Missing is Good


Photo by Greg Rakozy

I miss singing with a choir. The heat of bodies standing close. That gently gathered breath before the first note. The intensity of listening to others. Voices jabbing notes, caressing others. The intricacies of rhythm, of adjusting tone, shape, and volume to let the music tell its story. The dance of the conductor. The hush after the last note.

I miss acting. Bringing story to life through speech and silence, movement and stillness, light and fabric and color. This grown-up version of pretend is a dazzling work of imagination, play, experimentation, planning, and instinct. Oh, the nerves that made me pace and cough before a performance! The buzz in my ears and fingertips and toes when I stepped onto stage. The pride of captivating an audience and using their energy to fuel a palpable art. The satisfaction of hanging up your costume and turning off the lights for the night. The eagerness to do the same thing tomorrow.

I miss playing euchre with Midwesterners. The long, cold winters that forced us into one another’s homes for an evening of cards and laughter. The elaborate table talk my mother and her best friend developed over years of teaming up against their husbands. The house rules that were debated and haggled over at each new table. Even when you lost a match you made a friend, because that’s how Midwesterners roll.

I miss holding baby nieces and nephews. The trembling newness of being an aunt. Of being part of a tribe to welcome little ones into the world. Making my littles laugh. Joining their babble. Kissing fat cheeks and singing them to sleep. The joy of handing them to their parents when a diaper needed changing. Chubby hands curled around my fingers as they toddled. Reading and writing them stories to grow on.

I miss living in Hawaii. The sweet smell of my morning walk to work. The chill of afternoon rain falling from cloudless indigo skies. And then the majestically puffy cloud ranges. The brilliantly green geckos. Church potlucks, a revolutionary fusion of pan-Asian Polynesian dishes and SPAM. Chickens crossing the road. Waves crossing the road. Courteous, unhurried driving. Living the aloha way.

I miss summer nights in Ohio. The cricket symphony. Chasing the glow of fireflies with neighbor kids. Driving down country roads with my brother, the windows down, our arms sticking out and slicing through the wind like plane wings.

I miss living two buildings away from my best friend.

I miss a lot of things. So much has come and gone in my life, but I’m not sad. I’m not wallowing or wishing for something else.

Missing things is fine. It’s healthy. It reminds me that I’ve experienced so much of life’s utter beauty. I’ve witnessed. I’ve noticed. I’ve grasped. I’ve risked. I’ve joined. I’ve welcomed.

Missing is goodness that moves you.

Missing is not the same as regret. It notices change and acknowledges loss. Sometimes missing aches, but it isn’t always painful. Missing does not judge the things that fill my life now. It doesn’t look at the differences between now and then and say — if only. It says instead — how rich!

Sometimes, like tonight, missing things is an invitation. A whispered gift.

Maybe missing things matures our thanksgiving. It’s easy to be thankful for what we have and hold dear now. It’s more to be thankful for the things we used to have, experiences we can’t relive, people we’ve said goodbye to, and moments that will never shine the same way twice.

When we miss, but live happily, curiously, and hopefully — then missing is an act of worship.


The Joy of Clutter

The Joy of Clutter

51H8x07Fd7LEverywhere I go women are talking about “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Apparently Kondo’s advice is to pick up items one by one and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If there is no joy, it’s cluttering up your life, and away it goes.

I haven’t read the book, and won’t, because I was born with a freakish inner compass for organization. Neatness is my true north. If I had a motto it would be – less stuff, more peace. Minimalism is my preferred aesthetic. Therefore, I need no expert help purging, shelving, tidying, or storing.

When I was young, my mother would drop off freshly folded laundry and expected me to put it away. I did so obediently, after refolding most items so they would best fit the confines of each drawer’s particular width and depth. 20+ years later and Mom still shares that anecdote, always with the same bemusement. She’s sure she was handed someone else’s baby at birth. How could a child of hers be so concerned with drawer efficiency that she would refold socks, even underwear!?

