If we ever went out for coffee, I’m sure she would come up.
I’d order the darkest and boldest roast on the chalkboard menu and I’d ask the barista to leave room for milk. I’d pour three packets of Sugar In The Raw into the thermal cardboard cup, stir in a drop of skim milk and slip the cardboard sleeve onto the base of the cup like a dress. While I wait for you to fix your drink, I’d scan the room for the perfect table. The one in the back-left corner, up on that one little stage-like step would win me over. Right next to the sad, half-empty bookcase with the board games that are missing all of the important pieces.
On the walk over, I’d ask if I could have the seat with its back to the door, because I get distracted easily and I want to be all there with you, the whole time. (You might not believe me and just think it’s a selfish request to avoid the sun shining like laser beams straight into my eyes, but I promise you, if I sat in the seat facing the door, each time that silly little bell jingled when the door opened, my eyes would shoot right over your right shoulder.) I’d sit down in the creaky schoolhouse chair, square my narrow shoulders to yours, rush a sip of coffee and burn my tongue on the boiling mud. I’d do my best not to swear under my breath – but I might.
And as the blisters form on my scalded pink tongue, I’d tell you all about Grace.
I’d tell you about the time I first saw her – how I was just seven years old, sitting on one of those road map carpets in an upstairs room at church and she just waltzed right on in.
Ms. Jane was up at the felt board and square in the middle of telling us about Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery. Grace came traipsing in, unannounced. Like a rapturous hurricane, she spun through the room – twisting and twirling, glittering and gleaming – incandescent in her resplendence. I was all but stunned by her beauty. And though she didn’t mean anything to me that day, the image of her artistry gusting through that room never left my mind.
I’d tell you about the way I really got to know her. I might struggle to explain it at first, but I’d tell you all about how somehow, she just became “real” in my life. I’d tell you all about how I was only 12 or 13, but for whatever reason, Grace became one of those nagging friends who you love –but just never leaves you alone. I’d tell you about how guilty I felt when I passed up an opportunity to introduce her to my friends or was too prideful to share her friendship with one of the mean girls. But Grace never got mad.
I might start to cry when I tell you about this next part, but I’d tell you all about how I left her. How I abandoned her one night in the dark, cold air of my childhood bedroom and left her for bitterness. Her irrevocable refusal to let me hold a grudge was infuriating, so I crossed my sassy 16-year old spaghetti arms and told her we couldn’t be friends anymore. For almost two whole years, I missed her.
When I did not-so-great things with not-so-great people, I longed for Grace.
There was reconciliation, of course. I’d tell you about that too. About the time Grace scooped me up into her mesmeric arms before the words I’d prepared and rehearsed and re-rehearsed for weeks could even push their way through my lips. I’d tell you about how she hugged me like I’d never been hugged before and offered me tea and graham crackers over and over until I finally said yes. We sat for hours – there in her tiny country kitchen – and traded stories about the 730-something days we spent apart.
I told her how I always knew I’d come back.
She told me how she always knew I never really left.
I’d tell you about the time she challenged me the most – and I’d tell you how I was actually thick in the underwood of one of her gusts right. now. I’d tell you how I was being stretched and poked and pushed by the blow of her momentum. I’d tell you about all the ways she’s been delicately shoving me into her waters and refusing to help me out until every last atom of my body drips and glistens with the residue of her mercy. I’d tell you that because of the way she’s invading my life – at times unwelcome and utterly maddening – Grace is reinventing it.
I’d tell you about how Grace reminds me every single day that grudges are prison cells we build up around ourselves when we’re too scared to let the offense change us for good.
And I’d tell you how I’m letting it.
I’d really want to hear all about you too, though, so I don’t know if we’d get to it all. You said you only had a couple of hours and I don’t really want to hog the conversation or anything. I’m a talker these days – spilling my guts to just about anyone who’s patient enough to wait for it to get good. But that’s the thing about Grace though, you know? She’s one of those people who’s so amazing that you just can’t help but want to show her off to anyone who’ll listen.
Photo: Creative Commons // Matt Batchelor