Memories: Papa and Teddy Bear Love

My grandfather had a gentle heart, patient Southern drawl, and slow-moving ways. Mommy’s daddy towered over everybody, and his lanky, six-foot-eight frame ducked through doorways when he came to visit. Wet-combed, thin hair lay flat in the morning, but the shorter hairs on top rebelled as the day went on.

Every memory is filled with sweetness to counter my deep longing to see his soft, creased face again. There were games of “Stick ‘Em” in the living room chair. He sat quietly with a soft smile on his face. I heaved a giant hand or foot wherever I could manage and “stuck it” in place. In his big hands corn husks and bandanas became dolls, paper took flight, and leaf “boats” floated in rain puddles.

Hundreds of faded black-and-white snapshot memories drift through my mind, but a precious one is saturated in vibrant color.


There were four girls now: eight, six, four, and tiny. Suddenly I was a big sister. The baby was loud and red-faced a lot of the time. Mommy’s friends made a fuss over her. “She’s adorable!” they said. “Is she sleeping well?” they asked. “What a good baby!” they said. They had to ask, “How are you managing four girls?” “Daddy’s really outnumbered now, isn’t he?” everyone said.

Can they see me? I wondered.

We picked my grandparents up from the Amtrak station. Nana squeaked in high-pitched, happy-about-the-baby talk and did the grandmother things. Papa came with her.
Yay! Papa will play with me! Everyone else is too busy. Papa made time for me.

Dinner time. Pots and pans. Bang! Clang! Plates and silverware. Clink. Clink. “Jenny, go outside! You can’t be in here while we’re making dinner.”

I was in the way. Again. Navy blue tennies scuffed down the hall and out the front door. I plopped down on the warm concrete porch, feet dangling and kicking the edge over and over. My scrunched-up face rested in tightly-clenched fists. Why did they send me out? Mommy and Nana don’t like me.

The door creaked, and Papa ducked out into the sunlight. He eased down

next to me. His legs bridged over the front walk, and the grass flattened under the weight of his giant feet. One hand settled next to me.

He was a good listener.

“Papa, they don’t like me in there. They send me outside all the time.” My tennies bounced off the concrete.

“Oh?”

“Everybody’s too busy to play, and they keep telling me I’m in the way. They don’t like me anymore. The baby came home, and now I’m always in trouble.” Tears finally came. I kicked harder.

“I think you need this.” A small teddy bear came out from behind his back. The chocolate-brown body was worn and nubby and more flat than fat. The yellow fabric on his paws and nose was faded. Above his nose was a threadbare spot. Two curves of black stitching formed a happy mouth. Hard plastic eyes glinted in the sunlight.

“For me? Thank you! I love him.” Teddy nearly disappeared in my tightly wrapped arms.
“I love you. And so do they,” he nodded toward the noisy, open window. “They’re almost done in there. Your Nana and your mom will just tell me I’m getting in the way, so I think I’ll just stay here.”

TeddyBear (3)

“They tell you that, too?”

“Yup.”

I pulled me feet up and shuffled into criss-cross-apple-sauce. “They don’t like you either?”

“They do. I still get in the way.”

I thought about that.

We talked about the sun heading for quitting time. I told him the porch was going to turn orange. I showed him the tiny, black ants husling along the cracks of the sidewalk between lunchtime popsicle stains and their hole. Busy, busy!

The front door creaked as Mommy held it wide open. “Daddy and Jenny—it’s time for din-din.” I squeezed Teddy once more.

The steaming-hot chicken pot pie landed upside down with a plop! The crust was broken and leaking. A short, sweaty glass of milk waited beside it.


Thanks for reading, friends. Do you have a sweet story related to a precious relationship? I’d love to read your short story. Share it in the comments below…

~J

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Remembering with Purpose

Do you wonder how a collection of my memories could be useful in your life? I’ve walked circles around that question and come to a sweet pause—the path diverges right there. I’ve gawked at the train wrecks in my storyline, captivated by the damage and long-term consequences. That never led to healing, transformation, or victory. The myopic perspective emptied the story of any sweetness, light, or power.

Story is powerful. We can experience refreshing, exhilaration, and even healing when we take time to read about others’ victories and deep soul transformation. How much greater the impact when the story reveals the presence of the Lover and Rescuer of the soul through the highs and lows! During the good, bad, and desperate moments in our lives it takes special eyes to see Him. (He is there, I promise.)

For me, to lean in or not to lean in; that’s the question!

Today I’m thinking about my story in a little coffee shop in Iowa. (I love to write in little, caffeinated hidey-holes.) The opportunity to share the beautiful plot twist written into my story by the Author of faith sprawls in front of me, and I’m taking it.

When I sat with little vignettes and tried to capture them, the purpose emerged from the shadows. I remembered details, but I took extra time to find three things: the power in the memory, the plans of the Enemy, and the presence of Jesus. These three pieces are important to the transformation that follows. They are also common elements in every story. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s.

Then I began to think about two questions that have the ability to shift perspective on nearly any life story.

What do I believe about God based on what has happened to me?
What is true about God based on what is written in Scripture?

Something settled in my soul in those two questions. I almost heard and felt Kachunk! in my spirit. These questions begged to be answered, and I understood why. My perspective about God is critical. It’s only in relationship to Him that I can understand some of the story details, events, and characters. I may never understand the hows and whys in my story in this life, but I have no hope of a healthy viewpoint or healing without God.

