Walking in the Dark, Sharing the Light

Paradox – a contradictory situation or circumstance,  circular reasoning that often defies logic. 

I have, on more than one occasion and by more than one person, been called a paradox – usually in a moment of frustration.  Oh, I know the word is not really meant to describe a person, yet still, there are many times I seem to wear the title perfectly.

You see, I am a positive, person with strong faith, a good attitude (most of the time) and a firm grip on what it good and right in the world, who is drawn to darkness.  I went to church every time the doors were open, literally as we just lived 3 blocks away and my mom worked at the daycare.

Yet I preferred to write like Stephen King and could tell horror stories that would often scare the teachers and kids at the daycare, and I’d be sent home or back to sit with the quilting bee ladies to learn more about God and what was right.

My poor mom spent so many long hours praying for me and that I would find my way.  The truth is, I never lost my way, Mom.  Yes, I have walked dark paths, I have been in places that many would not go, but I never lost my faith.  In fact, the testing of that faith is what makes me strong now and brings me through the darkest nights.  I have no doubt that your prayers were heard.

Yet, I am still a paradox.  One that still walks in the dark with a mere candle for light.  It is what I do.  I do my best to help the weary, the hurting, those lost and searching, I don’t profess to have all the answers.  I too am searching.  I am simply there to walk with when the need arises, that is what the journey is about – walking the path, whether it’s through a sunny field or a dark forbidding forest – together. 

Cherry Coley (c)

Lindsey vs. Santa – Gotta Love Christmas!

This is a story about my lovely, youngest daughter Lindsey.  

photo by Cherry Coley

My sister-in-law – Jamie once said (of Lindsey) – “That kid just oozes personality.”  I don’t think I will ever hear of a better description of Lindsey.  She did then and she still does “ooze personality.”  She is, like her sister, a completely different individual, who has from a very young age marched along happily to the beat of her own drum. 

This event took place in December 2000 – When Lindsey was two years old at First Baptist Learning Center in Downtown Dallas.

It was a cold day in early December and I was taking the kids to school.  Casey went to kindergarten and Lindsey was in the two-year old class.  As we were walking through the foyer we saw a large red and gold chair wrapped with green garland and lights, white floor covering and small trees placed around by the chair along with a few wrapped gifts.  Today the daycare had announced they were bringing in Santa for pictures for the kids.  As we walked by Lindsey pointed to the display and said, “what’s that?” 

I said, “I think you are going to have a visitor.”

We walked on through and dropped Lindsey off at her class.  All the kids were dressed in their best Christmas outfits.  Lindsey and Casey had on red matching dresses, white tights and black shoes.  Lindsey immediately ran and got on a Big Wheel and started paddling around the classroom. 

I walked on and took Casey through to the next building to her class.  The kids were making snowmen with cotton balls and black felt.  Casey was excited.  She loved kindergarten.

I waved to Mrs. Penny (the principal) and went downstairs and across the street where I worked in Lincoln Center.

It was about 10:30am that something occurred to me and suddenly I had a sinking feeling.  The day before the daycare had another visitor.  The Crime Dog, McGruff.  He had come by to talk to the kids about “stranger danger.”  He was very thorough and even included a part about staying together at the mall.  The kids had spent the night before coloring the books he had handed out.  “I’m sure it will be okay,” I told myself.

By the end of the day I had not received a call from Penny so I thought things must have went well.  After I got off work I walked back to the Learning Center to pick up the kids. 

I was met at the door by Mrs. Penny.  She looked at me, shook her head and motioned me into her office.  Uh oh.

“I need to tell you what Lindsey did,” she said.

I sat down.

“First of all, Lindsey acted really well this morning.  She was well-behaved and kept her dress nice and clean.  She behaved so well that Ms. Eva made her the leader for the class when they brought the kids down to take pictures with Santa.” She smiled.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  (Lindsey had a habit of stripping if she got too hot.)

“Lindsey led the class in a straight line down the hall and the stairs.  She even helped the teachers tell the other kids to be quiet when they went by the baby rooms.” She went on.  I was feeling better.  This was a good thing!