If I wasn’t my mother’s spitting image, I’m sure I’d have the same question. The woman is notorious for having stacks of paper laying around. She claims she has “a system” and that though – to the untrained eye – the piles seem like they belong in the recycle bin, in reality they are full of essential household documents. Any rifling through or dusting near her stacks brings wild exclamations and dire warnings. Trespassers have been known to wonder if IRS agents are about to plunge through the front door. Years ago, to legitimize her “system” and to save herself some grief, mom camouflaged the teetering stacks by placing them in decorative baskets.

I’m exaggerating a bit on both our parts, you understand. (Except, not about the underwear refolding. Or the decorative baskets; they’re all Longaberger.) My organizational freakishness and mom’s basketed stacks are running jokes between us. We love each other even when we look at the other like she’s a rare bird on display at the zoo. Mom concedes that she benefits from my wizardry when I reorganize her pantry every winter. It’s an odd and wonderful Christmas gift. I have the deep satisfaction of bringing order to a jungle of canned goods, dad is saved from being poisoned by expired olives, and mom has the joy of knowing she had five cans of tomato paste after all. It’s a win-win-win.

As amusing as all this is, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m sharing with such vulnerability. Well, this week I went through a box that I haven’t opened in five years. If a stranger opened this particular box, she might think she’s stumbled on an odd cache of…junk.

Ok…fine – it’s clutter. The contents are random and ajumble – but none of it is junk. Inside this box are mementos of my life, most of no monetary value. Many items are discolored, rumpled, or cracked, but all are cherished for some reason. After five years, lifting the lid and combing through the contents was like stepping into a biopic of my life. Here’s what I discovered:

  • My kindergarten tote-bag. My name is written in the lining with permanent marker.9724
  • A clutch purse my mother made with my name stitched on the front
  • My first book, “Snow White and the Seven Giants” written and hand-illustrated by yours truly, circa 1990. I should hurry to copyright. It’s a gem of a story complete with giants, a 20 story house with 5,000 sets of stairs, and the first giant-human hybrid child.
  • A small, paisley dog purchased in 1992 in London, England – a souvenir from my first overseas trip.
  • Several scripts from my years on stage.ATT_1448159471997_9737
  • A card from my father when he had to miss opening night of one of those plays. The message – “I may not see the opening, but I will close down the place next week. Break both legs you actor you. Love, Dad.”
  • My junior and senior prom photos. Those make me thank God for puberty, my orthodontist, and my seamstress mother who could make any dress I dreamed up.
  • A polaroid of me wearing a giant sombrero. (My friends knew that I hate being sung to in public, so out of their deep affection for me, they told our waiter that it was my birthday. I got the full mariachi tribute in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Ole!)9733
  • A letter from one of my college roommates. We were good friends, but horribly matched roommates. We had an epic falling out and she wrote me two years later asking for forgiveness. It’s the most healing piece of paper I own.
  • A birthday card from my parents. Mom said, “What a joy you are to me.” Dad said, “So, you are the best daughter a man could want.”
  • A set of napkins, given to me by my senior year college roommates. I threw them both bridal showers and these napkins are a symbolic promise to return the favor. Plus, they would be very humorous as shower napkins for a pastor, right?9725
  • A card from my dear friend Emily. We both attended a little Baptist church when the “women in ministry” debate was raging through the congregation. She wrote, “I don’t want you to feel that your gifts in leadership and preaching go unrecognized. God is in control – he hears the cry of the marginalized, he will bring about something wonderful to those who listen for his voice…Your worth is not by man’s standards but our Great God.” This is why I call Em my Canadian Treasure. I got to officiate her wedding a few years later.
  • A bunch of handmade cards littered with inside jokes and picture collages from my college student staff.
  • A letter from another former student. She struggled with depression for years. One night her senior year she called me when she was sitting with a large bottle of Aspirin, ready to take her life. Her letter contains the words, “You literally saved my life.” This item is a powerful reminder that simple things like listening and being available can save lives. Every human being is capable of these things, but we many need to unplug more.

