I.WAS.AWKWARD.Desperately awkward and most uncomfortable in my own skin.
It was the summer I was fresh out of junior high school and precariously perched to enter high school. Our family took one of our famous (or perhaps that was infamous) summer vacations. This year we headed north to Canada. Halifax, Nova Scotia to be exact. It was always predictable; we packed our luggage the night before and loaded up the car. Early in the morning we were awakened and herded into the awaiting vehicle.
I was a brooding mouthy mess that year. I don’t remember arguing with my next oldest brother (the adversary) during the course of the trip, but I’m sure my mother could tell you otherwise.
Honestly, it felt like it took a month to get to Halifax from Ohio. By today’s access to the World Wide Web, it is a trip of 1,338.1 miles and if driving non-stop it would have taken 20 hour and 57 minutes. I remember that we stopped and stayed in motels in the evening, but still, it seemed to take forever to get there.
When we arrived at the home of my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Fred’s (they were actually a great aunt and uncle) the moves began and rooms were changed and rearranged to provide sleeping quarters for the family.
My cousin Johnny was in college. I was the younger, insolent mouthy cousin. We were visiting the Halifax Citadel and as I recall, he slapped me across the mouth for some insolent infraction or other. It didn't hurt physically as much as it shocked me into the realization that
The world as I knew it was changing. And yet cousin Johnny didn't alienate himself from me.
Indeed, the world was changing. It was 1966. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson took the nation’s helm and then was elected president. The Vietnam ‘conflict’ was raging and the streets of our nation were often raging with racial tension. Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King were still alive at this point. But all that would change in the not too distant and turbulent future.
One evening cousin Johnny arranged to take me to downtown Halifax where we visited a coffee house. A coffee house in downtown Halifax Nova Scotia in 1966 was caught somewhere in a time warp between the “beat” generation and the “flower children” who would inhabit San Francisco.
I tasted my first “coffee”. It was really more of a hot cocoa with a bit of coffee topped off with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, but I was smitten. As the sun faded, the patrons of the coffee house would come and go. It was like watching the Atlantic tides on the Halifax shore. Some persons would play guitars and sing folk songs, others would recite original poetry. During a slow time, the proprietor, having learned I was from Ohio played a folk song recording about a girl from Ohio. Can you understand that at this young age I felt I had begun to view the world through the eyes of an old soul?
I no longer maintain contact with cousin Johnny, but Thank You, Johnny, for helping me to ‘come of age’ during those turbulent years.
Later, Uncle Fred took us to the docks where we were able to see a Russian freighter dock and the sailors come on shore. I still laugh as I recall my mother saying, “Look that them! They look like Russians.” I laughed at her then and I laugh at it now! So, exactly what do Russians look like? (Mom, if you’re reading this, I mean no disrespect, but that was so funny!) The Cold War was still raging and I suppose the thought of being that close to a communist was terrifying to my mother.
On another day, we traveled to Peggy’s Cove. I had never seen anything like it before. A most magnificent lighthouse was built upon solid rock. We parked the vehicle and walked to the lighthouse. I wandered off to explore a bit. I found a smooth rock where I could sit a view the Atlantic seaboard. I felt the spray from the waves as they struck the base of the behemoth rock. Looking at the eastern horizon I saw a pod of whales. At various times they would surface and I could discern them just above the surface before diving back beneath the water, then one breached the water and spouted. It was magnificent!
I was lost in the moment until I realized someone had grabbed my shoulder. It was my mother who said she had been calling me for quite a while. Uncle Fred had told her the waves lapping at the rock had been known to grab a person and pull them out to sea. With the sound of the wind and the waves, I could not hear her calling for me. I was safe in her clutches, now.
Those turbulent years and the awkwardness of the “tween” years are part and parcel of shaping me to become the woman I am today.
I often wonder if it matters or not that I write down “the bones” of what helped to form my character. Perhaps not, but maybe someday one or the other of my children will read this and know a bit more about me. Perhaps it will encourage one or the other to write down “the bones” of their own experiences to be shared with their own children.
In life, we all have stories. They are all different, but we all have them. This is the medium I use to share my stories. I pray that I may be tolerant and have a listening, nonjudgmental ear when listening to the stories of others. I pray to show grace when stories are ugly and unpleasant. Grace and dignity and sometimes tears maybe the only fitting response. ~Amen!
Wishing you everyday grace,
P.S. Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear -Psalm 45:10 (NASB)
P.S.S. The pictures used are from the Halifax, Nova Scotia website and from Images for Peggy's Cove Lighthouse.