Sunday, April 8, 2012

Moments that Pull

Sakura in bloom Hachimangu, Kamakura, Japan
Spring Starts with School and Blossoms in Japan
Sakura cherry blossoms in Japan are associated with beginnings, both of spring and the start of the new school year. The Moose, starting second grade, participated in the welcoming ceremony for the incoming first graders and their parents while the Mule unexpectedly, for me at least, returned home early the first day. With two days of school under their belts, the Moose still can't remember his teacher's name, but he is thrilled that three of his old yochien preschool mates are in his class.

He told me, "Do you know what I was thinking about today?" when I asked about school. I thought worry, but said, "No. What were you thinking about Moose?" He said, "That song, 'Drink up and Go home." We had sang it on spring break to our friends, telling them it should be their song for last call. Still I was grateful that his teacher who probably knows his name already doesn't know enough English to understand what he is singing. I'm not sure this will fly so well in American school. I might be getting calls to go to the principal's office there.

I did enjoy the more relaxed schedule of break and the half days, but little work is accomplished due to the eternal calls of "Mama, mama, mama," constant meal prep, and the Lego Playmobil Lincoln Log extravaganza set ups. I do like the chance to eavesdrop on my kiddos amidst their world of play, particularly the feminine influence of the Mule on the war mongering ways of the Moose.

The Lincoln Log Ward
The Mule set up a field hospital and had half of the Moose's Roman Army in the Lincoln Log Ward. Nurse Playmobil fussed over the soldiers with tea and cake while the Moose lobbied for cannonballs and more war tactics. The Mule endlessly put him off like she does bedtime. The contents of my sewing scrap bag turned out costumes for the munsters themselves- caps, capes, tunics, belts, and other assorted paraphernalia- and sustained them for hours. The only drawback being the size of the mess. At one point, I kicked them outside which meant the mess continued its outward expansion as they sought to set up military camp with mats, blankets, umbrellas, ropes, and pillows. A clean house is a mother's losing battle.

Spring is a transitional season; change is amongst us in spring. The Moose's recent bout with our stairs and the subsequent loss of his two front teeth has given way to an emerging growing boy. It's as if by the sudden pull of a string, before my eyes, he has suddenly changed, grown. I keep looking at him and seeing someone new and yet the same. He is changing ever more slowly than some children, maybe faster than a few others, but he looks so different without his front teeth. He asked again for mashed potatoes for dinner but I did hear him attempting and making machine gun sounds today. I think his mouth is healing.

A Sermon
Today is Easter. As I sat down in church this morning, the sermon underway, I heard Father Len saying some version of these words which I have from his outlined notes:

Nothing in Jesus story says that God wanted sacrifice. Since the time of the Prophets God wanted an end to blood sacrifice. What God wanted was: The sacrifice of taking care for the poor, hungry, and homeless, orphans and widows; The sacrifice of sharing with the least, the lonely, the lost, and the lame; The sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation; The sacrifice of proclaiming the good news of justice for all people. 
from Father Len's Easter Sermon, Christ Church Yokohama

It was a tall order, a squirmy Easter sermon not a woohoo it's Easter kind. I mean this as a compliment.

A long time ago, another preacher, Tom Are, at another Easter sermon with my then fiancé, his first Sunday after a six month deployment, told the huge and largely white haired congregation with a number of hat wearing southern ladies, myself included, at Riverside Presbyterian that, "until we can shake the hands of the black, the gay, those less fortunate than ourselves, we should not be so quick to pat ourselves on the back."

It was the preacher's first day at the pulpit as well, which he used to his advantage to make us all squirm. He was older, southern and said with a drawl and a vibrato that bring Bill Clinton to mind, "I know ya'll are having a hard time wondering what a Yankee from Pittsburgh has to say...." Pittsburgh had been his previous interim post. I'm sure that was the first time "gay" had been uttered from that pulpit on Easter. It was 1995. He wasn't interested in anyone resting on their laurels. He challenged us nearly every Sunday thereafter and peppered those challenges with stories from his boyhood home in Batesburg, Georgia. I secretly wished that I could move to Batesburg, Georgia, to absorb some of that wisdom.

Today Father Len reminded me, us all really, about the uncomfortable gift of Easter, again from his outline:

God chose to repair the damage, not fix the blame. To raise the dead, not raise the roof. To bring the innocent dead to life, not the guilty to death. God chose to undo the worst that human beings could do. Not by revenge, retribution and punishment; But by forgiveness and restoration. Forgiving sin and restoring relationships is what Easter is about. 
from Father Len's Easter Sermon, Christ Church Yokohama

Father Len pointed to our task to offer this Easter Gift to each other:

What God did for us, God wants us to do for each other: Repair the damage, Raise the dead, And bring the innocent to life. 
from Father Len's Easter Sermon, Christ Church Yokohama

The Pull
Though I felt squirmy knowing of my own shortcomings, I was glad to be reminded of this essential call to reach out more and it harkened back to the message I had heard that first Easter I spent with my soon to be husband. I love a full circle.

After church my husband and I walked up Wakamiya Oji under the arched canopy of sakura trees leading to Hachimangu Shrine here in Kamakura. Following the trail of paparazzi lenses attempting to capture the blossoms not yet fully in bloom, we were without children. It felt almost like a date to have him alone and in daylight with those shy blossoms beginning to unfurl.

In a few days, the blossoms will be in their full glory which is when we get to my favorite part. The dance of the cherry blossoms as they drift and glide, circle up and down, and pirouette along the path like grace calling us with beauty, with the fleeting moment to shine, to be, but not yet. That is how I feel today, I'm not yet all that I would like to be, but moments keep pulling me along, calling me to do better.
Tori gate along Wakamiya Oji in Kamakura

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