There’s a bunch more we could comb through, but you’ve got the gist. This box is the sum total of clutter in my home (honestly, you can check my closets) but what joyful clutter!

I’m hanging on to stuff others might discard because this “stuff” can make me laugh, or cry, or transport me to another time and place. These items are markers of my development from child to adult, actress to pastor and writer. They tell of a life overflowing with rich friendship and the unconditional support of family. They are stones of remembrance of  loss and forgiveness, and the healing God can bring when you think the statute of limitations has long since past.

I’ve realized that this box of clutter tells my story. You’d need me to sit beside you to fill in the gaps, but my story is here in every keychain and photo, script and stuffed animal. All of the words stuffed into these letters and cards – and all the people who held those pens – shaped me into the confident, people-centered woman that I am today.

Days after sifting through this box, I discovered some sadness mixed in with my gratitude. I hate that the letter is no longer a valued and common method of communication. So I marched to my local Hallmark store, bought some stationary, came home and started writing. Three hours and 28 letters later, I felt refreshingly human. And absurdly thankful for an untidy box of stuff.

There may have even been some sparks of joy.




A Heart the Size of 12,000 Miles

For the first 18 years of my life I lived in Columbus, Ohio. For 17 of those years I lived in the same house. I attended two churches and three schools in all that time, surrounded by the same people. My parents had a solid and affectionate marriage (unless they attempted a home improvement project together), and I knew very few families affected by divorce or death. My childhood was a picture of stability. 29c4a78abd3f1b0c3e24c1d8b84e94d4 Ohio is a great place. The people are friendly. The housing and groceries are affordable. The weather isn’t unduly harsh in any season; and if you’re a college sports fan, Columbus is Mecca. Ohio is generally so well liked by its inhabitants, that people who grow up there tend to stick around for college. Then they start careers and nurture families there. As a middle schooler, I noticed that no one ever left. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – some went to Carolina beaches for summer vacation, and in extreme cases a Ohioan might go to Indiana or Illinois for college – but everyone seemed destined to boomerang back.

I loved my childhood in the heart-shaped state, but when I pictured my future, I hoped for a bit more variety than the Midwestern suburbs I called home. Even if just for a while, I wanted to fly far away to something new. To experience new smells and flavors, and people with stories different from my own. I wanted my life to be big and vibrant, or at least for a little while, broader and more colorful than the corn and soybean fields that are Ohio’s backyard. So at 18, I chose an adventure.

In a graduating class of 500, I was one of two to choose California for college. I attended a small, private school in a quaint, coastal city. There I met people who used words like stoked and dude in everyday sentences the way I used the words happy and Ben. Girls went to class with bikinis under brand name cutoffs and tank tops; guys wore board shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops stained with salt and sweat. Everyone looked beach-ready, but in a glossy magazine photo way. I’d never owned a pair of overalls in my life, but next to all the tanned, sleek bodies with their casual sophistication, it was as if every outfit I owned screamed farm girl!

Those four years at the beach were difficult but good for me. Despite my Midwestern-girl-next-door vibe, people were generally friendly and accepting. In California I discovered a love for learning and for the avocado. I learned that seafood is edible and delicious when fresh, that cyn is the abbreviation for canyon (that’s an embarrassing story), and that God wanted me to be a pastor. Even though I felt constantly oafish, that feeling got me to a moment every young woman needs – the moment when you look in the mirror and see yourself for exactly who you are, with all your strange beauty and glorious awkwardness, and you lift your chin and say, “This is who I am. And this is good.” And then you step into the sunshine and live.

Those early years in California helped me realize that life is too short and too important to let comparison or insecurity bridle me. I will probably never be thin. I will probably always laugh a little too loudly. I will continue to be more interested in maintaining my friendships than I am my appearance. I’ll bore people at parties with stories about my nieces and nephews. I’ll occasionally cry at work. I won’t stop myself from being goofy near babies. These are just a few of the things that make me, me. Sticking out in California helped me see myself. Because I felt the love of God shining on me even when I felt awkward, I was able to love myself in all my oafish glory.

