Friday, July 31, 2009

One lick at a time

My brother told me an interesting story yesterday. Apparently, when I was two years old, most of my older brothers and sisters entered a mile run at the local middle school. Because I was not the type of child to be left out of anything, I insisted (as only a headstrong two-year-old can) on entering as well. Apparently I was the youngest participant, which isn't really that much of a surprise.

I'm told I held pretty strong for the first half-mile; however, at this point, my youthful determination began to flag. This mile run wasn't everything it was cracked up to be! However, then Johnny (always thinking) had an idea. He ran about 50 yards ahead of me (not too difficult, considering he was 15 years older than me and 6'3, and I was two years old with stubby little hobbit legs), and he held out a Jolly Rancher. Oh, how my eyes lit up! With determination in my eyes, my little arms started pumping, and I fell forward into the ever-popular toddler run, head leaned forward, legs pumping wildly to catch up. When I reached him, he held onto the Jolly Rancher and gave me a good, long lick. Sweet bliss!

However, then came the betrayal. After that one tantalizing taste, he stood up and ran another 50 yards ahead. How dare he! However, I screwed up my little face, leaned forward again and took off. Again, I reached him, and again I was rewarded with that one lick; but then, moments later, he took off again, and I was forced to follow in 25- and 50-yard bursts. All of a sudden, the distance didn't matter. It was only another short distance until I got another taste, and since I trusted my brother, I knew that I would get that taste every time. And then, all of a sudden, the next time I reached my brother and the prized Jolly Rancher, the crowd burst into cheers. Step by step, lick by lick, I had completed the mile. And, of course, I was given the entire Jolly Rancher, a laurel wreath of which Apollo himself would be jealous!

Honestly, does it get any better than that?

Of course, I came in dead last. (Come on, I was two years old!) However, my brother said that the cheers when I crossed that finish line were deafening. Now naturally, I don't remember any of this production, but I know all the players involved, and I know the script. It's not that difficult to recreate the scene in my head.

I think there have been other occasions scattered across my life where the same sort of thing has happened. I'll be running along at a good clip for a while, and then I'll get winded. It's very tempting to stop, but then off in the distance I see a glimmer of my goal, so I lean my head forward and pump my little legs until I get to where that glimmer was. And perhaps I'll get a taste of something wonderful -- just a taste, mind you -- and perhaps I won't, but I'll see another glimmer of it a ways off, and so I'll lean forward and run some more. At times, I'll get frustrated, but I'll receive comfort from a loving Heavenly Father, and he'll point off in the distance, and I'll see that prize again, and off I'll run, because even though I'm only getting the occasional taste, it's something I know I want, and it's something that I know is simply wonderful. And then finally, one lick at a time, without even realizing it, I'll cross the finish line.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

License and Registration, Please!

Story time!

A few weeks ago, my parents were in Utah for a family reunion. When they left, my aunt drove them to the airport. After dropping them off, she was driving back to Provo when she saw the tell-tale red and blue flashing lights in her mirror (amusingly referred to as the "cherries and blueberries" by a friend of mine). She checked her speed, the speed limit, and her lane: 63 mph in a 65 zone, and she was in the right lane.


Still, law-abiding citizen that she is, she pulled to the shoulder, and the police car pulled up behind her. The officer climbed out of his vehicle, walked up to her car, leaned over as she rolled the window down, and asked her, "Do you know you're doing 63 in a 65 zone?"

*blink* "Yes sir?"

"Ma'am," he responded, "this is a very busy highway. People go 80 down this interstate, and you're obstructing traffic."

Clearly this event did not take place in Provo.

My aunt, pleased at this revelation, smiled and said, "Oh! I can go 80?"

The officer looked at her incredulously and emphatically said, "No!"

Ah. Of course, officer. Thank you for clarifying.

At least she got off with a warning?

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Are you listenin'?"

I have a metaphor to present.

Do you remember when you were a child, and you believed in Santa? The excitement you had every Christmas Eve, just knowing that if you stayed up just a little longer, if you listened a little harder, you just might hear those bells on his sleigh, and perhaps the clop of tiny hooves on your roof? You just knew that he was coming, and that if you just believed hard enough, if you closed your eyes and just listened, you'd be rewarded with that jingling, and you might even get the chance to sneak down to the living room (in spite of warnings from your parents that to do such was a nigh unforgivable offense) to see if you could at least catch a glimpse of a black, polished boot vanishing up the chimney. However, as the years passed by, and you never heard those bells, you started to wonder.

Do you remember the day when, finally, you accepted his "true nature?" Do you remember the disappointment you felt, knowing that no matter how hard you believed, you just weren't going to hear anything? Not a single hoofstep. Not a single jingle. Nothing.

