Lee Hull Moses

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A Card of Her Own

I am, generally, a very responsible person. I follow rules. I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. I like deadlines and most of the time, meet them.

With one glaring exception: I cannot, for the life of me, return books to the library on time. While I don’t particularly mind supporting the library through these unintended donations, I’m pretty sure I could have purchased a small library of our own with the money I’ve paid in fines over the years.

So on Monday afternoon, at the library with the kids, it was not all that surprising when the librarian told me I had too many fines to check out any books. I needed to pay at least $3.65 to get my fines low enough to remove the restriction placed on my card. I would have paid it – there’s no arguing that the books were late – but I didn’t have any cash, or the checkbook, and the library isn’t set up to take credit cards.

“Well,” I said to Harper, “We’ll just read a couple of books here and come back another day to check some out.”

This did not go over well. I could sense a full-blown fit coming on and hesitated a moment, wondering if we should just leave now or go on to the children’s room and hope she could pull it together so we could read a book or two. In my moment of hesitation, the librarian jumped in:

“You know, she could get a card,” she said, pointing at Harper, “and you could check out books on her card.” Harper’s eyes lit up and she came back toward the desk.

“Do you have your ID?” the librarian asked me, and before I knew it, Harper was writing her name on the back of the card. “Now, of course, you have to be with her if she checks out books,” the librarian informed me.

This struck me as both completely ridiculous — You understand, I wanted to ask her, that I am the exact same person who already owes $8.65 and therefore I am not allowed to check out any books? I have not in any way proved myself to be worthy of the responsibility of a second card — and also completely charming and representative of everything I love about libraries.

(When I told this story to Rob later, he said I’d been the victim of predatory lending. I couldn’t pay the first loan, so they gave me a second one. Funny. But not true; predatory lending is an actual and terrible problem. Library fines are not.)

So I probably should have said no, but I did not want my daughter to be punished for the sins of her mother. Plus, you should have seen the quiet grin that crept across her face when the librarian handed her her card.

She grabbed some books, mostly at random, but we lucked out: One was about the civil rights movement; we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., and what a coffin is (Where does the life go that was inside? she asked.) We read about a French sculptor and learned the word “oui.” We heard the story of a first grade class who welcomes a little girl who wears a headscarf. It’s a big world out there.

Good books, all of them. Would somebody please remind me to take them back on October 29?



Show Business

I’m not always entirely clear on how God answers prayers, especially the very specific “please-let-me-find-a-parking-space” variety. But I’m pretty sure there was some kind of divine intervention this afternoon when I said to myself, “If I have to play one more game of Tickle Monster with this five-year-old or dig this baby out of the trash can again, I don’t think any of us are going to make it to dinner.”

God said, “Then have a puppet show.”

Turns out, I’m pretty good at puppet shows. I’m think I was channeling a little bit of Jim Henson and a lot of my dad, who is also pretty good at puppet shows. In fact, one summer at camp, when we were counseling together, we put on a puppet show for the third-graders. The theme was the vine and branches passage from John’s gospel, and when we got to the phrase “you will bear fruit,” one of the puppets said, “Bear Fruit? What’s a Bear Fruit?” We thought it was hilarious. I’m sure the third-graders did too.

Anyway, one of my puppets bore a striking resemblance — in voice inflection, if not in appearance — to Grover, and the other was more of an Eeyore with a British accent. (I’m telling you. Oscar worthy performances.)

Harper played right along, talking back to the puppets and singing along with the songs. She came up on cue to give the puppets kisses and giggled at the jokes. She laughed hysterically when the puppets got attacked by a giant baby.

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After dinner, we had an encore presentation for Rob, who was very supportive of my newfound talents. Maybe if this ministry gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go on the road.

(So, if that was you, God, thanks for the idea.)



It’s Not Chicken Hill, But It’ll Do

The first thing you should know is that I grew up in the flatest county in Indiana. On snow days, we went sledding on a small patch of grass between the cemetery and the golf course that was called – ironically, I realize now – Chicken Hill. I may have low expectations for sledding hills, but I have wonderful memories of hurtling down that hill with my dad and sister and friends, tumbling off sleds and trudging back up, breathless and warm from the exertion.

