Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Mimisms ~ How To Survive The Inauguration 101

Regardless of whether your politics fall to the left, right, or somewhere in the middle, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States in four days.
I remember vividly the emotions I felt during the inauguration of Barack Obama. I was inspired and moved by the events of the day. As I try to prepare myself for this momentous shift of power and change, I feel as though we're all about to board a roller coaster, take our seats, buckle in and white-knuckle-hold-on during a very bumpy ride. As much as I'd love to find a nice pile of patriotic goosebumps waiting for me on Friday, January 20th, I'm finding it hard to imagine at this point. The protests, the added security, the unrest, the confusion, the unnecessary back-and-forth schoolyard rhetoric from people old enough to know better, the hatred from both sides....and most of all, the uncertainty

But I'm a lemonade maker. A big believer in allowing challenges to kick my prissy skirt into action and not allowing them to define me. That is what I hope for this country.
This is how I'm going to survive Inauguration Day.

1. Stay informed.
Read everything I can get my hands on. Learn everything I can about our new president-elect, legislative process, laws, cabinet appointees and memorize my representative's Congressional phone numbers. Whether I'm praising or complaining, I need to know what I'm talking about. Did you know that knowledge prevents idiocy?

2. Keep an open mind.
No, it's not what you think. I don't have to change my values or my politics (which should be, my Bloggy People, one and the same). I don't have to turn a blind eye to anything (refer #1).
But my mind has to be willing to understand so that my heart can empathize so that my feet can walk so that stupidity does not win the day. Did you know that closed minds cause stupid people?  I learned that in Biology 101.

3.  I refuse to hitch my wagon to a person.
Our country just had a head-on collision with Itself at a four-way stop.
I'm about to get extremely self-centered. We can't afford to wait and see who is going to move first and who is going to stall out.  I need to let my convictions lead the way. Beep beep! Move over.

4. I will celebrate democracy and freedom.
Even and especially in a country divided.

We can do this.
It will be OK.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ Garments of Destiny and Other Fine Words

Today we celebrate the incredible life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of us think of him as a warrior for social justice.  And he was.  But roots in his character and associations suggest that at the heart of all he was, he was first and foremost - a peacemaker. 

In 1964 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation through the avenues of civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was also awarded the Catholic Pacem in Terris Award (Peace on Earth).  It is awarded "to honor a person for their achievements in peace and justice, not only in their country but in the world."

Four years after his work for social justice began in the streets of Montgomery, forcing social issues to the forefront and into the American and international psyche, he began to focus his energies on stopping the Vietnam War and ending poverty. He started a process of shifting, resifting, toppling norms and ideologies long held by establishments at odds with anything resembling human dignity and justice. These monumental shifts in the soul of our nation and the world are largely attributed to his courage and his voice.

Oh, but there was more to the man.

I was reminded today that he was inspired by the writings and teachings of another such activist.
When Dr. King visited India in 1959, he came away with a profound respect and understanding of the non-violent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

He later reflected, "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation."

He knew how to connect spiritual laws with scientific laws, science with morality, spoken words with unspoken fire, and generations of spiritual evolution into threads of commonalities within all cultures and religions while steadfastly holding to his own. Intrinsic ideas and truths became actions and deeds.

It is always the intrinsic that matters the most.
What I admire and appreciate about Martin Luther King, more than the amazing dream speech, more than his courage, more than his learned theological spirit, and even more than his political and social causes of injustice and equality, was his ability to intellectually intertwine all of those attributes and aspirations into powerful common sense purpose.  The sum of all those parts made his greatness.

Sometimes we focus on a few shining moments of publicity and grandeur so long that we forget what made him great in the first place. He knew who he was. He stayed in his lane. That was his true genius.

Dr. King surrounded himself with learned men, intimate and scholarly mentors, often controversial, books and a love of words, prayers, and a burning desire to pour out what was inside of him in letters and essays to the rest of us, even from a Birmingham Jail.
Because he honored the wisdom of others, to his credit, we not only find a profoundly cerebral giant among men, we find humility.
We mostly remember a speech, a bullet, a march, a statue, a remarkable iconic individual - and all those things are to be remembered, mourned, and revered about the man - but what lay underneath is more important to me, because without that brilliant, questioning, analytical ability to connect the dots and eloquently espouse them into one cohesive truth the whole world could understand, there wouldn't have been a march, a speech, or a movement.

The rest of his legacy would have been impossible to achieve and he would have become not a shining human light upon a hill of ugly darkness or a seeker of truth in Gandhi's shadow, but just another speech maker, noise maker, rabble-rouser and activist marching down roads at the whim of every wind with no direction and no clear path. No leader can lead walking blindly around corners of pivotal change and unrest, and take others with him, unless he already knows what lies ahead.