However... I'm betting that, on occasion, during a soft, brisk night with perhaps a magical glimpse of a snowfall... occasionally you'll stop and listen carefully. You doubt it, but sometimes you just wonder if maybe... maybe you didn't believe hard enough... If perhaps you could have heard those magical bells if you'd tried just a little harder, waited just a little longer... And so you stop, close your eyes, and wait... Of course, a few moments later, you start to feel a little silly, grin to yourself, chuckling wryly while shaking your head, and continue on. You think it's ridiculous, but that urge to listen is still there, gnawing just a little bit.

My question is this...

What do you do if you stop to listen for the bells... and you actually hear them?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Theory of Relativity

I wrote this a few weeks ago at my family reunion. I decided to post it on here. As things stand, I'm planning on having new entries from now on, with perhaps an occasional old entry or something.

I'm sitting here at my family reunion, surrounded by relatives, and a thought comes to my mind. What, exactly, is family? Is it a strictly biological factor, a group comprised of similar pairings of nucleotides, a cosmic accident wherein certain individuals just happen to be born into the same clan? Is it a legal definition, by which the powers that be can more easily classify humanity, packaging people into tidy little groups, then shuttling them off to be dealt with at the beaurocracy's convenience? Is it both?

Is it neither?

As I quietly observe from my bench overlooking a basketball court, I see myriads of interactions taking place. My teenaged cousin Cougar (his parents are unparalleled BYU fans) faces off against Diane, an older cousin, showing off for her, and for whoever else may happen to be watching. (I doubt he even realizes I am even a part of this latter group.). His sister, Melissa, is standing over by the wall, smiling at some off-hand comment her dad just made. Quietly, she sneaks over behind her brother and snatches the ball away. Instantly, she is in an offensive stance, dribbling the ball, searching for some crack in Cougar's defense that she can exploit. (all this while wearing a black, knee-length skirt.) She makes a quick feint, then spins around him and takes off across the court. That's right, she seems to think. Even though you're good, and taller than me now, I'm still your big sister, and I can still take you on.

She doesn't even take a shot. She just passes the ball back to him and returns to her seat on the floor by the wall. She femininely spreads her skirt around her and smiles demurely, her facade replaced, but I've seen her secret. I'm no longer fooled. Besides, it's only a short while before my cousin Don sets a volleyball for her and she's back on her feet for an impromptu bump-set-spike practice session with him.

Across the way is the indoor track, a raised walkway that rings the entire upper level of the rec center. The race for children aged two, three, and four has just begun. The parents all cheer as their children make their ways down the track, some running full-force to be the first to break the victor's tape, others bewilderedly wandering along, absolutely dumbstruck at the commotion. Before the race is even halfway done, one inexplicably bursts into tears.

How many years since I was the one on the track, unsure why I was running, but going as fast as I could because hey, that's what everyone else was doing? One? Two? Twenty?

Sometimes it seems like yesterday.


Just to my right, a small voice babbling incomprehensibly wakes me from my reverie. Taylor, my younger cousin Andrew's year-old son. Wow. A year old already? Honestly?

He plays happily, completely oblivious to the fact that the people surrounding him are his aunts, uncles, cousins, two, three, four times removed. To him, they're just someone else to smile at, another person whose day he can brighten with a laugh as he toddles over, clutching in is hand a gleaming treasure to bestow, its shining beauty hidden under the guise of a scrap of paper or perhaps a broken piece of plastic.

It amazes me as I look at the various relationships, all the cousins, and mothers, and brothers, and aunts, and greats, and thirds, and fifths, and once removeds, and family.

A quick aside: And, of course, the meddlers. Those relatives with whom I haven't spoken since the last reunion and know very little more about me other than the fact that I play the piano and... well honestly, very little more than the fact that I play the piano. And, with no malice whatsoever in their hearts, they come sit by me to talk, then ever so casually mention that they know a girl, and she's cute, and she's just about your age, and hey, I've got an idea! She lives close to you, why don't you just...

Did that just happen? Perhaps. *sigh* Bless their well-meaning hearts.

But back to family. I'm surrounded by so many people, and I'm tied to each of them in some way. Some of us share common blood ancestors. Some are related by marriage. Some are adopted, though I defy anyone to guess which, they're so much a part of us all. But no matter how they link themselves to me and to each other, they all fall under that wonderful umbrella word: family.

What exactly is family? In the end, I suppose it's all relative.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Kipling would swallow his own ear for a title like that!"

(I wrote this a month or so ago, but I only just recently started this blog. I felt this was a good place for it, and a good first real post.)

