I sit in silence to watch the swirl of steam rise above a cup of tea, the walls of memory flexing around me. I’m in my Great Aunt Clara’s parlor, her ashtray of seaglass sparkling alongside a bowl of candy orange slices. I taste hot tea for the first time on her loveseat, beside my Grandmama. They are talking of old Galveston and people buried with their memories in sunbaked mausoleums. The lilt of their voices makes me drowsy. It’s a holy drowse, lit through with soft echoes of Dominican schoolbooks and sea lavender and hope. Grandmama is right here with me at this table, still telling me a story. It’s a good one, better because it keeps going.
I’m at both tables, too, a child just learning and a mother teaching. I set a tray between my children and tell them my version of the stories that shaped my hope.
They are hand-me-down miracles, but they’re still good. Plenty of wear left in these gospel shoes.
My son tries them on for size. He wonders aloud, “Mom, isn’t it strange how miracles seem to run in our family?”
It’s amazing, dear one, but not strange. Miracles are normal for Christians. What’s strange is how they are there to clothe the day even when unlooked-for, like a favorite sweater you happen upon just when the weather turns cold.
It’s strange because of my own estrangement. How I wish I could feel at home in this cozy grace. I’m working on it, but every time I get ahead of myself, I’m back at the beginning, at the table, the flowing words of my elders mystifying and comforting me. I taste again for the first time. A new habit starts. It will sustain life and be passed down with the rest from my old-new hands.
I live in the tension of always beginning and always bearing fruit. My lap overflows with lines of sacred texts and more sacred toddlers. I have a heart filled with tears and myrrh and laughter. Sometimes I get things right. Mostly, not.
But here I am again, sitting with the new and old and always. I can almost understand their words.
“Nothing is lost.”
“Nothing is ever lost.”