So today I celebrate Martin the man. The thinker. The preacher. The spirit. The leader.
And a man who understood who he was, where he'd been and where he was going.
This is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. King:

"All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." - Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

How I long for a time when the leaders we see before us in the world today, humble themselves before voices of wisdom gone by.  
May we find ourselves worthy of his fine example. 

Edited and reprinted from a previous version from Mimi Writes
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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Virgin Beauty of Untouched Snow

I love the way the world stops when it snows.

As if it somehow those bursting clouds know we need a clean fresh slate to write upon.

All that ugliness that fell
 to the ground in thoughtless words has been covered up with fresh white powder as if it never existed. Think of the gift winter's magic could be if snow could actually erase the unnerving nastiness of noise left strewn about by voices in our world determined to unbalance the ordained equilibrium of the human race. 
Ah, but we are human.  

And those humans I know to be true of heart and integrity, full of hope and goodness, brave enough to silently mow down hatred with tied shoestrings of gentleness,  always tread brilliantly roughshod over roughness - even and especially in storms.

If I could blanket the world with a covering of newness in the form of snow - which seems quite holy to me - I would.

Save for the thick sheet of slippery sleet-delivered ice on the highway, today might just be the perfect way to enjoy a snowstorm. Big fluffy white sugar powdered flakes and less ice on the trees, I'm thinking we could hit the pause button and listen to the snow.

Let's disappear for awhile and pretend the world is clean.

and full of fresh born baby goodness

As far as my eyes can see there is nothing but untouched snow 
on top of untouched snow
on top of untouched snow

It's like the gift we give to each other when we decide to cover fault with a blanket of love
and love with a blanket of protection.

in the snow my footprints are clear
my vision unmarred and unmarried
to obstacles and stress

I only need worry about the depth
and breadth
 of the impression
I make
the direction I travel
and the words I choose
And that, my friends, is what freedom is all about.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Crossing The Road

No automatic alt text available.

It's New Year's Day 2017 in the castle of Bloggingham. Homer (the palace dog) is up and at 'em chasing the neighborhood beauties 'round and around the trees - or maybe that was a squirrel - I don't have my glasses on . 😄

He's getting up in dog years and the chasing is more of a limped trot but let's face it, at least he's still on the prowl for love and affection. Or perhaps he just wants his acorns back.

I can't tell you how many times this past year I've had the exhausting privilege of running round and around the same tree. After a while Your Royal Highness becomes Your Royal Dizziness and it's time to hide myself under a branch and rest awhile.
Who could run in these boots anyway??

Bloggingham is full of places to hide and a hyperbole approaching gazillion million trees.
They are my refuge and I love them. I know them.
They know me.

When the world goes as wonky as it did in 2016, it's good to know I have a place to be.
Just be.

Me and tall tall oaks with imaginary internet dogs that never need feeding and the silence of solitude that one only finds under long tree branches. My imagination does not fall far from the know....

2016 went with a flash at the stroke of midnight last night. And I am glad it's gone.

There were blessings inside of lessons.
Did you get that?

For me it was a year that began with love and ended with leavings, began with capturing sorely needed insight and ended with greater insight - but not a trace of bitterness or regret. Just peace. The whole year was like that from start to finish. Slow beginnings and quick endings seemed to be the norm for me in the land of midlife dating. No destination has to be - or should be - an ending. Instead of wondering if this one or that one might be my one and only, I stopped looking for that altogether; I chose instead to plant my boots where the door opened and step through of my own choosing, turn around and go back out again of my own choosing or wave bye-bye from under a tree branch when it wasn't my choice. I realized that all directions are fine whether you choose them or not. 
It was freeing.

 The old joke says that the chicken wants to cross the road to get to the other side, right? Wrong.
Sometimes you need to cross the road just to cross the road.

Own your life. Walk where you need to walk. 
Fall down in boots and hide under leaves if you must.
 But for Heaven's sake, just walk. 

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Monday, November 28, 2016

I Am Sure, Quite Sure, That Today Is NOT My Birthday

It's the same every blog year. November 29th rolls around and the calendar says it's my birthday. But it can't be my birthday. The year I was born this man, Abraham Lincoln Dwight D. Eisenhower, was president. Holy moley!

Eisenhower-Kennedy transition
I was alive when the first man walked (and talked) on the moon.  They always forget the "talking" part.  I stayed home from first grade the day President Kennedy, my hero, was buried. School was closed and my mother wept as we watched on the black and white television.  Do you remember that JFK created and established the Peace Corps?

And I was in high school during the Nixon/Ford Republican years when the Draft kept us wondering if my brothers would wind up fighting on a foreign shore.

 The Watergate years were worrisome and politically embarrassing, but it was nothing in comparison to what we witnessed in the 2016 election, or during those sordid blue dress White House moments.