“Then the teachers opened the glass doors…Lindsey marched through and slammed on her brakes..pointed her finger at Santa and yelled…’STRANGER!’” she tried to look stern, but her lips were quivering in a hidden smile.  “She then screeched at all the kids behind her yelling ‘STRANGER STRANGER!!’ Until she had all of them yelling with her.  They turned and ran back up the hallway, up the stairs and back to the room, where Lindsey turned the latch and locked out both of her teachers.”

“I am…..soooooo sorry,” I whispered.

“So not only did the entire class NOT get their pictures taken with Santa, but we had to make a trip upstairs with the key to open the door, which wasn’t easy since the kids were all leaning against it because Lindsey was telling them to keep the stranger out,” she went on.

“Oh gee,” I said.

“Your daughter is quiet a leader,” she said.

“Um, yes,” I replied, “she seems to be that.”

“Don’t ever let that go away,” she smiled. 

“But….aren’t you mad? I mean, none of the kids got their pictures taken with Santa and she locked the teachers out,” I replied.

“I will have to explain to the parents that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea for us to have invited Crime Dog McGruff over to do the stranger talk the day before the Santa pictures.” She agreed, “Then I will tell them that the class really paid attention, and that they should not be frustrated, but pleased that the children learned a lesson, even though it caused them an inconvenience.”

“Thank you,” I said.

On the way out the door I asked Casey if she got her picture taken.

photo at FBLC

“I did!” Casey replied and produced a couple of candy canes.  “I even got one for Lindsey cause she ran away.”

Lindsey stopped and looked at her, “You took CANDY from a STRANGER!!”

Casey – “Lindsey, it was Santa!  He comes and brings toys in the house on Christmas Eve!”

Lindsey – “OH MY GOSH!!  I’m gonna stay up and watch for him!”

“Well, you can leave him cookies,” I said.

“WHAT?! YOU CAN’T LET HIM IN MOM!!  HE’S A STRANGER!!  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!” Lindsey continued to yell as we went down the hallway.  “HE’S NOT COMING IN OUR HOUSE!”

“Mom, is Lindsey going to get coal?” Casey whispered.

…SIGH…

Cherry Coley (c)

The Quilting Bee

photo by Cherry Coley

Every childhood has ups and downs.  Too many times we remember the downs and let the good times just fade away.  Take time to walk down your own memory lane now and then and remember the good things that helped to shape who you are. 

 I can remember being about 4 years old and being at the church / daycare where my mom was the principal.  I had asthma as a child and there were many days when I could not go outside.  Those days I went up to the quilting room on the second floor of the building.  It was at the end of the hallway.  In that room there was a large quilt hanging on a frame that was parallel to the floor.  When the ladies were there they lowered the quilt to work on it.  In that room there were 6-8 little ladies that would sit and chat all day long.  They were my flock of grandma’s and I loved each and every one of them. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday I would go up to that room and lay on the pillows and blanket they had on the floor underneath the framed quilt they were working on.  There I would draw and color happily for the 4 hours or so until lunch time.  I learned a lot about life, about people, about how important it is to stop and listen to the people in our lives. 

On that floor I could lay down and look up through the colored cloth and see the lights shining down.  I thought about how they stitched the quilt and how it looked like a giant puzzle.  Sometimes, before they put the backing on, it looked like a giant stained glass window with tiny dots of sunlight shining through.  Many times I would become mesmerized and take naps right there. 

Those women watched out for me, talked to me like a person and not a child.  They watched over me and made sure I didn’t get cold and was listening when they thought they were saying something  I might need to know.  Each day they would talk about their families, their friends, their children, the struggles with losing their spouses, and one lady always talked about her cats.  Sometimes they would ask me what I was thinking about and then spend the day answering my question.  I learned to love stories and tall tales.  I learned that no matter what age you are, imagination is important.   I am thankful for this memory and the experience.  All the little things throughout our childhood help to shape who we are.  I still love to hear about life stories.  I still love to go and spend time sitting and listening to both young and old tell their stories.  What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, or a morning cup of coffee, just sharing and trading stories. 