I hope you’ll have keener insight into your own story after reading White Wave Crashing. When my eyes took in the scenes of my life at a glance, I overlooked the presence of Jesus. I was angry He overlooked the indelible ink falling to the pages of my life. Was He invisible? Unconcerned? (The answer is, “No!” but it took time to discover that.) I hope you find that to be true as well. He loves us. Deeply. And He wants to sit with us in the exuberant joy, the deep sorrow, and the painful grief.

When you begin to remember, I hope you’ll find healing for your soul, too. There is victory over the enemy of our souls when we step forward and tell of the things God has done.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on remembering…and its purposeful place. Share below or at my  Author Page.

Blessings!

~j

Memory: Exploring the Gift

Early memories are somehow indelible and nearly transparent. How surreal! I recall some of the images as crisp as today. The rest is faded and far away. It’s right here and just beyond the border of remembrance all at once. It all swirls into a brilliant mix of incredible and wonderful and frustrating.

We have been given an amazing gift in memory. The scent of my Nana’s oatmeal cookies. Dew-kissed, purple Irises in my childhood front yard. My many pets. All of my life with family and friends lives there.

I’ve been thinking about memories today. I’m thinking about capturing them, and I’m reminded that I’m tempted to use more and more words, piling them up on the page. But it may be better to leave room for the imagination.

Writers, you offer a precious gift when you trust readers to explore the memory in their own way. Avoid wordy manipulation. Offer the gift.

Readers, unwrap it gingerly. Explore it tenderly and fully. Then create conversation in response. It’s all about embracing others’ story lines and treasuring them. Allow yourself to be moved, then pass along your beautiful soul transformation to others.

Have you embraced another’s story today? Have you explored it deeply? Have you been changed by someone else’s life experience? Have you been generous with the gift of soul transformation to others who might also be changed?

Blessings as you go…

~j

First Memory

I’ve been thinking through my story, and I thought I’d try to capture my earliest memory. I couldn’t help but share it with you.

For those who need a heads up, this story involves a young child and a pool. You know it turns out okay because I’m able to tell the story all these years later. Just wanted you to know.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece. Comment below or at my author page on Facebook.

~j


Brilliant cerulean surrounded her. Everywhere—to the left, right, and below—shades of the prettiest blue sparkled and danced before her eyes. Hypnotic shapes flitted here and there, and her eyes followed, fascinated. The visual hustle contrasted everything else.

Time froze as she gracefully drifted in the blue. Her plump little hands floated effortlessly until she tried to move them. What’s happening? she wondered. Everything feels so heavy.

Strands of fine, chestnut hair crept in front of her eyes, obscuring the view of the pretty dancing shapes. A shake of the head only drew the tangles of hair closer to her face, gently wrapping with the lightest feather touch.

Loud, incoherent, muffled voices bounced around with the blue shapes.

Captivating and confusing. In the middle of it all, beautiful silver-edged beads grabbed her attention and skittered upward in hasty, wiggly paths. She tried to keep her eyes on them through the spaces in the gliding, ever-spreading dark hair haze. Pretty! she thought, and she reached too-slow fingers through the heavy blue to catch the sparkles. They raced up and out of sight, up there.

The blues stopped at the edge of “up there” where blotches of color boldly wiggled and swelled and blended into fresh confusion. Partly obscured and partly diced by brown hair strands, up was a new, short-lived fascination. Gray-blue, white, greens, browns, and little shocks of color fought for space together in the wavy “up there.”
This isn’t right! Mommy, where are you? I want my mommy!

“Mo—!” she opened her mouth to let out a yell, but the pretty blue stifled her cry and tasted awful.

The seconds jump-started to a sprint.

Suddenly, out of the “up there” a warped silhouette broke through the mix of colors, shattering them into a million pieces. The hand appeared, decorated with the same shiny beads. Some of them were caught on the underside of the palm until they, too, ran upward in their squiggly paths. Scary and intrusive, this hand interrupted the confusion. She recoiled from the noise but didn’t complain when she felt the strong tug that pulled her through the heavy dancing blues toward “up there” and into the bright, sunny day she’d fallen out of.

Gasp! Cough! “Mommy-y-y-y-y!” she cried in a wavering screech.

Two large hands caught her up and plopped her down a little hard. Hair tangles covered her eyes until the big hand brushed them aside. The cement patio was warm and bit at her soft, pudgy legs and bottom. Water droplets ran down her arms and legs. Between coughs and distraught breaths, the air was good and right. Familiar faces surrounded her, but the one closest wasn’t the one she wanted. Tall, sun-bleached blonde and tanned, Mr. Leon owned the pool she would remember in vivid detail for the rest of her life. As he quickly assessed the two-and-a-half-year-old’s condition, Mommy and Daddy hovered.

Sniff. Sniff. All she wanted was her mom.

“Mommy!” She got up and hustled around the man she barely knew to the blonde woman in pigtails who waited anxiously with a towel. A soft, warm, too-thin towel wrapped around her three times over. She cuddled in Mommy’s lap in a long deck chair, sniffling hot summer air between the smelly water droplets crawling down her nose. Then she fell asleep.