That profound movement from insecurity to acceptance made me confident and courageous. It turned me into an adventurer who chooses newness and change, and who embraces discomfort and awkwardness, because those things are markers on a treasure map for the soul.

Though I think of it fondly, I never moved back to Ohio. Since my leap to the left coast, I’ve moved a total of 12,377 miles. I’ve lived at 11 different addresses across 5 states and Canada. I’ve lived in neighborhoods where being white and speaking English made me a minority. I’ve joined churches where standard potluck fare was spam and sushi rather than the chicken casseroles and apple pie of my childhood. I’ve also been able to travel to 18 countries on three continents.

This adventure has enriched me, but not without cost. I now have the eyes to see things like white privilege, poverty, racism, and systemic injustices – domestically and around the world. These are things you can’t unsee. They come with some nasty emotions like anger due to a sense of powerlessness, and a grief so thick it stains like mud. As painful as this descaling of my eyes has been, the good news is that these 12,000+ miles have enlarged my heart. My ability to listen well and be compassionate has expanded along with my worldview. Now I don’t want to only meet and hang out with people like me; that’s comfortable but boring. I’d rather seek out people who are different from me. I want to hear their stories, to laugh with them, to discover what makes them tick, and to have their friendship increase my vision for God’s handiwork.

Each new place, people and culture, has marked me in some way, but none have changed me fundamentally. I’m still Corrie – a friendly, somewhat clumsy, unsophisticated, indoorsy, Midwestern girl – but now I’m layered with other landscapes, stories, and experiences. When I look in a mirror now, I see the same person I was at 18, but there’s a shimmer. Like the moment when colors burst and blend as you slowly turn the barrel of a kaleidoscope, there’s a richness to me that wasn’t there at 18. If you look and listen carefully, you can see it in my gaze and hear it in my laugh.

The best way to learn a new neighborhood is to go out and get lost. Leave the GPS at home and go wander. Walk down a quiet side street or get in the car and take five random turns, just to see where they lead. It’s a little scary to do this, especially in a foreign country, but when you do the feelings of being lost and out-of-place fade quickly. Habitual wandering makes unknown landscapes familiar. And one day you will realize that those unassuming side streets are your best route home.

New Year’s Reclamations – 2015

In the past two weeks I’ve moved away from Hawaii, celebrated Christmas in Phoenix, bought a car and moved to California. It’s been 11 days of constant motion, packing and unpacking, traffic, goodbyes and hellos. So yesterday I took my Sabbath and went out exploring with no particular agenda. I ended up at the largest Starbucks I’ve ever seen and bought a latte. As I waited for my coffee, I noticed that every single person filling the twenty-odd tables had some kind of screen in front of them. People were sharing tables but no one was talking, making eye-contact, or smiling. It struck me as odd, for a room to be so full but so devoid of life.

I grabbed my latte and went to sit outside in the sunshine. For thirty minutes I watched the parking lot bustle with activity. Drivers zoomed in and out of parking spaces with the nonchalance of stuntmen. They took corners like NASCAR drivers and I feared for the lives of pedestrians weaving toward their cars. Between bouts of fear, I finally had time to think about the new year and all the opportunities ahead.

I’ve never been into New Year’s resolutions. I’m naturally suspicious of trends and resist doing things just because scads of other people do them. I think it’s healthy to do some inner housekeeping and improve habits, I just wish resolutions didn’t come with a side of shame. I want to do things because I truly want to do them, not because someone or something has made me feel bad about myself. So instead of resolutions I likely won’t keep, I’m making a list of reclamations – practices I believe in, things that I can lean into in any way, and at any pace, I choose. With reclamations there’s no pressure of quick mastery, no measuring stick for success and no quotas. It’s just me inviting myself to pursue positive, meaningful things with a spirit of curiosity, hope and freedom. So here are my reclamations for 2015…

