be old, but I am still as fast as a five-year-old in the restroom (hmm, maybe I can’t talk about that in the newsletter?). Actually, I was faster, because I was waiting for her when she came out of her stall.
She couldn’t reach the soap, so while I was helping her wash her hands, I mentioned her lost teeth.
She started chattering and we stood at the sink while she told me how she’d lost TWO teeth in ONE day and how her cousin was older, but she lost her teeth first and how they just fell out and she lost two MORE teeth in the same day and that was FOUR teeth—I was able to interrupt and ask about the Tooth Fairy.
Being of a business mindset, I was really curious about what the going rate for teeth was, but I wasn’t able to get the question in, because after she answered that yes, the Tooth Fairy had taken them, she was off again, chattering about her pillow and bedroom and colors and…I was finally able to get her hands dry, and we left the restroom, hand in hand, having bonded, as ladies tend to do in those places.
I delivered her back to the man, who thanked me. I told him I got to hear all about how she lost FOUR teeth. He laughed and said she loved talking about it.
Boy, did she ever. LOL.
Less than three hours later, I was driving down our tree-lined drive, almost done with our trip.
Isn’t it funny how a chance meeting like that can shift your perspective and remind us that God didn’t save us then leave us here to live for ourselves? How God can use a little girl’s toothless smile, a gentleman’s relieved look, and a trusting little hand in mine to serve as reminders that it’s not about me and what I want and what I can do to make myself happy.
That wherever God has me, he’s got something for me to do to be a blessing to someone else. It might not be big and world changing or cost me anything but time.
It’s about others and finding ways to serve. (Okay, and according to my oldest son, it might also be about, no matter how old and decrepit your mom is, she can still hobble around and help a little. : )