How has my non-birthday meandered into politics?
Doesn't it shroud everything these days?
At least that's the way it seems. 

My non-birthday is a decade mark on the calendar for me and I must say that even though I feel almost as young as the still-uncolored bouncing curls on my brunette head, my mother confirmed that today is indeed the morn she birthed a tiny 5 lb. girl at 5:05 am who looked like a little squirrel in the palm of her hand with a head of dark hair.

Even though she called me a day early to wish me a happy birthday.'s that age thing! She forgot her own daughter's birthday but "remembered it like it was yesterday." LOL   I thanked her as if tomorrow had arrived. Did you get that, Bloggy People?

But let's look at the bright side. It's the year 2016.  John F. Kennedy couldn't be further from the presidency in soooo many ways (nope, that wasn't the bright side) but the world still spins and I'm still alive in the year I turned something-something-something that shall not be revealed.  It's really worse for Homer you know. I overheard him talking to his girlfriend last night. He said I "drove him battier than the Cubbies' dugout" on non birthday days and he wants to jump off a cliff.

I'm going to find some cake.

And a cliff.

Time for the next decade to begin. 
Let's jump!

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Dona Nobis Pacem ~ Gather Your Tribe

Welcome to BlogBlast For Peace 2016. We look forward to seeing your peace globe and reading your blog post or social media post! Please add your name to the Links in the sidebar so that we may read your contribution. NOTE: If the Linky function doesn't appear at the bottom of this post, please leave your link in the comment section. Tag me on social media. Most of you are there for this launch! This is the tenth year of peace blogging! Thank you so much for keeping this movement alive and blessing me with your tales of peace and inspiration. It's a launch.
MY FACEBOOK PAGE  is open and will allow you to see many of the peace globes that aren't linked here.
The Official Fan Page will do the same.  Check them out. They're AMAZING.
Grant us peace.

My 2016 peace post is called
Gather Your Tribe

She's been pulling things out of the closets and attic for weeks. My mother. 
Clothes, pottery, pictures, memories, toys, albums. She has not been well and well....I guess she felt it was time to get some things in order. Have you noticed that when people physically slow down their words get longer? And deeper.  Measured. Transparent.

Maybe it's all about the struggle.
Ain't nobody got time to blog for peace. Really, Miss Pencil Skirt? You want people to plop down a rosy picture on the subject of one of the greatest mysteries in life in the middle of the one of the worst years for strife we've ever seen? Really, Mimi?

Peace bloggers everywhere (myself included) are finding it challenging to come up with even one reason to be hopeful or optimistic in the world we live in today. I don't need to reiterate the obvious.  Just check your newsfeed every hour and you'll see all manner of inhuman atrocities, filthy immoral scandals, rumors of war in the newest of places, and people teetering on the edge of not being able to cope anymore.

"Go on, Mimi...try on this scarf. I wore it when I was in high school," Mama said.

Mama's scarf

    Money rules the world in every direction I look; lack of it or abuse of it for power's sake. We are seeing whole tribes of people being uprooted and moved to the next nation until somebody figures out what to do with them. Children never sleep while the hovel around them crumbles. And on our side of the planet, I see unspoken concern and despair on the faces of people. Worry. Sickness. No health insurance. Jobs are scarce and underpaying. People are stressed beyond anything I've seen and hurting with no end in sight. 
While we're forced to watch the vileness of the most shameful American election I've ever witnessed,  families are using and losing all they have just to pay the bills. They still manage to get up and go to work to make $12.00 an hour to feed a family of six while two billionaires banter back and forth about who contributed the most to charity on their tax returns.

Everyday average people don't want to hear that. 
They just want a fair shot at the kind of prosperity given to the wealthiest among us. 
We need a government that understands how average income people are struggling and set about to correct the inequalities and injustices. People are tired of constant stress.

But back to the closet cleaning.
My mother told me of a lingering memory she has of her own mother.  She remembers seeing her walk to work down the middle of the railroad tracks in the early morning and back home again at night - sewing in a hosiery mill to feed five children. It didn't matter if she was sick, she'd still go to work. And there was never enough to eat.

Women know the sacrifice and the value of work and that is why we
 keep things.
 It's in our DNA.

Women treasure things that belonged
 to another female member of their tribe.
Because we know the value of things is not things.

So when she pulled out a bag full of scraps, scarves, jewelry and wedding lace, it felt like a sacred moment between us and all who walked before.  Another torch of strength passed from her hand to mine. 

The gloves

These were her gloves.
 Given to my mother.
And now given to me. 
It's almost like I have her hands.

So,  I put them on.

And suddenly I felt my grandmother's touch.  Hands that braided my hair into French braids over and over at night. I would mess it up just so I could feel her strong and gentle hands again. She tried to teach me to do it myself, but I secretly didn't want to learn.

