Miss Honey seemed to love everyone. Her little house was surrounded by a picket fence, and the kitchen window faced the front. Perhaps that’s why the air around Miss Honey’s always smelled like fresh bread, sugar cookies, or apple pie.
Through the window at night, and in the early morning, you could see the kitchen light burning bright. And you could hear Miss Honey singing along with her Frank Sinatra records.
When the children walked home from school, they went out of their way to pass by Miss Honey’s. There were always tasty baked treats waiting for them in the wicker basket that hung on Miss Honey’s front gate.
During the Christmas Holidays, Miss Honey hung a fresh evergreen wreath on the front door, tied with a big red bow. Colored lights were swagged along the pickets, and a candle shined in the kitchen window. The basket on the front gate filled up with decorated cookies: Santas, Christmas trees, bells, stockings, and gingerbread men.
Though everyone in town felt they knew her, people rarely saw Miss Honey. She was always calling “Heeelloooooo!” out the window or “Merry Christmaaaas!” as she swooped around the corner to the market or to church.
Miss Honey’s only child – if you could call him that – was a big orange cat named Carl. Carl was the size of a small dog, and acted like one some of the time.
When Carl wasn’t playing fetch with the school kids, he was parked on the welcome mat on Miss Honey’s front stoop. In the winter when it was snowy, Carl watched the lacy flakes come down from inside the kitchen window.
Miss Honey’s birthday was the first day of Spring. Every year, on her birthday, she baked cupcakes and used colorful frosting to create flowers on top of each one. She arranged them on a platter, and placed it on a little table underneath the basket on the gate. She watched through the kitchen window with a twinkle as the school children ooh’d, aaah’d, and tore in to the delicious treats. “Happy Birthday to me,” she whispered happily.
One year, on the night before her birthday, the school children and the townspeople all visited Miss Honey’s gate. They quietly placed hundreds of bouquets of Spring flowers in the wicker basket, and on the ground in front.
On her birthday, when Miss Honey came out with the cupcakes, she saw the flowers. She sat the tray down, swatted Carl away, and opened the card peaking up out of the wicker basket. Inside it read,
“We love you too, Miss Honey. Signed, everyone.”
Talking with my mentor today about flailing. Actually, we were talking not only about our own, but also about a mutual friend’s flailing. The friend’s really good at it. God bless her, she’s begun so many careers, projects, ideas, but somehow nothing ever sticks. Add all that to the list, and she one of those who looks real good on paper. But her specialty, if she was going to be honest with herself – which, at this point, not so much – is flailing. As I said, and I mean it … God bless her.
We all flail. Some of us flail occasionally, some do it daily, as a normal response to living, period.
I love the show ‘Good Witch’ on Hallmark Channel. Martha Tinsdale, the town’s Mayor, is a flailer. She’s skittish and going off about something pretty much all the time.
Cassie Nightingale, the owner of the little shop, “Bell, Book, & Candle,” is calm as the lake on a still day. She’s direct, thoughtful, and soft spoken.
She almost never shows her flailing. So she’s the one many turn to when they feel their own flailing going out of control.
I can identify with both Martha and Cassie. I feel the skittish “Martha” energy kick in when things take a troubling turn. Unlike Martha, my flail is usually internal. “Closet flailing” … like what goes on in deep water. Surface calm to the naked eye. All hell breaking loose below. It doesn’t often last very long, just a few minutes. An hour or so at most. But there’ve been periods in my life when, being under assault, I’ve experienced active “peripheral flailing” on a twenty four hour basis. For weeks at a time. Months, even.
But my exterior is generally calm. When I’m in that scrambling space, very few people know it.
I’m always striving to zero in on the path to calm. To my “Cassie place.”
There are those who seek shoulders, and those who are the shoulders being sought. Shoulder seekers tend to be the flailers, the Marthas of the world. Those who offer shoulders are the ones who present calm, dependable energy … the “Cassies.”
And, you know, life is messy … it tends to flail on its own from time to time. Traffic, crowds, water pressure … it all flails. And that’s okay.
Because there is a point at the center of it all where the quiet reigns. And all the flailing, the flagging about, is a misguided attempt to get “there.”
So my mentor and I, having chatted this subject through, are laughing about our own scatter shots, our flailings … and are glad that we have each other to hold the peace.
We’ll call it, “Holding Peace While Flailing.” Cassie and Martha would be proud.
Locker clean out: check
Firearm, badge, and uniform turned in: check
Ten years of my life gone: check
Experiences that no one should ever have to go through, and some that no one should ever miss: Check check
If anyone had told me when I was five years old that I’d spend ten years of adulting doing this, I’d have run crying to my Mama. I was planning to be a ballerina. Or a veterinarian. But when Robert was gunned down in a drive by two days after my seventeenth birthday, I couldn’t find any other choice. My big brother was gone, a hole the size of the world was left in his wake, and I had to make sure that never happened to anybody again. Ever.