FACE TO FACE TIME – Screens are everywhere: tablets, smartphones, video games, and e-readers fill our hands. TVs have taken the place of art in waiting rooms, restaurants, and church lobbies. I’ve even seen TVs at the gas pump, in elevators and some public restrooms! While these devices can offer important information, entertainment and even some quality educational programs, they also snatch away my attention from living, breathing, human beings.

girls on their phone

When was the last time you had a conversation with a friend or loved one without distraction? A meal or date night without texts read and answered? Family time that excludes scrolling through your Facebook feed? Actual words with friends rather than a scrabble game online? These are distractions that we choose over building and maintaining emotional intimacy with our loved ones. We choose screens over souls.

I choose screens over souls.

The more we look at screens rather than faces, I fear we will lose our ability to inspire each other to change and grow, to notice when we’ve hurt someone and seek forgiveness, to mourn together and to celebrate well, to get each other through the hard times and the doldrums. I want real connections with real people rather than sitcom characters. I want to read a friend’s facial expressions, to notice if they look tired or anxious, to offer them encouragement with my eyes as well as my words. If I want to reclaim connections with people, I have to rethink screen time.

Realistically, I know that screens are here to stay. I’m not starting a screen rebellion or going cold turkey with my electronics, but I do want to bring the wisdom of self-control to my screen time. I hope to thoughtfully create screen boundaries that will promote and preserve my relational and emotional health.

LIFE AT SANDALS PACE – Being back in California after living in Hawaii is a shock to the system. I went to college here, but I’d forgotten the hurried pace at which Californians move. Highway driving here can be downright scary – honking horns, wild lane changes, people intentionally cutting people off. Yesterday’s Starbucks parking lot was over-stimulating. Even as I sat drinking my coffee with nowhere to go, I couldn’t completely relax with everyone clipping along.

In contrast, Hawaiians seem to move with the gentle flow of the wind. Everything seems to meander in the tropics: traffic, work, people, turtles. Drivers are extremely courteous and always wait for pedestrians. Meetings start on “Hawaii time” – that’s like saying Africa time, or late – because you’re expected to pause and greet and maybe even catch up with the people you see on your way to the meeting.

No one seems to rush in Hawaii except paramedics. No one runs between 16 different activities. (To run in sandals is to risk your life, as every adult knows.) There’s always time to take the long way because it’s scenic, to point out a rainbow, to go to the beach, bury your feet in the sand and watch the sunset. Not all islanders live this way, but this sandals pace is a choice just like any other.


As I settle back into life in California, I want to live at a Hawaiian pace. I’ll try to keep my schedule from getting too full so the time I spend with people is unhurried. So I can be attentive. So Sabbath won’t be an adrenaline crash.

DO A WHAT-WHAT – Once a week as a school chaplain I served lunch to the 1st graders. One day, three of the girls were randomly touching their fingertips together above their heads like ballerinas in fifth position. They caught me looking at them, so I winked and mimicked them. They giggled and suddenly it became a game. They’d put up their arms and I’d improvise a little dance in the food line.fifth position

One of the girls asked me what I was doing. I responded, “What does it look like I’m doing?” She said, “Being silly!” Another girl piped in, “You’re doing a what-what!” Clearly that was new to me, so she added, “A what-what is something fun and new you make up. It’s something you’ve never done before and maybe no one will ever do again.” (How cute are six-year-olds?!)

During my seven months in Hawaii we had two hurricanes blow through. Both were downgraded to tropical storms before they hit Oahu, but we still had to stay inside for a few days. Before the rains came, I went shopping for supplies. When I discovered there wasn’t a flashlight left on the island, I wandered into Barnes & Noble. I bought two jigsaw puzzles, a sketchbook, and a hug set of colored pencils.

