A letter to my daughter,
Your community was born of blood and water.
When you’re little, daring the train with pennies on the railroad track and pulling bee stingers from your flesh, digging trenches at the Oregon coast with your first friends (cousins), hunkered under the covers with siblings whose feet are filthy dirty and the sheets full of crumbs, talking about the vastness of the sun and moon and how big the universe must be and how small and fearful that suddenly makes you, and how you always know the sound of your mother’s jars of cosmetics on the bathroom tile as she prepares for bed (“quick, she’ll find us awake: turn off the flashlight!”), you don’t imagine that someday it would all vanish. That this era eventually ends, just memories of a former life.
You look down and realize you haven’t skinned your knees in ages, instead seeking ways to be considered ‘sophisticated’ and ‘older.’ Your childhood turns a sharp corner as the nest empties. If you listen closely, you can hear the fluttering of wings as they all go, one by one, oldest to youngest. It happens with the gentle closing of an imaginary door: the tangible end to the only covenant community you’ve known. No matter your struggles or avoiding the inevitable, the day comes to leap and create a new life. A whole new community.
This community may not be your blood, but it’s your water. It’s birthed in the terrifying moments of vulnerability with strangers. There is no way to know if the spark of kindness in their eyes reflects their heart. On the front porch, water is shared … where friends catch tears and spilled wine, and become family. They help you transition from a life under the shade of a mother and father oak, to where you run wildly to the tides and jump from new heights. You consume too many cups of coffee and pour out your heart effortlessly like luscious cream. Your lives stir together. There is the heaviness of death and squabbles over who used the last roll of toilet paper. There are impromptu adventures (go see the world, Daughter) and more water, the washing of forgiveness between old and young community. There’s so much water. So much laughter your ribs ache with joy. There are graduations and jam sessions and career blunders and wedding processionals and you watch the sun rise while stringing together flowers. There are sacred roads and vistas and toasts and champagne and babies born with raw strength before your very eyes, and community is forged in the osmosis of love. There’s drama and painful growth, and a community that flows assuredly like a river headed out to sea.
The community of my childhood that bore fruit and never withered provides a distinct strength and comfort. It is DNA rooted in tradition still alive in family who share the same eyes that disappear with laughter, in old languages we no longer understand, connected to lands we can only hope to kneel upon. Your DNA is a glimpse into the love of generations preceding you: the outdoorsmen who built cabins in the woods, the captains who fished the Nordic seas, those married of the Old Country who sang Gaelic love songs at bedtime, and those who lovingly handcrafted lasagna and Anginetti at Easter. Do not underestimate your blood.
Community is both a surrender and battle, accepted for what it is and pursued for greater fortitude. It is both blood and water. It is where you learn to rest on those who’ve known you from the womb. It is where you learn to trust others who don’t share your DNA. It is freedom, sacrifice, grace, compassion, a picture of the selfless love of Jesus, who would clean toilets and wash tired feet. It is doing loads upon loads of dirty dishes for a new mother craving rest, it is driving through a dangerous blizzard for a friend when she can’t do it for herself. It is a life where you lean on others and allow them to lean on you. It is a life rooted in interdependence. It is where you give all you have without prejudice, without reservation.
What I know is this: when you need to be lifted, your blood and water will be there.