Applying to the academy was difficult. Admissions were grueling. I failed twice. But once in, it was even worse. I stuck it out, graduated, and for a decade I did what I could to keep good people alive. Even if it met traffic stops, stakeouts drinking bad coffee, or desk work when I was pulled off the force while an investigation took place over a cracked out kid I shot. You never want to kill them. You just want them to stop. Sadly, sometimes killing is the only way to make that happen. Luckily, the boy I shot survived … but was later shot and killed in a drug buy gone bad. He was on a dark path and just couldn’t get turned around.
I’m tired. And ten years wiser than I was when I set out on this crusade. I realize now that I can’t force people to be good, or to make the right choice. And nothing I could do – no matter what – was gonna fill that hole, or bring my brother back.
So today I officially disengage from law enforcement, and head into the world as a full blown civilian. I wonder if there’s a ballet class for thirty eight year old ex cops.
I see a giraffe. Big quiet eyes. Ears just so. Soft little horns. I can’t see his long neck. I know it’s there, beyond the card.
His neck that stretches high into the trees, so he can nibble on the tippy toppest leaves.
He’s a likeable giraffe. Loveable, even. But it’s hard to know that. His head is so very high up, one can barely look into his eyes to see his personality.
And it’s quite difficult to kiss a giraffe. The process goes thus:
You stand by the tree trunk, look up into the leaves, and you shout, very loudly,
“Mr. giraffe, I would so love to kiss you.” You hope he hears you. His head is buried up there in the tree, and you hear munching. You shout again, louder:
“Mr. Giraffe, I would really very much love to kiss you.” Still, no response. Munch munch. Try again. In fact, this time, try a slight English accent:
“Hiya, Mr. giraffe. Seems I’ve a kiss here wif your name on it. What say you, good sir?” You wait. He eats. You sigh. You walk away from the tree, to the sidewalk. You don’t see one sly eyeball peak at you through tree leaves.
You stand on the sidewalk, looking at the giraffe … you study his spindly legs, his switching tail, his long, long neck. You suck in as much air as you can hold, and you shout out. the loudest of your louds one last time. Oh, and the English accent has become quite thick:
“Mr. giraffe, is a bloke allowed to plant a kiss on your jaw at any point in time?” After waiting for what seems like forever but was really about a minute and a half, you shout, “Crikey!” as you turn and walk across the street. This, you decide, will never work.
“Uh. Excuse me.” You turn, and look. The giraffe is looking right at you. “Were you talking to me?”
“I … I would very much love to kiss you.” You’re on the opposite side of the street by now, but you start walking back toward the giraffe when he bellows,
“STOP!” You stop. “Back up!” You step backwards and onto the opposing sidewalk. “Wait.” You stand and stare. You wait.
The giraffe himself backs up, away from the tree. He swivels his head around on top of his neck. Then, ever so slowly, his neck bends down. Down. Down. He brings his neck down till it stretches across that street and he is face to face with you. You can feel his soft giraffe breath.
He leans toward your ear and whispers,
“You may kiss me now.”
“Those chairs are upsy down.” His shrill young voice echoed across the water, hovered in the air, trailed the heron down river.
I opened one eye to try and locate him. His red hat bobbed in the tall grass and disappeared. I sighed and settled back against the Adirondack.
“Whatever,” I murmured to no one. The sun was hot and high, the locust buzz was steady. I felt a bead of sweat let go and travel slowly down the center, between my bosoms. My fingernail played with the peeling paint on the arm of the chair.
“UPSY!” he crowed. I raised my head, squinted both eyes open.
“YOU! You’re upsydown!” Oh, for god’s sake. I settled back.
“Jasper, STOP. I’m tryin’ to relax.”
“Well, you’re relaxin’ but…” he trailed off. I heard him laugh, then saw him jump in the water, watched him stream across like an alligator, right before the chomp and roll. Just as I started to shut my eyes, his head popped up near my feet, gasping for air.
“You’re upsy down!” I raised my head and looked at him, then noticed something floating down stream.
“There goes your hat.”
He let out a shriek and started paddling madly toward it. He caught up to it, wrestled it for show, poured out the water, and slapped it on his head. I closed my eyes, and listened to the splashing rhythm as he slowly made his way back to shore.
He climbed out, dripping, and slopped his way up to me.
“Did you know?”
“That you’re upsy down.”
I sat upright and stared at him.
“For god’s sake, Jasper, what in hell are you talkin’ about?”
He shrugged his tan shoulders, turned and walked over to the water’s edge. He peered at his reflection.
“Well,” he said, “from here you can’t tell. But from over there,” he pointed a bony finger to the far shore. “Everything is upsy down.”
He looked back at me and grinned.
“In the water.”
photo credit: http://www.catherineandersonstudio.com