I’ve never taken a drawing class in my life. I can’t even remember the last time I tried to draw something with any serious concentration, but I surprised myself by spending hours attempting to draw a turkey. (Thanksgiving was coming.) I looked up some pictures on the internet and then did a what-what on paper. It was an experiment in shape and color and blending. I had no idea what I was doing or how it would turn out, but that didn’t matter. It was new, intuitive, playful, and full of freedom. I shocked myself to discover that I can draw something that looks real.  My what-what turkey may not be gallery worthy, but I’d say it’s pretty good for a newbie.


I want to reclaim creativity in 2015. I want to feel again the pleasure of surprising myself with a skill I didn’t know I had, to fold new experiences into the every-day and expected.

So here I am, four days into a new year, ready to live more free, to be more attentive, more playful. I’m hoping to take the long way, to meander and make time for creativity on my way to some really great discoveries.


Where are you from? Where’s home? Everyone answers these questions at some point, but some of us answer more succinctly than others. The older I get and the more I move around the country, the more trouble I have telling people where I’m from.

If home was just about place, about where we are born and grow up, I could simply say that I’m from Columbus, Ohio. I grew up in a sprawling, suburban neighborhood where most of the streets are quaintly named after local trees and terrain – Circle on the Green, Oakbourne Court, Beechlake Drive. I lived on Hickory Ridge Lane. As a child, when I gave directions to our home, I always said the same thing: it’s the third house on the right, a white, two-story colonial with black shutters and a red door. I had no idea what “colonial” meant, but my parents always used that word, so I did too. Over the 18 years that I lived on Hickory Ridge, a few extra descriptors popped up – a basketball hoop, a wide-planked, white fence that ran along the path to the front door, and the red Mercury Tracer my brothers parked in the driveway after school hours. Our home was easy to find.

1328 Hickory Ridge

This is a recent picture of the Hickory house from the internet. The landscaping has changed a bit since I left for college in the 90’s. The bushes flanking the front door are different. The fence and basketball hoop are gone and so is the beautiful red maple that stood in the center of the front yard. The maple wasn’t planted deeply enough, so the roots that knotted and spread just below the grass caused many twisted ankles and made mowing the lawn into straight lines nearly impossible. For all its shade in the summer and the kaleidoscope of its leaves in the fall, the new owners were wise to remove that tree. So things have changed a bit at the Hickory house, but overall the picture is so similar to the one imprinted in my mind, that when I saw it I flushed with happy memories.

I have such nostalgia for my childhood home. I associate so many wonderful memories with that house and the life our family of five had there. To my great dismay, my parents sold the Hickory house during my freshman year of college and built a new home several towns over. Since they moved while I was away in California, I didn’t help pack or get to say goodbye to the life I had there. Maybe I was overly sentimental at 19, but I was really sad. I grieved the loss of that house like some people grieve the loss of a beloved pet. I realized that I’d never get to go home for the holidays and reminisce with my brothers when we saw our height measurements etched into the basement door. I’d never again have to wear thick socks on winter nights to protect my feet from those crazy cold hardwood floors. I’d never again earn five dollars a bucket or stain my hands black as I chucked rotting walnuts out of our backyard into the farmer’s field. I’d never again be woken by the chattering of the raccoon family that lived atop the chimney outside my bedroom window. My life on Hickory Ridge Lane was suddenly closed like the cardboard boxes my parents packed and sealed. Nevertheless, it would remain the home of my heart for many years.

For all the stability of place I’d know the first 18 years of my life, I’ve since learned that home is an adaptable concept. I’ve now lived in 5 more states and in Canada. While the idea of moving this much is foreign to baby boomers, those of us from Gen X and Gen Y see it as the way things are. Few of us expect to work 10 years for the same company in the same location, let alone 30+. If I can be my own judge, I think it’s fair to say that I’m rockin’ the modern-American-nomad thing. Some people have heard my story or looked at my resume and wondered if I’m flighty, lack commitment, or if I’m a lost soul. None of those are true. I do have an adventurous spirit. I love to explore, learn new cultures and meet new people. And I follow where God leads me. Sure, I’ve lived a lot of places, but that doesn’t mean I’m a hippie, aimless or running from something. When I land some place new, I dig in. My top priority – more important than finding the best grocery store, a reliable mechanic, or my new doctor’s office – is to cultivate relationships.

