Thursday, July 12, 2012
It's the Thought that Counts...
I've waited ten years for an idea to "bite" me, as Ray Bradbury once said. A few months ago my mom was telling a story from her childhood and I said to her, "You could write a book on your life and Oprah would love it. It's her kinda thing." It was true, but I was joking when I said it.
But as the next month went by, I heard myself say it again at the end of another story and the thought stuck in my head as I began to think of ways in which to weave her story. One night in May I called her with a particular teaching triumph in my AP class and then blurted, "I hope you know I am serious about putting your life into a story. It would work. I have so many ideas." When I called, I had no intention of saying that! But, the thought of writing her life story had been repeating in my mind for two months at this point and it was as real to me as if it was already done.
My mom laughed and said, "Sounds good." And ideas always sound good at conception, but usually fade upon reflection. Then she offered the undebatable confirmation. She said about a year ago (spring 2011) she had gone to a local coffee shop with a church friend and they ended up meeting another friend as well. As they talked the second friend suddenly said to her, "You have a story in you." She just shook her head and laughed because the idea of her writing a story was preposterous! I laughed too, but grew awestruck when she solemnly said, "But he didn't say I was going to write the story, he simply said the story was in me. Looks like you are going to write it." I don't know if I believe in coincidences or not, but this was kind of too weird to be a coincidence.
The conversation turned into talk of meeting and telling stories. I told her ideas I already had forming. I told her my only intention was to write her story. I wasn't going to sit here and say, "This will be published!" Would I send it if I came up with something acceptable? Absolutely. But really, I just think her story needs to be written. It's a story of overcoming all odds, of not becoming a statistic. It's a story of God's glory working in and through people...I told her this. And that her story needs to be one that gives hope, written is such a way, "that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart" (Maya Angelou). I told her the difference between her happy ending and those of other similar stories is that "her story needs to glorify God, the reason for her hope."
She started to tell me the story of "how I came to be." I'd heard this story before - the struggle to have a baby and all. But this time, of all times, there was a piece I never heard or maybe never remembered before, as if it was saved special for this moment. She said she always wanted a baby just because she wanted one. But one day she finally said to God, "I want you to give me a baby that will glorify You." My exact same words (quoted above) 32 years later caught her ear and jogged this memory - giving us a second confirmation in one phone call that we needed to complete this writing project together.(And if you haven't gotten the picture yet, yes, God/Jesus plays a big part in this for me. No - no religious fanatic here, just someone who has learned through experience Who is leading the way in this life.)
Two confirmations not enough for you cynics out there? A couple weeks later my co-worker suggested a book for summer reading book club at our school. "The Color of Water" by James McBride. Ok, sounded cool. I ordered it off of my book swap site without question and was stunned by the subtitle when it came in the mail. The complete title reads: "The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother." What?! Of all books to come across my path, one where the author is writing about his mother's life!!! And it's a good read too. Want another confirmation? James McBride and his mother give the glory of her life turning out how it has to Jesus Christ. I'm telling you, the more I experience life, the more I don't believe in coincidence.
But, the irony of ME writing my mom's story? That's a post for another time.