My great-grandmother's handmade monogrammed handkerchief is to the left, along with a set of emerald green jewelry that I saw my grandmother wear from time to time - a gift from Papa.
Given to my mother.
And now given to me.

My beautiful grandmother, who gave me the wrinkle in my nose, never told me about the railroad tracks or the poverty. She wouldn't talk about it. But I saw a strength and a dignity in her that could only be carried by one whose weary body and soul sought to feed hungry children with all the might she had. 

The gloves and the jewelry came later when Papa walked into her life. 
And oh, she knew the value. Stitched with love. Chosen with love. Worn with love.
Cherished through three generations.

Great-grandmother's monogrammed handkerchief
If I could talk to that girl on the railroad tracks, the one with the heaviest of hearts, I would tell her to watch and wait...for you're about to be blessed by the hand of love. Not only you, but your children and their children and their children too. It will only take one. Just him. But he's enough.
And he will give you the gift of gloved hands and jewels.

And tonight, just for you Grandmother, I will wear them.


If there's power enough in the seas
and power enough in the waves
to land upon feet 
of Giants and Fleets
then there's power enough
 in the least

For man is a jewel

man of sandstone and lime
fashioned headlong thru tumbling brine
designed by a Hand
that shapes trellis and tribe
each one molded
thru eons of time

Gather your tribe

and don't let go
No matter the trouble it brings
When the world is askew
and all's said and done
Wait for love
It only takes one

Goodnight Grandmother

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Eve of BlogBlast For Peace (Blog4Peace) ~ Papa's Marbles

It is November 2, 2016 and we are on the cusp of the tenth year of peace blogging. Two days from now we will once again speak "Dona nobis pacem" in the Blogosphere  and Blog4Peace 2016 will begin at midnight November 4th.  We hope you will join us from your corner of the globe.

It is my custom to start at the beginning and move forward through time as it happened on this blog and on many others. So I am re-posting the very first BlogBlast For Peace  from the year 2006. At that time we had no idea how far this would go or what it would become. Blogging in 2006 was much more interactive than it is today. I simply sent out a call to Blog For Peace Bloggers from all over the world answered.  I designed a graphic to sign (a peace globe) and bloggers began to create beautiful works of peace art and proudly flew the banner of their blogs. Today there are thousands of peace bloggers on Facebook, Twitter, and all across the web.

It's always best to start at the beginning. Flashback to November 2006. It was about midnight. And after inviting the whole world to join me, I had no post of my own. The muse, you see, has Her own timezone and is utterly reliable, as I was about to find out. I was in for a midnight surprise, a visitation.  The makings of a movement began that night. It started with a bowl of marbles. They belonged to my grandfather who passed them on to me.
 Here's my story. Here's how it began.

Let me introduce you to this honorable man, my Papa.

Dona Nobis Pacem 2006 

They've been sitting on my piano for more years than I care to count, on the corner of the Kohler and Campbell my grandfather gave me when I was fourteen years old. After he died, I found them in a tattered and dirty bag at the bottom of a box full of his personal things. He wanted me to have them. His marbles.

Handmade rough-hewn marbles crafted from rock by my grandfather and his brothers. The year was 1920 and there was no money for toys.
I often wondered why he didn't leave them for a male member of the family. Honestly, folks, it wasn't until just tonight - the eve of Dona Nobis Pacem in the Blogosphere - that I discovered the answer.

I know stranger things have happened.

I just can't recall when.

 I knew this post would not be written until the last moment. I made lots of notes but I just couldn't quite make it happen. It is still a little while before midnight in my part of the United States and I'm supposed to be spinning out a masterpiece of goodwill and peace prose - maybe a stunning poem like those we've already seen. A song, a lyric, a new tune.

Instead, Mimi Pencil Skirt wants to talk about rocks.

So I went into my study and began to polish them. One by one. The bowl, the piano, the granite. How many times had I sat at that very bench and casually glanced into that bowl? Thousands. Song after song. Tune after tune. Lesson after lesson. Tear after tear.

 He didn't have a lot of money it seems to me now, my grandfather.... at the time though, he was the richest man I knew. And he has been on my mind this week more often than not. Well over six-feet tall and always impeccably dressed, my Papa was the most humble man I've ever met.
When he passed away I met scores of people who told me what he'd meant to them. "He helped me when I needed money....." "He gave me his shoes...." and on and on.

 His kindness was not news to me. The fact that a large portion of the town showed up at his wake was, however, a stunning surprise. I didn't know I'd been sharing him all those years. He made me feel as if I were the only one in the world.
Strange, those marbles. All different shapes and sizes. Colors, too. Yet they've co-existed for years right there atop the long- lovingly- played strings inside my piano - the one Papa used his savings account to buy for me - while he worked two jobs at the factory and made time up on Saturdays when he missed work hours to drive me to my lessons in the afternoons.