The second thing you should know is that I’ve been working a lot lately, and I feel like I’ve hardly spent any time with Harper that didn’t involve hurrying her from one place to another.

The third thing you should know is that Greensboro has, for the second year in a row, hosted an outdoor skating rink for two months in the winter. It’s set up right downtown, and has become quite popular. This is the last weekend for it, and to celebrate – and to preview a coming attraction for next year – the organizers arranged to lay down some man-made snow on a small hill nearby and open it up, tonight only, for sledding. Harper heard about the sledding at school earlier this week, and came home begging to go.

These three things combined to make this sledding opportunity the One Thing I Had To Do To Keep From Ruining My Daughter’s Childhood Forever.

Problem number one: It was 65 degrees today. It was not, in any way, a good day for sledding.

Problem number two: We don’t own a sled.

I figured that problem number one was the ice rink organizers’ problem, and that if I could get Harper downtown by 6:00 with the right equipment, then at least it wouldn’t be my fault if the snow all melted before we could slide down the hill.

I presented problem number two to Harper, half hoping that not having a sled in the first place would convince her this wasn’t something we really needed to do. But she said, “Maybe we could make one out of paper,” and I thought to myself, if you think you can sled down a hill on a piece of paper, perhaps you’d better actually have this experience.

As much as I love my daughter, I did not want to spend my one day off driving around town in search of a sled, nor did I want to shell out the $35 the one place nearby was selling them for, so I put out a plea on Facebook, and got a call from a friend who offered to lend me their sled.  (Aside: Thanks, Facebook. I take back most of the mean things I’ve said about you.)

That wasn’t the end of the obstacles, though: the camera batteries were dead; it took us forever to get out of the house; it was still really warm out and I was sure the snow would be gone by the time we got there; the sled, once I’d picked it up, didn’t fit into the car. I had to shove it in above the seats, between the kids, which I’m sure was not the safest thing to do, but by that point, we were going to get downtown with a sled by six o’clock if it killed us.

But there we were, finally, on our way. Harper, who processes everything out loud, couldn’t stop talking about what it was going to be like: “How will we get to the top of the mountain, Mama? I know we sled down the mountain but how will we get up?” I crossed my fingers that she wouldn’t be disappointed.

The “mountain” consisted of a small patch of slushy ice in the middle of a grassy area in the heart of downtown. It had rained a lot earlier in the week, so the already-wet ground had turned a lovely shade of mud, and the white ice looked bizarrely out of place. It was more of an ice slide then a sledding hill, and was a far cry from any midwestern sledding spot – even Chicken Hill. “It’s kind of sad,” I said to Rob as we were waiting in line, “that we’re all pretending that this is so great.”

But there were dozens and dozens of people there, maybe a couple hundred even, with their sleds and their snow pants – the temperature had dropped a little by then, but was still in the low fifties – and there were kids, like mine, jumping up and down with excitement. The local news station had come, and the weather man was giving his forecast with the sledding hill in the background. We ran into several people we knew, and I realized that we weren’t pretending – it was really great, to be outside on a lovely evening, with a perfect cresent moon in the sky above us, greeting neighbors, laughing with children, making the most out of winter, even in this land of not-very-much ice and snow.

Harper went down twice and didn’t complain once about having to wait in line or leaving afterwards. The first time, she went down by herself, head first, grinning into the wind. The second time, she and I went together. I wrapped my legs around her little body and we hurtled down the hill, giggling as we slid right off the ice onto the grass beyond. Then we trudged up the muddy hill where Rob and Jonathan were waiting for us, and went home to order pizza. Maybe her childhood won’t be ruined after all.



Sunglasses at Night: A Challenge

My blogging buddies (and real-life friends) Kerry and Katherine both used my sunglasses-at-night story in recent blog posts and sermons. Kerry used it as the intro to her Blue Christmas sermon in the middle of Advent, illustrating the way grief often fogs our vision. Katherine used it as a way to talk about repentance and resolutions at the turn of the new year.

