Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5/10/12—Remembering Grace

Today's Draw: The Empress from Angel Tarot Cards by Doreen Virtue. What is your first memory of a time when you felt truly loved? Who was the person that made you feel that way? And can you still feel the energy and quality of that love today?

Ever since I first started hearing about the movie, The Help, I've been wanting to get the Empress card at a good time to talk about Grace. Not the quality of grace or divine grace, but Grace, the lady who worked in our home doing laundry and ironing and cleaning and taking care of me.

We only lived in Montgomery, Alabama a year or so of my life, but it was a pretty pivotal year. I was three years old. This is where I learned that barefoot was the best way to walk, "y'all" was one of the most used words in the whole, entire dictionary and "ain't" was the kind of word that could get you in trouble with momma...well, if your momma was born speaking the King's English, that is. 

My first memories also came from that time. The first time I remember feeling forgotten and heartbroken was from that time. My daddy had promised he'd take me to the commissary with him. He worked so hard we didn't get to see him much, so this was very special. I think I'll forever have an image seared in my mind of standing at a big window, all dressed up for my "date", screaming and crying while my father pulled out of the driveway without me, oblivious to his promise and to me. 

What I also remember was the lady who pulled me away from that window and comforted me as I cried. Grace. You would imagine a child's first feelings of being wholly and totally loved would come from their mother. But mine came from Grace, the lady who was hired to work in our home. I remember sitting and playing at her feet while she ironed. And I also remember a quality and sweetness of love that I don't think I've felt from another person since. 

Let me be clear that I had a phenomenal mother. She had six children and a husband who worked and traveled hard. I have no idea how she did it. I imagine in Alabama pretty much everyone had someone helping in the home. I imagine it was fairly cheap, too, because we weren't rich. So I'm guessing that—and the fact she was nearly 40 with six kids aged 3-11—precipitated hiring Grace. I don't really have any memories of my mother until the following year when I was four and would stay home with her and we would eat crustless sandwiches and watch Match Game and Hollywood Squares together. I had a crush on Paul Lynde. (Didn't every girl?)  :D

I'll also say I don't have the best memory in the world. What I remember, I remember quite clearly. But you could fit most of the memories of my childhood in a basket compared to the truckloads of memories other people I know seem to have. But there was something about Grace that has stayed with me for 46 years, even though she was only in my life for less than a year. 

The *feeling* of her is something I can't quite describe. It was an unconditional kind of love that I FELT and trusted in a way that I'm not sure I did with my own parents. Logically you would think her love wasn't  unconditional. I was just some kid she had to take care of during the day when the other kids were in school. But the way it imprinted on my memory was an unconditional love that was free of all the complications and ups and downs of a parent-child relationship. 

You know your parents love you unconditionally, but you probably didn't always feel it growing up. My memory of Grace was feeling it. It was a pure thing. Sweet. Safe. Comfortable. And, though fleeting, it lasted inside me for 46 years. And maybe its brevity is why. It was never tested against time. But the incredible thing about our memories is that all I have to do is think of it to feel it again.

I like to think I love my dogs that way. That they are never without the knowledge of their mother's unconditional love. But of course that isn't accurate. There are times they come to get love from me that I don't notice they're there. And there are times I might yell at them for barking or being mean to each other. So it's not like this vein that pumps the experience and feeling of unconditional love between us 24/7. Sure I love them that way 24/7, but they don't always *experience* it that way. 

The gift of my memory of Grace is that the experience of it was always there for me. And I can't tell you how many times I've thought of her over the years and wondered if she ever thought of me. I've also wondered how different my life would have been if I'd had that in my life longer. And I wonder if she could possibly have any clue of how much of an impact that short time in her life had on me. 

I'm not real big on kids, but I do get kind of passionately annoyed by parents who say "they're too young to understand" in order to justify arguing or addiction or other ill behaviors performed within reach of children. My first real memory was the loving energy that emanated from someone who'd been entrusted with my care. It wasn't something I could verbalize or analyze, but it was something I could fully understand. It was a brief experience that helped shape my life. (As was being forgotten by my father. So ferchrissakes, gentlemen, don't break your little girl's heart. She will forever seek love and acceptance from men just like you.)

The Empress is a card about nurturing and loving. So much of life gets in the way of telling our loved ones how we truly feel about them. I like to think I'm good about voicing the things I value to the people I care about. But I'm sure I don't do it enough. So consider that the next time you talk to your mom or sibling or child. Make that an occasion to say out loud what you truly value about them. And while you're at it, sprinkle a little of that love on yourself, too.

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