Sunday, July 15, 2012

So Seldom Pure

Life is so seldom purely good. It seems that evil most always finds a way to taint our moments. But sometimes not. Sometimes there are those priceless moments when life is purely good. The following is part of my personal list ...

Life was always purely good at my grandmother's breakfast table when I was young. When I stayed overnight at her house, I would awaken in her front bedroom to the smell of coffee; and from there on, it was always the same. Down the hallway to that bright kitchen and her big ole' loving hug. Paw was already at the table; and he would pour a little of the coffee that I was not supposed to have (too young) in his saucer, blow on it to cool it, and then slide it over to me with a grin.

By now, you could cut the smell of bacon with a knife as it fried in the skillet with the eggs. And the biscuits, baked from scratch, were the highlight of the menu. 

Paw and I would cut 'em in two, butter 'em heavy, and sprinkle sugar on 'em 'till you couldn't see the butter anymore. I always did mine exactly like Paw did his. I always did most everything like Paw did his.

The brightness of that happy kitchen, filled with morning sunlight, is as vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday. Every time I ever sat at that breakfast table, I knew only pure goodness expressed as laughter and love.

As time moved along, and I grew older, I came to understand that such moments and places are rare. But I did manage to discover another. It was my neighborhood of a simpler time. It was called Rose Hill. And it was straight out of "To Kill A Mockingbird" even down to my "Boo Radley" neighbor.

It was about a 20's model neighborhood, so it was 30 or so years old by the time I came along, and some parts were a good bit older than that. It was laid out in neat city blocks with old growth shade trees and cracking sidewalks. It was filled with responsible working people who all knew each other, or at least knew of each other, and were very respectful as neighbors.

My school was one block from my house. And on the way, I would stop, going and coming, at Ms. Gray's small store, in the middle of the block, for one brand or another of pure sugar. That store was the happy event of every school day, and most days that weren't, for that matter.

This part of town was made out of old charm. Most all of the yards were neat, and there was constant tension between deep shade and bright sunshine. And everywhere there were bushes, and big lush shrubs, and overgrown alleys and all of it screamed, "I've been here a while."

I was a kid in that neighborhood, the way a kid is supposed to be a kid. Between Indian attacks and cavalry charges, my cousin, Frank, and I played a thousand games of baseball there. I had countless bike races and wrecks. Fun came easy, and in a wide variety of forms there.

The summers on Rose Hill were hot, humid, and magical with smells of honeysuckle, and roses, and gardenias, and the escape of frying and baking smells through open kitchen windows. And amid those aromas, I spent long summer days doing the most important nothings that ever were done - all with my two best friends, Jack Jackson and Johnny Camp. (Now an engineer and a judge, respectively, and also reeking, these days, of "I've been here a while.")

Rose Hill died with the people who lived there in my childhood. Oh, the streets are still there, and most of the houses. But they aren't so neat or respectable any more. But I remember my neighborhood, back in the day. And it was purely good to my childish eyes.

But, as I have gotten older, as with most people I think, the barnacles of cynicism have attached. And it seems they make it even harder to ferret out the pure moments and places. But still, I find that it is not impossible. I have discovered two more wonderfully distilled realities in my mature adulthood. The first is the joy of sitting across the table from my wife in a favored restaurant and talking - just talking - while the problems are made to wait in the parking lot.

We go to a restaurant to eat, of course, but what we truly relish the "seclusion in the crowd." I love the stolen afternoon over nachos, or the Friday evening "end of week catch up conversation" at the Mexican place. I love the bright mornings at "Big Mac" with a biscuit and coffee and her on my day off. I love talking with her over lunch on a rainy day. I guess I love her - and the food and the talk just let it come out. And those moments are purely good.

And the last purely good thing that I will mention on my list (like you couldn't see this coming) is my friendship with the unseen Jesus. He is the living ideal of pure goodness.

His daily presence brings an unassailable hope to me every single day of my life. I think His presence is so reassuring because I need to know that our ideals can not only survive, but prevail even in this tainted world. And Jesus is the living confirmation of that. He is the one purely good reality in life that is never touched by this world's smudges, and who never goes away. In my book, the only thing better than purely good, is purely good - all the time.

It's true, life is seldom purely good. But sometimes - it absolutely is. And when it is, maybe you might be tempted to start your own list of the purely good in your life. Go ahead. Those things are worth keeping up with. (I know, prepositions on the end are not purely good. They are not even "kinda' good.")