"What Mahoney needed was the opportunity to prove to herself that she was something more than she believed."
~Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Have you seen this movie? If not, go watch it right now. It's okay, I'll wait.

Done? Good. Let's continue.

I've spoken to a few people about Magorium, and I've been surprised at how few of them really appreciated it for the beautiful film I perceived it to be. Perhaps it's because I just enjoy the bright colors, the music, the silliness that would only appeal to a child. Perhaps it's because I love delving into the depths of that feeling of wonder, the amazement that it seems only a child is ever able to fully experience, that world that sometimes seems lost to me, but that through interaction with the wee folk, I'm able to occasionally glimpse, through a thin, gauze curtain, quietly beckoning me to come back, come back and play one more game, just one more adventure, please, please, just one more swing across the river to Terabithia, one last peek through the wardrobe...

Perhaps it's because I see so much of myself in Mahoney.

"I'm stuck! "
"Oh, to my floor?"
"No, sir. Like a person. You remember when I was a little girl and I could play Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and everyone was talking about my potential?"
"Well, I am 23 now and everyone's still talking about my potential but if you ask me to play the song I know best... I'll still play Rachmaninov's Second."
"May I suggest you stun the world with Molly Mahoney's First?"

Thank you, thank you, Edward Magorium. Thank you for your ability to cut away all the grime, and the muck, and the cares of the world, and reveal the simple truth that lies underneath. That potential is still there. It hasn't vanished, it hasn't fled, it hasn't been consumed by those cares of the world. Quietly tucked away, patiently waiting for me to notice it again, hidden beneath the tainted Elantrian grime lie those gifts I was given so many years ago, like a cherished treasure that somehow got misplaced and lost in the conglomoration of distracting toys, jostled about, and buried underneath the bed. And there they sit, innocuously gathering dust, until that day when I once again realize that something quite dear to me is missing, and in a panic I tear the room apart, terror gripping my heart, and that blissful moment when I push aside an obscuring box and see that treasure glittering at me, welcoming me back for that one more game, and inviting me to travel once more to the second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.

"I still have no idea what to write."
"Write about anything. Write about your family, write about the talking whale! "
"What whale?"
"The one that's trapped in your imagination and desperate to get out."

Finding Neverland. Another great film. The story of Peter Pan has long been my favorite work of fiction, along with its brilliant villain, Captain James Hook. And then, of course, Steven Spielberg's masterful reimagination in his sequel, Hook.

Interesting. Dustin Hoffman plays a prominent role in two out of three of those films. I wonder if he feels any special connection with them...

But I digress.

There is a common thread among all of these works. Magorium. Finding Neverland. Peter Pan. Hook. True, three of them are based on the dreams and works of the same man, but it's more than that. There's a reason I've always felt a love for Neverland. (I still have trouble saying that name without hearing Dame Maggie Smith's cracking voice saying it. "You're in England now. Land of good manners!") Neverland is the place where that childlike wonder never dies. It's the place where even middle-aged Peter Banning can return, never knowing what's around the corner, be it a wandering tribe of savages, a band of vicious pirates, a half-feral band of young boys, or the hangman's tree, where the four seasons all occur simultaneously. ("That's early for spring to be astir. Spring's not due 'til 3 pm!")

Edward Magorium and Peter Pan... They're really two sides of the same coin: Magorium, the old man who is honestly still a child and accepts aging and death as his next great step in life; and Peter, the young boy who has lived for longer than us all and still holds onto his childish recklessness while actually fearing only one thing -- the inevitable march of time. (And THAT is why Hook is such a brilliant movie... because Peter finally comes to accept aging, continue in his maturing process, and yet remember that part of him that resides in Neverland.)

I consider myself lucky. In my life, I have never let Neverland get too far from sight. There have been times where it has seemed faint, and I've feared that I would lose my connection with it. But then, that second star to the right twinkles just a little bit brighter, and something reminds me. A beautifully written book, a particularly inspiring song... even the feel of a tiny hand reaching up into mine as my niece looks up at me with her bright blue eyes and her increasingly patchy smile as she loses her baby teeth but still grins up at me, completely unashamed (for each gap is a badge of honor). Yes, even at the times it seems far away, Neverland still remains.

"What's it like, Neverland?"
"Someday I'll take you there."

The time has come...

Hello world. I've decided to create a more public blog to supplement my more private livejournal account. That site will be used for my more personal, journal-style entires. This one will be for thoughts and ideas, perhaps a few pictures as I pick up my camera again and try to create something new from what is already there.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the title of the blog comes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In this blog, I will be "talk[ing] of many things," and so I felt it appropriate. We'll see how it goes.

So it begins...