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Friday, May 21, 2004

Of Strawberries and Salvation

sometimes a story, or story fragment, comes out of nowhere, and demands to be written...and too often i neglect my duty to capture it...other times, i take the time to let it come out, in the hope that some day, i'll have the time and energy to return to the fragment to figure out where it wants to take me...this is one of those days...and, for a change, i didn't neglect my duty...this is just a snippet of something bigger, but i'm not quite sure exactly what that is...

Of Strawberries and Salvation

I had come to “Mary’s Pick Your Own” strawberry patch early in the morning, hoping to avoid unnecessary interaction. I chose a row far from the few other women and children kneeling among the neat rows of plants. Solitude.

To my chagrin a woman in a floppy hat, a light blue sleeveless shirt, and long white shorts soon left her row, and found her way to the one next to mine.

“Are you born again?” she asked. From her tone, it seemed she already knew the answer. I tried to ignore her question, unwilling to be drawn in.

“Miss,” she insisted. “I ask’d ya, are you born again?”

I tried to smile, even though I didn’t want to encourage further discussion.

“Every day,” was my chosen response.

“You got’s get born again,” she replied.

I wanted to tell her that my “every day” comment was true. That a little bit of me dies every day, and that little bit is re-born into something better. That every day I get a little closer to the new thing I’m slowly becoming. That even though it didn’t happen in a blinding flash or instantaneous epiphany, it is still happening.

Instead, I told her, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

We continued to move along, picking the strawberries. I tried to slow my pace, hoping she would move on ahead in her row while I lagged behind, hoping to return to the seclusion of my own working. I could tell the woman in the floppy hat wanted to continue with our dialogue. I could also tell she wasn’t sure what to say next. She was prepared to evangelize had I been interested, and prepared to argue had I been argumentative. But I was neither. I was, at that moment, neutral.

So she changed the subject. “Your husband,” she asked, “he’s a church-going man?” I realized she was looking at my left hand as she spoke.

Looking down at my ring, I realized something: I no longer took care of the ring the way I used to. When we were first married, I would remove the ring to do yard work, wash dishes, even when I bathed. Drains frightened me because they were gapping mouths which would swallow up the precious ring. Now, I realized, I hadn’t removed the ring for any reason for six months. I was even here, kneeling among the strawberry plants, hands caked with soil and red from grabbing the occasional over-ripe berry.

“My husband was, in fact, a church-going man. He may still be, as far as I know. He left me six-months ago. He decided his life would be fuller if he left here, with a friend of mine.” I paused to let her digest that news, then added, “A friend of mine from the church, actually.”

“Oh,” was the only response she could muster. I searched for her eyes, but she lowered her head and left me looking at only her brown floppy hat.

I decided to continue, anyway. “I knew my friend and her husband were having trouble. We had talked about it over coffee one morning just a few weeks before. She wondered if she was expecting too much from her husband, and I told her how wonderful my own marriage was, and that she should keep believing that it is possible to have a husband who loves, and respects, and cares for her. Later that day my friend went to my husband for advice and counsel regarding her marriage and my husband’s advice was that they should be together.”

We lived in a town small enough that it was obvious that she now knew who I was. She leaned back on her heels and looked at me. Her eyes betrayed a mix of emotions. She had pity on me, and yet the look on her face betrayed the fact that what she saw in front of her didn’t match the woman she and her friends had speculated would drive a man to such an action.

“You’re Reverend Myer’s wife?”

“In the eyes of God,” was my response.

The lady in the floppy hat studied me. Her eyes narrowed, and she said, “Guess that’s what to expect from Methodists.”

The comment made me laugh. “It’s not just Methodists. It’s everybody. We’re all capable of selfishness.”

Moving quicker than she had since she started picking, the lady in the floppy hat picked up her berry basket and walked away.

Finally alone again, I looked down at the mud-caked wedding ring. The diamond was dull and dirty, the gold band flat and colorless. I removed it from my finger for the first time since I found the note he had left next to the front door. I also removed the chain from around my neck, and slid the wedding ring onto it, letting it come to rest dangling next to the medal of St. Jude which a friend had given me.

I said a prayer, kneeling there among the strawberries: A prayer for myself and a prayer for the lady in the floppy hat.

“Helper of the hopeless,” I said out loud as I gazed at the medal and ring lying side by side in my hand.

I returned the chain to my neck, and finished picking the strawberries I had come to pick.

2 Comments:

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was wonderful.

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger Will Sansbury said...

That was wonderful.

I hope you'll post more soon.

 

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