My mama wearily protested, “I don’t mind cooking. Just tell me what to cook.” My friend Lori is opposite. She savors reading cookbooks and talking about recipes and clipping them from magazines. But making a list and going to the store and putting the groceries in the car only to then get them out of the car and be faced with the daunting dishes after the delicious dinner keeps her from trying most of those delightful recipes. When she does, she is pleased with her effort.
Like Lori, and I love the outcome of the art. I’m tickled by the article in the paper after pondering absolutely nothing and putting my processed insights into words for others to read. However, like Mama, I am often out of ideas and need help with inspiration. I frequently pester my people to brainstorm, “Just tell me what to write.”
My nephew recently suggested “back to school, pumpkin spice season, and the heat in Alabama.” Great ideas to which I came up empty:
1. For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a child returning to school. Surprisingly, I had neither happy nor sad thoughts about that. If anything, I thought, “Whew.”
2. I don’t care for pumpkin spice, but I get a kick out of some folks’ commitment to it. I understand it. I’m not playing at the Winn Dixie when Blue Bell peppermint ice cream is in stock during the holiday season.
3. And the heat in Alabama?! It is too soul-sucking to deserve another second of my thoughts. And if you’re not thinking about it, I don’t want to remind you of it.
Then, lo and behold, last week, Mother Nature gifted Alabama a break. A dip in the temp. A siesta from the sauna. A breath for our heat exhaustion, wherein I recovered my ability to ponder. I hadn’t misplaced it after all. It was there the whole time. I was just hot.
My oldest sister had her three babies before I birthed my three babies. I relished being an aunt. I told Mama, “I’m going to somehow skip the whole parenting thing and jump straight to grandparenting.” She quickly quipped, “You don’t deserve to be a grandparent until you’ve been a parent.” I made sure my babies knew their whole lives that I was merely paying my dues.
When those same babies turned into children, we watched “Elmo Saves Christmas” each year. It’s about the Sesame Street character who had to save Christmas after he ruined it by making a wish to have Christmas every day. He learned after 365 Christmases that no day was Christmas. “It’s not Christmas if it’s Christmas every day, Elmo,” my family reminds when one of us whines about wanting more of this or that. More Christmas. More pleasant weather. More days when the grocery shopping is finished and the pretty recipe is sitting on the table.
Like Elijah (I Kings 19:11-13), I can’t find God in the oppressive. I feel the spirit in the relief, in the “still small voice.” Not in the labor pains, but in the ice chips in between. I frequently declare that I’ve learned all my lessons. I pinkie promise that I’d never fail to appreciate year-round 70 degrees, partly cloudy, and breezy—with an occasional late afternoon thundershower (because those make me happy). I insist I’d be the one person who wouldn’t allow lottery winnings to cause destruction. I’ll prove it if only given the chance! Alas, the lottery passes to another, the dirty dishes overflow the sink, and the heat returns to Alabama.
As always, the suffocating weather will loosen again, surely before Christmas. Elmo and I are looking forward to it.
Celeste King Conner ain’t complaining about the heat. She’s just stating that it’s hot in Alabama. Tell her what to write about at firstname.lastname@example.org.