In all of life’s busyness, take time to remember the things that made you who you grew up to be and don’t lose sight of who you are.  I did.  Temporarily, too much stress and trying to please too many people, but these memories remind me that each of us have our own experiences and memories of home and childhood.  Take time to write them down, get out the photo albums and write the places and dates.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Cherry Coley (c)

Nostalgic Moments From Days Gone By

I miss the days of being so young, when life was simple and you never had to worry whether if something was true or not true. To a child it is always true until it’s proven that it’s not.

I always had such a big imagination. It often drove my brother insane. (Sorry, Shaun). I was forever and always coming up with stories, even before I could hold a pencil to write them down.

I had a green chalkboard I would lean up against the bed in my room and then line up all the stuffed animals in rows. There I taught all those little stuffed bunnies, kittens and puppies how to read. They learned their ABC’s, addition and subtraction every day, the same time I did. They weren’t real good at writing on the board. I had to do that for them.

Then at night we all gathered on the bed and I read them a bedtime story. Danny the Dinosaur comes to mind. Then there was, of course, Dr. Suess and the Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. Although, Mother Goose often made me run and ask questions about why on EARTH would someone put a cradle in the treetop? And WHY won’t they fix Humpty Dumpty again? Didn’t he know better than to sit on that wall after he fell off the first time? At that point my mom would march me back to bed and turn off the light. Then I would tell myself a story until my brother would tell me to shut up. Guess I was an annoying little kid at times.

Later when we got puppies, I had a puppy named Butch. He was my very first pet. Butch was a little brown dog of questionable heritage, but he was smart. He loved to listen to me and since I never was quiet this was a good thing! I often put Butch in front of the chalkboard too. I tried and tried to teach that dog his ABC’s and math, but he just didn’t see the point. He kept grabbing my little stuffed bunnies and tried to go under the bed. I did finally teach him manners though and we were both glad of that.

We had a candy store in our neighborhood. It was a house that had a big front window and the living room made into a little soda shop/candy store. We loved to walk there on the days we could. You could go in there and crawl up on the bar stool and order a Root Beer float. They had every kind of lollipop you could think of in that store too. I liked the rock candy. It looked like crystals, but just tasted like sugar. Then of course there were pop rocks. You put half the pack in your mouth then your eyes watered from all the popping and sizzling.

There are a few other things that stand out in childhood memory. I remember Tommy, our mailman. He was TERRIFIC! Tommy always stopped to talk to me. He taught me how to do a puppet show and even how to act a bit. He would come in and get a drink at the daycare where my mom worked and hunt me down to listen to my latest tale. Then laugh when I told him about things that happened at school that day. On the day of my first puppet show at the daycare, Tommy was there. He helped me set up the tape recorder for music and gave me a pep talk. Then when it was done he was the person that clapped the loudest.

I also remember Mr. Robert the milkman. He brought milk and half and half to the daycare a few times a week. On those days in the summer, I would run out to his truck and he would give me rides around the parking lot while I drank the little carton of half and half, or ate the popsicle he’d brought me. He secretly gave me my very first ice milk/ ice cream. I wasn’t supposed to have milk because of asthma. Dairy always made it worse, yet the half and half and ice milk didn’t bother me. I really loved hanging onto that pole and zooming at the fast pace of about 5 miles an hour around that parking lot.

I guess by now you are wondering what the point is to all of this, besides just walking down memory lane. The point is, that it only takes a moment to impact someone’s life forever. The people that impacted me the most I didn’t see every day, but they still took just a few minutes out of their busy schedules to be there, to hug me, to offer a kind word, and to encourage me along the way. I will never forget them. These are some of the memories I cherish the most. Take time to make memories each day. You can’t get time back once it’s spent and time on the computer or in front of the television is not the same as a walk in the park or sitting on the porch watching the sunset with someone you care about.

Cherry Coley (c)