 I was a bit different. Artistic. Content with solitude. Always writing in endless journals and playing broody piano music. Papa didn't pamper me - even though that's a disputed fact to this day in my family. What he did was more earth-shattering.

The one on top. That one.
Different... that one. I know that's the very one he made. I'm sure of it.

 When I think about peace and what it means to me, I always wander back to a time when I first felt it. Because I know on an unconscious level that world peace cannot - will not - be achieved without inner peace. Adversaries on both sides of the conflict have to have it. You can't weave magical tranquility out of thin air and conferences. Peace is a state of being.

It has a life of its own.
Real lasting peace is born of creative jumble and hard work. Victories are never won by the one who has the most power - wars are won; but not peaceful achievements. Nothing good can ever come of power at play for the sake of power. It never lasts. There's always a hideous price.

Papa's Marbles. Not a pretty one in the bunch.
Every one brown or taupe.

Almost every one.
I started thinking this week about those times in my life when I first felt real peace.
For me, it came in the presence of God at an early age. Not because I am privileged or special. But simply because I was loved. Unconditionally.

Sometimes it takes just one person

to unlock magic in someone else.

I watched that kind of magic flow through my grandfather's life. He was in tune with who he was. He knew the simple meaning of love. He knew how to pray. I often wondered how other people sensed that about him - without the benefit of those life-giving hugs he saved just for me.

Taking his hat off and bowing his head, he would very quietly hold audience with his Maker. It didn't matter how many people were listening. His prayers always began the same way......"Dear Gracious Heavenly Father......"
Hechose the color himself.   Papa.....he must have spent hours honing that rock.

I often went with him to backwoods church services. Informal revivals, formal services, anywhere there was special music and a spirit of God - he was there. I can't explain it really. We would visit churches and the minister would ask him to lead the invocation or say the benediction - even though they'd never met. How did they know he could pray?  
I knew he could pray......but how did they know?

No matter where. Or with whom. Or in front of whom.
Hat in hand. Head bowed. He knew how to reach God.

And people sensed that when they met him. If peace can be worn like a garment then he was always finely clothed, my Papa. One night he took me by the hand and led me to the altar with him. He knelt down on one knee, elbow resting on the other and silently voiced his heart. I was right there! I heard the whole thing and he never said a word.

He made them with his own hands. He molded them into shape.
Created them and lovingly took care of them. He chose the color.
Not a sonata or a novel. Certainly nothing brilliant or fancy.
Just ordinary marbles.

Tonight I'm sitting at my table writing stories on an electronic device that sends messages all around the world about globe graphics and insomnia, making pots of endless coffee to stay awake, answering emails from Germany, London, China, New York, Oman and beyond.
Could Papa have ever imagined such a thing?
Did he?
What was he praying about all that time anyway?

Papa's marbles.....There's something odd about them.

Oh forget about it. They're just a bunch of rocks. You've got a story to write. Can't you think of something brilliant? It's past midnight and everyone has their peace globe up but you.
I struggled. There's something missing here, I thought.

 It's about Papa. I can't stop thinking about him.
What would he say to me tonight? How would he pray?

The marbles.
Look closer.

When it hit me I was way past the point of arguing with myself about miracles and such. I've seen too many come through my mailbox today to argue with God about that. 

Do you see it?
The blue one on top.

It looks like a globe.

Dona Nobis Pacem did not start with Mimi. It started in 1920 when a little boy in the rural southeastern United States decided to shape a small blue marble - for his granddaughter.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Doll Box ~ A Traditional Story Of Love and Peace

This week marks what would have been my grandfather's 101st birthday.

As you know, he is the reason that little blue globes continue to spin out of control this time every year.
 I wrote this peace post for the November 2007 BlogBlast For Peace in his honor. As always, he taught me a lesson. I would like to share it with you tonight.

  His stories are an integral part of this movement. It has become tradition for me to share them with you during Peace Week. And for some reason on this particular chilly night in early November as I wait for another launch of peace globes, I can almost hear him speak and hover about, waiting right along with the rest of us. The dolls must be shared once again.
So Papa....I miss you. I love you.
Happy birthday from all of us.

The Doll Box

"Put them in the pot, Mimi, just that way."

I planted the last Black-Eyed Susan in the clay pot on the deck, richly purple, and staring at me with an eye in the center of royalty's colored fall beauty. I dug and rearranged and poured in fertilizer. Watered. Played in the dirt.