I am tickled that my ridiculous middle-of-the-night shenanigans proved helpful to someone, and it got me thinking: What else could that story be good for? Could it be a truly universal metaphor that could be illustrate any point one wanted to make? I nearly used it in my Epiphany sermon last week, just for the fun of it – you know, the light revealed and all that. I ended up talking about Galileo and the Hubble space telescope and science museums instead. I tried my darndest to work in the Indigo Girls song Galileo; I couldn’t quite make that work but the sermon turned out pretty fun nonetheless.

But I digress.

Here’s a challenge for you: could we come up with a way to use this story for every liturgical season or major holiday? Pentecost? Transfiguration? (Come one, that one’s easy.) Maundy Thursday? Good Friday? Easter morning? (Also easy.) Christ the King Sunday? Thanksgiving? Heck, while we’re at it, Fourth of July? Veteran’s Day?

Come on, play along. You know you want to.



You people with all girls don’t know what you’re missing.

Before Jonathan was born, there was much speculation about his gender, as we intentionally didn’t find out on the many occasions we could have. The general consensus among the folks at church was that it would be a boy. They based this, apparently, on the fact that I was “carrying high” and that I didn’t “even look pregnant from the back.” I tried to tell them that people said the same thing when I was pregnant with Harper, too, and they were wrong.

But the truth was, I thought it was a boy, too. I based my assumptions not on the way I was carrying the baby (is that really a thing, anyway?) but on statistics: About the time Harper was born, we had several friends who also had girls. So many, in fact, that I was really a little surprised that Harper was a girl; I thought surely, somebody has to have some boys to carry on the human race. So this time around, especially when those same friends’ second children turned out to be girls as well, I was pretty sure we weren’t going to beat those odds again. I was right, and wasn’t all that surprised when the midwife held up the baby and we could finally see the body parts that we’d so carefully avoided on every ultrasound. (I’ve thought since, though, that I might not have been all that surprised by a girl, either. When there’s only two choices, how surprised can you be?)

Now that he’s here and we can finally get rid of all those pink baby clothes we’ve been hanging on to for four years, I have to admit that boy clothes are pretty fun. He looks good in blue. The trucks and dinosaurs are a nice change from all the flowery princess stuff. And we’ve had a number of boys-versus-girls rounds of hide and seek around here lately, so even Harper (who was the only person who was totally sure the baby would be a girl) seems pleased with the gender ratio.

But I have to say that the best part of having a baby boy is the urinary sprinkler system, which has inspired no small amount of laughter and consternation (depending on who is doing the diaper changing at the moment). On Saturday night, as Harper and I were preparing to give Jonathan a bath, Rob had taken him in the other room to take off his clothes and brought him back to the bathroom wrapped only in a light blanket. Just as he came in the door, Jonathan started peeing, a thin spurt of urine that seemed to be erupting out of Rob’s arms. The way Rob was holding him, though, meant that he couldn’t see what was happening, and reacted to the look on my face by turning quickly from side to side, thereby managing to spray the bathroom walls and floor, the hallway, and all his clothes before it finally stopped.

Harper and I had a good laugh. Living with boys is funny.



The Stars Aligned

(Fair Warning: This post contains absolutely nothing of consequence and is full of the kind of self-centered prattle for which the internet, and blogging in particular, has earned a negative reputation.)

Several weeks ago, Rob indulged one of my cravings – not necessarily a pregnancy-induced one, mind you – and bought me a jar of hot fudge. I ate it several times on ice cream, but then, because hot fudge isn’t good on much else, and because we don’t have a microwave and heating it up is tedious and messy, the jar has been sitting for quite some time in the back of the refrigerator with two spoonfuls of fudge left.

Sunday night, I took a pan of brownies to a church dinner. Turns out several other people also had the same idea, so there were plenty of brownies left over and I brought half a pan home. Normally, even half a pan of brownies wouldn’t last two days in this house, but on Monday night, I had a different church group over for dinner, and one of them brought strawberry shortcake and ice cream, so we didn’t eat the brownies. The shortcake-maker left her ice cream.

