Monday, December 8, 2014

Small Glimpses of Beauty and Courage

I'm writing this in the half hour before I go meet who I keep referring to as the "repo man." He is not, in fact, a repo man; my old minivan, sadly no longer functional except in first gear, is being sold for scrap, not repossessed. But "repo man" has a nice twang. After that I have one of my favorite personal holiday traditions, the all-day brunch at my next door neighbor's.

I'm lucky enough to live right next to a close friend, a sister at heart, one of the tribe of women who have helped tend and raise my family and whom I hope I have helped equally in return. Every year she throws this open house; I'm usually first to arrive and last to leave, always wearing my gingerbread earrings. I'm wearing the earrings even though I'll be a bit late this year, what with the repo man and all.

My friend Joanne is having heart surgery this morning. She's 83. She had a heart attack last week. She's a strong, adventurous woman, still happy to take two planes and a ferry to visit her son's family in Alaska every year, and I hope that she'll do fine, but I worry, of course. Joanne lives in Florida for the colder half of the year. Last year, when Katie and I were in Ocala together, we invited Joanne to come with us to karaoke night at Blanca's.

Blanca's is a restaurant attached to a small retirement-community golf course. There aren't many restaurants near the horse farms where I stay down there, and Blanca's, with decent reasonably-priced food, attracts a nightly mix of senior citizens and horsefolk in its small single room. Wednesdays are always karaoke night. Wednesdays are packed.

Last year I was determined to sing karaoke. I don't have a natural ear; I can hit pitch sometimes, by accident, or by sliding my voice into the range of a more-talented singer beside me. I sing in church, but that's about all. I had no delusions that I was going to rock karaoke, that I was suddenly going to be able to sing on tune. I simply wanted to push myself out of a place of safety. And Blanca's, where ninety-year-old men in bad toupees stand up and warble To All The Girls I've Loved Before, was a pretty safe place to do it.

My first Wednesday in Florida, the week before Katie arrived, I went to Blanca's with a big group. Karaoke was hopping and the song I entered didn't come up before it hit my bedtime, and I had to go home. (Barn chores come early, thank you.) The second Wednesday Katie and I took Joanne. She was all dressed up, nice clothes and makeup and jewelry. She exclaimed over Katie, who she hadn't seen in two years. When we told her of our plans to sing, she beamed--not because she thought we were good singers, or because she cared whether or not we were. She thought that we were brave. Joanne approves of courage in all its many forms.

So I sang bad karaoke while Joanne pressed her hands to her face and her eyes shone with pride. It's crazy how good it can make you feel to have someone recognize the essence, not the substance, of your actions.

This morning when I first went to sit down at my computer I happened to glance out the window. It was about 7 am and dawn was just breaking across the range of mountains in the distance, in streaks of gorgeous pink and blue. I paused to let the beauty sink in--sunrises and sunsets are so fleeting, a few minutes and they're gone. Then I got a text from my neighbor, up and getting ready for her party. "Did you see that sunrise?" she said.

I did.