My Papa stood looming over me with that jovial smile of his, a burst of sunlight behind his balding head and a brightly gleaming twinkle in the midst of the smile I adored. I was still unbalanced with a trowel in one hand and a pile of dirt in the other which prevented me from jumping immediately into his arms, but it didn't seem to matter; a warm wind blew straight through the curl hanging down the front of my right shoulder and moved it behind me to rest on the back of my sweater. I was sure of it. My Papa was always telling me to get my hair out of my face. No surprise to me now.
"Plant one more in the pot, Mimi. She'd like it that way."

"They remind me of her," I said out loud. "The dark ones she loved best. The Black-Eyed ones I don't care for, but I plant them anyway because she loved them so. I think they look disheveled and untidy - if a flower can be that way - and as she could be in the morning times. Her hair a mess and a cigarette over coffee, frying bacon at 5am so that you'd have a great start to your day, wrinkled robe and a smelly kitchen. One bright spot of colorful charm – like my Black Eyed Susan - was you, Papa."
I stopped planting and looked up.

“I've been watching you, Mimi."
I laughed.

"Well you know she had to have things just right. Two purple here, one pink there, large petaled, small-petaled and a very straight row or you had to start all over."

He laughed.
"I remember."

I fixed my eyes upon the face of the man who held the key to my heart ever since the day I took my first breath. I put the trowel down, the dirt fell from my fingers and I found myself sitting in the fall sunlight, listening to leaves drop playfully from the trees that surrounded me. I watched them fall almost on command at his overgrown feet that were firmly planted in front of me.  
Steel-toe shoes, huge shoes, painful shoes.
Important shoes.

  It would take him forty-five minutes in the mornings before work to lace them up. Rheumatoid arthritis claimed his quality of life, pain a constant companion, everyday tasks a monumental chore - and yet he rarely missed work (thirty-three years in a furniture plant) and most days he tilled the garden out back in the evenings. For today, I was content to sit at his feet and plant flowers. He was there to give me a warm breezy hug. Of course I knew he wasn't really there.

Was he?

Resigned to never again help him unlace the knotted shoestrings that strangled too too tightly across his tender feet, I turned to wipe a tear. I miss him still.

" I've been watching you - you and the peace globes," he said.
I smiled and stood up. He was right.
Pansies could wait. 

"I know, Papa. I've known for some time. You always give me courage when I need it, inspiration when I've lost it and the biggest laughs....I get the most joy from your far-flung sense of humor. It is always with me."

 He roared a belly laugh I thought I'd never hear again this side of Heaven. It nearly rocked me off balance, causing me to drop the flat of pansies on the deck.....
so deep it was, so rich.
So Papa.
And then I realized that I was staring straight into the face of providence. Or ghostly luck. Don't stumble now, Mimi....."I need to ask you! Papa! I have so much to ask you. I don't know what to do about.....
Will you stay?" 

"I've been watching you, Mimi," he said with that tsk tsk expression, "I need to ask you a question." 
I sat down again, wondering if I'd done something wrong. He sounds serious. Does he want to talk about the marbles? Yes, that must be it. The marbles. He wants to tell me how he made them. He'll tell me and I'll tell my readers and they'll tell people and he'll explain it all. 
I waited.

I remember - oh I remember - how they adored one another
And now they were both gone.

I had her pansy pots and her azalea bush and her quirkiness. He had memories not to be shared with a granddaughter but sacred scenes I saw playing behind the youthful grin. I did not let on. But I knew there were stories he must - he surely must - somewhere, somewhere - still share with her.  

"Ask, Papa. I'll tell you anything you want to know," digging a new opening in the dirt for one more yellow pansy. 
I just wanted to see him smile again.

"But why, Mimi.....why do you need so many?"

"Because she said if you planted enough of them really close together it would make the bouquet brighter and ...."
I sighed. Doesn't he understand?

"No, Mimi. Why do you need so many peace globes?"

I stopped digging.
"I don't NEED them, Papa, they just keep coming. From everywhere. There are so many I can't get them all In the mail and through the strangest streets. Back alleys, front pages, small blogs, large blogs, no blogs.  In the middle of the night. In the morning. In the evenings. All colors, all creeds, all walks of life. All species, all reasons. Some humorously made, some seriously woven and others with a single signature. Those I like, too." 
He sighed. 

Had I disappointed him?
What does he want me to say?

If there's one thing about my Papa that was always the best thing, it was his deliberate ability to cut through my facade and get to the truth - usually without a word and never with a scold. Any serious conversation he made with me always came on the palpable presence of one who loved me unconditionally. I never doubted his intent for my good or his wish for my clear understanding. Laden with well-worn common sense wisdom, I soaked it up often, playing carefully at his painfully laced shoes which criss-crossed in front of me on the living room floor at the bottom of the green leather recliner he loved. And today, I felt much like that seven-year-old.
Papa had one more story to tell.

"Do you remember the dolls, Mimi? The 100 Dolls?"