Tuesday night, we were at yet another church event at which dessert was served, so the brownies went uneaten again. (Well, except for a little nibble here and there.)

Wednesday night, my first regular evening home all week, I discovered this: There were brownies on the counter, vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and two spoonfuls of hot fudge in the fridge. Voila! Hot fudge brownie sundae!

While I was eating it, Rob was doing sit-ups and push-ups on the floor in front of me. I ignored him.



Palm Sunday Afternoon

Equipped with a lady bug umbrella and a drawing of an Easter bunny that doubles as a map, Harper and I set off on a trip. “Where are we going?” I ask.

“Jerusalem,” she says.

We sit on the back steps to consult the map. She points to the Easter bunny’s ears, then his basket, outlining our route. “We go across Market Street, then Elam, then Market Street again… then to the farm…” She looks up, surveys our yard, and points to the shed in the far corner. “Over there’s the farm.”

Directions established, we set out. The trip is not as complicated as the map made it seem, it turns out: we make a beeline for the corner of the yard, where she declares that we’ve arrived.

“Jerusalem!” she says.

“What will we do here?” I wonder.

“Play baseball!” And so we do.



Language Lesson

This is probably true of most kids Harper’s age, but she is very interested in words. In addition to having made up her own foreign language, which she speaks with some regularity lately, she latches on to new words she comes across, wants to know what they mean, and isn’t afraid to try them out. Kind of like this, at dinner tonight:

“Mom, what does fowl mean?”

“Fowl?”

She has stuffed a chunk of bread into her mouth, but tries to answer anyway. “Wait ’til you finish chewing,” I say.

When she finally swallows, she says, again, “Fowl.”

I can’t imagine that she’s talking about turkeys or chickens, so I say, “Can you tell me where you heard it?” But then I have to wait for her to chew again before she can answer. While I’m waiting, I realize that what I really want is for her to use it in a sentence, but then I’d have to explain what a sentence is.

Finally, she says, “From the months.”

“The months?”

“Yeah. ‘The ear two thous and eleven.'” We realize at the same moment that she doesn’t mean fowl at all. “Thous – what’s thous?”

“Ah. Good question. You know all the months? All of those together make up a year, and the years all have numbers, and this year is two thousand eleven.”

“The ear two thousand eleven,” she repeats.

“Is it ear, or year?” Rob asks her.

She grins, getting the joke, “Year! But what’s thousand?

“A really big number.”

She holds her arms out as far as they will go. “This big?”

“That’s about right.”

“What’s fifteen?” She holds her hands about a foot apart. “This much?”

“Something like that.”

She is satisfied, for the moment, and we go back to our dinner.



Thirty-Four

I admit it: I like a big fuss on my birthday. I would blame my parents for this – the ones who once found a sign at a Lee Jeans store that declared “It’s Lee Week!” and hung it up on my birthday every year – but I’ve only fairly recently stopped myself from telling everyone I run into that it’s an important day.

Rob, having now spent 13 birthdays with me, knows this well, so had spent a good deal of time in preparation for today. He gave up going to the gym so I could start off the day with a run (two miles, sluggishly) while he and Harper baked a cake. Then we had an unintentional birthday treat with at trip to the doctor where we heard the baby’s heartbeat, thumping away at 162 beats per minute.

When I got to church, I was tickled to find a bag of peanut m&ms sitting outside my office, from an anonymous well-wisher who was apparently paying attention during my sermon on temptation a couple weeks ago. Then, one of the office volunteers brought in a cake – chocolate, with chocolate icing; these folks have come to know me well. After work, Rob came home with Indian food, which I got to eat in my blue sweatpants, the only pants that still comfortably fit. Then there were thoughtful presents from faraway family and several phone calls, and I didn’t have to do any of the dishes.

Later, with her mouth full of cake and ice cream, Harper declared, “Birthdays are so much fun!” Indeed.

All in all, a very good day.

Okay, thirty-four, bring it on. I’m ready for you.




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