Saturday, June 16, 2012

We Are Family

Anyone who knows me knows I adore my family. I know how far my heritage has made me who I am, and often, being so far from them, and so far from the Portuguese enclave in which I came of age, I miss the smells, tastes, outlooks, and sounds of Portuguese life. I miss the compassion, love, and understanding of my mother and father, siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles. I feel, to some degree, severed from them, especially now that I have taken this massive step to set down roots in the South.

My saving grace has been forging new family here, since I set foot on red clay.

The family I have made here through that same love and compassion given me as a child has made possible who I am today, and I am forever thinking about them each step of the way. Each friend who coached, encouraged, and made me feel extraordinary--or challenged me to get my head out of the sand--pushed me forward. So many different communities contributed to my well-being in this very moment, I'm stunned reminiscing sometimes: the Catholic Center, where I felt (and feel) the call to a spiritually mature life; the English department at UGA and the department of housing on campus, where I found the most unlikely pairings of friends who gave me permission to be me; Full Bloom, where I found tenderness, camaraderie, and guidance when it came to the wild and wacky world of mothering. The list goes on and on.

Then there's my husband's family, who without fail have been there for me since day one--through utterly unselfish giving that I find myself wondering if I deserve.

What makes a life possible is love received, practical support and guidance--through the simple presence of another human soul. Who knows how this family will grow?

(Cue music from the Sister Sledge--you know you wanna dance!)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Having Mercy Tattooed to Your Soul

RECORD: To learn by heart; to commit to memory, to go over in one's mind

The day I got back from my surgery we had to pick up Isabella from daycare, and when we got home, she saw how I struggled out of the car, and decided that taking my hand was the thing to do. She slowly walked with me up to our porch, kept looking up at me as if to check on me. So small, so new to this world--but she knows what kindness is.

Compassion seems to be both a learned and instinctual thing, I am finding, as I raise my daughter and come to learn a few things about myself.

My ear is always attuned to turn of phrase and etymology, and the verb "record" caught my fancy recently. To record is what I hope to do with my family history, what I have done on a little digital device, what I do each day when Isabella delights me with her innocent glee (and I snap photo after photo). The spiritual meaning is there in the etymology and I have always missed how it connects to mercy, in both English and Portuguese (never mind all the other Romance language takes on it!): the "cor"--the heart of compassion and mercy. In Portuguese it's misericórdia, this sense of feeling one's pain and that of others, of having mercy automatically tattooed onto your soul. Because of my parents, because genetics would deem it so, because I have been surrounded by good and gifted the eye to see good even in the bad, I have this misericórdia. I am suddenly aware of how this is a gift.

As a storyteller, I have spent my life recording, revisiting, reconsidering, repenting, but most importantly learning by heart even as I discover the ways in which compassion is a shared thing. A sacred thing.

This sacred seed God plants in us to be for others a source of love--and we coax it from the ground of our souls, watch it grow, tend to it. The heart of this, to use the cliche, is really the absolute ground zero of who we are, and where we should begin with each new day.