" Oh yes, Papa. I still have them. I keep them in the box for safekeeping. They are in perfect condition though the box is yellowed now and torn on the edge. I still see your address, your name, the paid postage stamp and the tape."

He suddenly got a serious look.   

"I remember the day you asked me for them. We were thumbing through a catalog and you squealed with delight. 'One hundred dolls!! How could 100 dolls come in one box?' you asked." 

"I remember," I said. "They costs one dollar and we had to send away for them all the way to New Jersey and add our postage fee. I was so excited and couldn't wait to get them in the mail. I think I was seven? Yes, just about that age." 

"Open them, Mimi. They hold a secret. Open the box."

 I went inside to get the box. I'm writing this story at my usual perch at the table trying to recapture on paper what other-worldly thing has just happened in my pansy world. In my mind's eye I am still there, on the porch with my Papa and we are planting pansies and the sun is hot and the leaves are falling. My pen is flowing and I don't want to leave. We are having such a lovely day. All is right and he has chosen to visit me now. I don't want to break the spell. I don't want to open the box...but it is there in front of me on the table.

I picked it up, put my reading glasses on trying to make out the fine print. I reach for a magnifying glass to help but for some reason, I put it down. I couldn't. I couldn't look. I just couldn't. If I do as he asked then my time with him will be over and I can't stand the thought of that.  

And when have you ever been able to disobey him? Never. And when have you ever disappointed him? Sometimes. And will you do that today? No.
 I picked it up again. 

Bulk Rate. US Postage Paid. Newark, N.J. Permit No.4396.

100 Dolls Dept R
285 Market Street
Newark, N.J

What's so special about this old box of dolls? They're plastic and probably a few are missing. Pink. Flimsy. Tiny little things.

Not at all like I.....

"Right," said Papa, "you were disappointed when they arrived a few weeks later. I could see it in your face. I never forgot how cute it was when you said, 
"NOW I know how they got so many dolls in one box. They don't look like the picture in the magazine at all. They are very small and I think I might even break them.

"So you sat at the kitchen table night after night and lined them up. Trying to figure out which was a cook and which was a nurse and which was a girl and which was a boy. I told you that they all have a face and they all have a voice, even if they are on the small side.  You made up stories to go with them and then, once you'd brought them to life, there was a sadness about the way you stored them away.
Back in the box. Back in the box. Always back in the box."

He shook his head.

This was not going to be easy. What does he want me to see? There won't be an obvious blue world-globe-like-marble sitting there this time. We're talking about prissy dolls for a prissy girl who turned into a prissy woman who has no idea why she's crying at her keyboard in the middle of this unfinished story. 


I decided to open the box.

And there it was. 

Something I'd forgotten about. On top of my dolls in the lower right corner was a matchbox size toy. He'd sent away for that too. It came with my dolls. 
Tricky Dogs. They were magnets. One white dog. One black dog. When you start to play with them they always gravitate toward each other. After forty years the magnet is still strong. I turned them over in my hands and read the back of the box. 

Directions: Place one Tricky Dog on a surface (polished wood or glass) Push the other Tricky Dog up to it from behind, or sweep the second Tricky Dog in a half circle around the first one. Watch them twirl!

My tabletop is made of glass. I took the black one and put him up front, made a sneak attack by the white one and voila! the black dog began to spin in a circle - in an energetic frenzy - and aligned itself with the other one smashing into him, wagging their magnetic tails and gravitating together: smooching, the way only magnets can. When I was little, most often I played with the dolls, but Papa......he would gently nudge me to lay aside the Barbie doll brain and chase my dream in another direction. He was like that. Always dropping life lessons in my lap, at inopportune times like today, when I am planting pansies.

I laughed. I'd forgotten the hours of entertainment we'd had trying to make the dogs do something else. I tried to separate them so many times. So like me to want to argue with electrons and atoms - but they always ended up smacking into each other with a dog collision. Inevitable. Worked every time.
Without fail.

"The globes, Papa. They all spin their own way and yet they eventually make their way towards one another, spinning together.  The globes, Papa....they all spin with one purpose. 
Is that right?"

He smiled.

Now my grownup mind understands such things. I know there really is no trick. I know they're just heavily plastered metal toys with magnet skates on the bottom - but I'm not a grownup today. I'm a seven-year-old on the floor with my Papa and we are playing from the box he mail ordered for me in the 1960s. And I am laughing. The dogs - and the dolls - and Papa....still make me laugh. 

I sighed. This observation is just too obvious. Magnets. Globes. Spinning earth balls. Earth Science. I get it! I turned to him with a knowing look and said, 
"I know all about this little analogy. I went to college and got a degree since you've been gone ya know. And anyway, I need to finish planting these pansies and get them all in a straight line the way she would....the way she would....Papa?"