I’ve discovered in adulthood that I can’t call a place home until I there’s someone I can call and invite to a movie, someone to share rich conversation over good coffee, people who I can call friends. As I’ve moved around, I’ve learned that home is not bound by a sense of place or limited to a physical structure. It’s just too big a thing to be bound by earth, drywall and shingles. Home, for me, is a spiritual thing. It’s about planting yourself deeply in a community of souls. It’s about knowing and loving yourself and standing confident in that, but then deeply intertwining your soul with others’ and growing together.

Now when I think of home, I think of visiting my friend Karen during frigid Boston winters and laughing at ourselves as we ran out at night for pints of ice cream. I think of sharing a sunny park bench with Stephanie as we watched her daughters play. More sister than friend, Stephanie and I talked all day for four days when I visited this May. After I left, her oldest, Seraphina, observed this about her usually introverted mother, “You and Auntie Coco sure do like to talk a lot.” Home is the warm feeling that spreads from my chest to my fingertips when I snuggle with a new baby nephew or niece. It’s the joy I felt officiating Emily and Matthew’s wedding and standing up as the maid of honor for Holly and Dave. Home is realizing how much I am loved as cards and kind words piled up after my recent ordination. It’s the few days every year when I get together with my college roommates Elizabeth, Monica and Brooke. We laugh (or giggle in Liz’s case), eat really good pub food, and share totally real conversation about what’s happing in our lives and souls.

For this nomad, home is a spiritual thing. It’s about knowing and being known, loving and being loved. It’s got everything to do with my ability to see and acknowledge God’s presence in my life and very little to do with where I live. It’s more about gardening than using a GPS.

This is exactly why I feel settled and at home no matter where I live. It’s why I feel no fear, only excitement, knowing that I will be moving from Hawaii to California and starting all over again in January. But it’s also why I have such a hard time answering questions like, “Where are you from?” No one expects me to wax poetic about things like trees and friendship and God, but that is the best, most real answer I have. Don’t worry though. I usually have mercy on unsuspecting victims and simply say, “Columbus, Ohio.”

And then, maybe, I add a few sentences about life on Hickory Ridge Lane.

July 4th, 1988

Flag ankle socks in red Keds with corkscrew laces
Navy shorts with a striped cotton top
Shiny ribbons tying up a curly ponytail

Sunshine in a cobalt sky with marshmallow clouds
Cicadas and sprinklers clicking their beats
Steam rising from hot sidewalks

Streamers flapping from handlebars
Woven through bicycle spokes
Wreathing mailboxes and car antennas

Floats, balloons and marching bands
Gleaming classic cars rolling slowly by
Mini flags waving to America the Beautiful

Wax wrapped taffy and Tootsie Rolls
Fluorescent suckers and bubble gum
A pre-Halloween booty scattered at our feet

Saw horses and police tape blocking the street
Neighbors gathering a mishmash of chairs and tables
Dressed with colorful clothes and tablecloths and food

Juicy burgers with cold condiments and salty chips
Potato salad and fruit salad and bean salad
Tangy punch staining lips and tongue crimson

Women laughing, swapping recipes and compliments
Men talking baseball and debating the best lawn
Children racing from yard to yard, bare foot and full of life

Yeasty smell of beer mixing with the char of a rocket
Tables laden with frosted cakes topped with berry flags and pies galore
Frisbees in the air, mitts in hand, jump ropes and bikes littering the ground

Balmy dusk welcomes sparklers and mosquitos
Writing our names in the dark air
Chasing fireflies, lighting mason jars

Blankets at our backs, giggles in our throats
Blades of grass becoming chains and whistles as we wait
Sky booming, flashing, sizzling with color

Walking home holding hands and flashlights
One more sparkler, one more sweet bite
Dazzling senses become dreams for next year

Free to be happy
Happy to be free
Happy Fourth of July!