He was gone. 

And I was left with a tabletop full of little pink dolls piled on top of each other, delighted to be free of the box, criss-crossed in a pink maze, laid crosswise in the jumbled life of another doll, too many for a seven-year-old to count, too tiny for a middle-aged woman to see in great detail and somehow I knew they'd been waiting for just this hour to make their second debut into my life. Pink. Plastic. Fragile. Soft spoken. Small. And yet when I put them all together they make an enormous pile. 

Like my globes. 

"Why Mimi? Why? Why do you need so many?"

 I never answered his question. That must be why he left. I suppose he is angry with me. I'll have to tell him another time about the blogger from Hong Kong and the man from Singapore and how Idaho met Japan and tomorrow Italy promised to email Turkey......Israel and Poland and Tennessee and how Michigan is helping Ireland make a globe and it doesn't matter how small their blogs may be they all have a face and all have a voice and they just want to speak their....oh, never mind. 
 Hmmm...It's been forty years and I still haven't played with all those dolls.
No time like the present. 

So I took them out of the box.
One by one.

A nurse, a dancer, an Indian man, two clowns, Spanish people, a ballerina, a little girl, a man speaking, a roping cowboy, a smiling cowgirl, a Buddhist monk, a Chinese man, a Mexican hat dancer, a Gypsy girl playing a tambourine, Bolero dancers, Little Bo Peep, all nationalities, all creeds, all expressions, all costumes of origin and a world of imagination at my fingertips that now played alone without the fumbling arthritic hand of the man who gave them to me so long ago.......a Peruvian girl, a small child playing ball, a colonial doll with a full skirt taking a bow (My favorite. She bowed a lot in those pre-pencil skirt days). 

I remembered how his hands were so large and gnarled, fumbling with the small creatures as they fell in his lap. I would laugh and we would start the dance again. The Buddha man would twirl with the Peruvian woman while the little boy with the ball - perhaps it was a jack-in-the-box - sat quietly in the middle of it all. They all got along in my peaceful box universe. 
The dolls in my box lived in one world, dancing and spinning around.

"I'll get that for you, Papa," I said. "The lady from Spain would like to dance with the Russian ballerina now if you don't mind....Papa!?"

I looked up from the land of pink twirling peace and saw a tear roll down his cheek to land on his steel-toed shoes. I could tell he longed for our pink doll world of friendly global dancers and I so wanted to never see him sad again. 

"My life went sailing by," he said, "like a thin silk pansy leaf falling on the wisp of a breeze. I blinked and it was gone. Not much older than you are today. So much left to do. So much left to say. Many more flowers to plant. Stars to catch. More dances to dance. My work was not done...But you knew that, didn't you, Mimi?"

I did?
"All I know, Papa, is that I wasn't there that day. I canceled our outing and you left without me. You and grandmother went to the doctor and after that day I never saw you again. Not ever again. I was angry because you did not say goodbye. I was angry that I did not say goodbye. And I longed to tell you all my tales and all my stories through the years. I've waited for you to tell me what to do."

 I put down the dolls and looked at his wisdom worn face, anxious for the answers I needed. But he had a way of making me figure it out for myself. This day was no different. 

"You do not need me to tell you what to do. I am proud of you and you are doing just fine. Just remember one thing: It takes all the dolls in the box to make the world a beautiful place, Mimi. They can't hear what the other has to say unless you introduce them to one another and set their feet to dancing. 

Take them out of the box.
"Just take them out of the box." 

That's it? That's the secret? Take them out of the box? But what about the globes? And the marbles? I jumped up to give him a hug the way I always did but he was gone.

 In the bottom of the box I found a piece of yellow paper. It had my name on it, folded, in my grandmother's handwriting. I opened it. It was a speech I'd made in church for a Christmas program when I was 3 years old. He'd tucked it away in the bottom of my doll box. I smiled as I remembered that the best part of that day had been running down the church aisle and jumping into his white-sleeved arms for a hug and a kiss. If I ever doubted what my grandfather gave to me, and continues to instill in me even now, it is the simple power of love and a respect for all creatures large and small...
pink and Peruvian.

And that, my friends, is all we need.

The Doll Box was written for  BlogBlast For Peace in November 2007. It is now time for Dona Nobis Pacem in the Blogosphere 2011. I never know what I'm going to write until the last minute. Some strange sort of sensation hits me about the stroke of midnight on the eve of each launch.
That's when Papa shows up, nudges my memory and honors me with a story.
First it was marbles, then pansies and dolls
And one year he told me a love story.
I wonder what he'll have to say on Friday....or if he'll come at all. 
Maybe I'd better get some sleep. 
It could be a long - very long - night.

Reason #4 to Blog4Peace: The magic of dolls. And love. And dolls. And love.

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