The Dialogue

“Ohio Power”


08-23-2016 03;13;04PM - Copy

(Mother in the back row, and Marigold in the front, on the right hand side.)

Shortly after we moved to California, when I was a child, after a brief but mostly sorrowful sojourn in Winslow, Arizona, we went to Angelus Temple, in Los Angeles, where my Father was preaching.

As was the custom, in those days, he would introduce his family, from the pulpit, and we would each stand, and at the very least say hello, but at times recite a Bible verse, or make some statement about being happy to be in the local city or church.

There are two things which I clearly remember about that service:

First the actual architecture and grandeur of the building – I was completely unaware of Aimee Semple McPherson, as well as the Foursquare denomination, she had founded, so I did not have a moment of absorbing the historical connections, to my Father preaching in her church; but the building was like no other I had ever seen, especially one built to house a church, it was magnificent.

The second thing which stood out, from that experience, was my older sister, who was quite upset at the last couple of moves, standing up, when my Father introduced her, and her yelling out “Ohio power.” I even think that she raised her hand, forming a fist, a la the Black Power Movement, of the day, but I could be wrong about that – needless to say, her greeting did not go over well.

Previous to our move to Winslow, we had been living in Cleveland, Ohio, where we had moved to after a short time in Columbus, Ohio, prior to living in Brockton, Massachusetts, which we had moved to from The Bronx, in New York City, which was home, after Puerto Rico, which I am not sure, without looking at notes, where we were living before arriving in San Juan – perhaps it was Ohio.

Ohio was where my Mother was born, as well as my older sister, who proclaimed the state’s power, and me, though, at the time of my birth, my parents had been living in Tampa, Florida; my Mother had gone back “home” because her father had passed away, and thus my connection to the Buckeye State was cemented.

Throughout the years, Ohio has been woven into the fabric of my life, as well as my families. Recently, I had an occasion to go to Ohio, planning to arrive during the day, and not simply driving through, in the middle of the night, where my only stop is at White Castle, where I order exactly one little hamburger, for old times’ sake.

Before making my first desired visit, in Ohio, I pulled into a shopping center, to pick up a few things; as I was walking into the grocery store, I thought about how familiar Kroger’s was to me, I even think my younger sister once worked there.

(I must say, I am very attached to grocery stores in general – whenever possible, wherever I am, I try to work in a trip to the market, not just for practical reasons, like buying water and food, but to look for regional specialties and to get the layout of the area.)

As I walked around this store, in response to being surprised, by how much at home I felt, one of my most often pondered quandary’s, popped into my head – where is home, where do I belong, where do I come from, where should I be – I knew this store and I knew the food and I knew the people.

I stood up a little straighter, I was not a stranger or visitor; I had been born in Ohio, I belonged here as much as anyone else. But there was more to that moment, I not only felt “at home” but I felt this odd peace about what “at home” meant to me, it was a new and welcomed feeling.

I completed my shopping and returned to the car feeling that something had changed in me; I felt that my search for home might actually and finally be over! Home for me did not look like I had once thought it should, nor did it look like the movies and the storybooks describe it; I had been born on the road, and the road was home – period – could it be that simple?  Was home not actually just one place?   Someday perhaps I would have to stop and only pick one place, but meanwhile, it seemed that this quest had come to an end, and it was simply time to accept what had been self-evident for years.

The thought that Ohio was part of “home” actually brought me a deep joy and a profoundly serene peace. Okay, I thought, if I am home, then without entertaining another hesitation, I am going to go do what people do when they are home, they drop in on their friends and family; which was exactly what I next did.

My first stop was in Cambridge, Ohio, where I was privileged to spend time with a woman, who to me is almost mystical – Marigold!

Marigold has oft been mentioned, on these pages, as she was a woman who searched for my Mother, for almost forty years; and finally found her through these pages, with a post I wrote about Mother’s Day. They were able to reconnect electronically, though I am sad to say, they did not have a reunion in person.

The stops, on this trip were all unannounced, yet everyone was remarkable in its own way.

Yes, I will admit to being a bit nervous, before knocking on the door, but Marigold peered through the door, at the strangers, on the other side, and without knowing who we were, nevertheless opened the door, and soon warmly welcomed us. She was everything I had imagined her to be, kind, gracious, lovely, and warm . . . yes, she has her doctorate, so brilliant, well spoken, and keenly aware, go without saying, she shared her home and gave us a tour of her beautiful garden, and as I visited with Marigold, I so easily understood why my Mother would have taken an interest in Marigold, as a child.

She shared stories about my Mother making her spaghetti, and talked about meeting my Father, and listening to him preach, when he first arrived from Cuba, and her Mother discussing politics with my Father – that was unexpected, on this journey, people talking about my Father, who I do not expect to find in Ohio, yet he was there too.

As we talked, Kate asked Marigold what it was that had so impressed her about my Mother that stirred a forty year search? Marigold did not hesitate – she said love.  Love, can there be a greater legacy?  I do not think so.  I did not want to leave Marigold’s home, not only did I feel welcomed, and enjoyed hearing her stories about my parents, but I wanted to know more about Marigold.  Yes, social media allows one to follow along a bit, and to fill in some of the missed years through photographs, posts, and comments, but there were so many unanswered questions floating through my mind about this woman and her life.

When the visit started to draw to an end, she asked if we were going to go by the old Cooper farm? I had not thought of it, I said, but yes, please direct us, which she did.  After our good-byes, as we headed out toward the farm, my head swirling with Marigold’s words, I started to think about our next visit together, there would have to be a next visit – indeed.

When we found the old Cooper farm, I pulled over; I felt a very deep gratitude to God. I had brought my Mother here, on our road trip, many years passed.  It was the same place, which she had so wanted to see, and had been so happy to find, without a map or address.  She had talked to me about the tree she had planted there, and as she had done before, quoted Jose Marti’s famous words: That a man must plant a tree, have a son, and write a book.

On that day, there had been a sorrow sweep through her, as she saw only the stump left, but she nevertheless willingly sat and posed on the stump, as I assured her that she planted many other trees, two of which I now tend.

We left the farm, and headed to Columbus, where after checking into to our hotel we headed off to find Leona, a woman who had been my Mother’s friend since they met, in the 1950’s. I knew Leona,  I stayed at her home, both as a child and an adult; I had brought my Mother to visit her and Leona had come to see us, in various places where we had lived.

Leona’s phone number, a number which my Mother knew her whole life, was no longer in service. Her land line had been canceled and the new cell phone number was unknown to me.  I knocked on the side door, where we had always entered, there was no answer, I went around to the front door, still no answer, and then finally the back door, through the garden gate, feeling a bit discouraged, as there was still no answer.  It was getting dark already, and I worried about scaring her, if it got to be too much later.  Kate suggested I ask a neighbor; I looked around at the neighborhood, where she had lived as long as she had known my Mother, and could not help but notice how much it had changed.  Would any of these people know Leona?

As I was beginning to fret a bit, I noticed a man, two doors away. I walked over the grass, between the houses, not a move I would normally make, and asked him if he knew the woman who lived in the still blue house?

He eyed me a bit suspiciously and perhaps rightly so. I began to explain who I was and that she and my Mother had been life-long friends, and finally him seeing the slight look of desperation, suggested I go to the back door and knock on glass.  I did.

I began calling out Nonie as I knocked on the door, saying that it was Jill. After a few minutes, she came to the door, I saw a huge smile grow across her face, “Oh my, Jill!”  We entered her home, hugged, and made our way into the living room, where we began to chat.  We started of course talking about how much we missed my Mother, then went on to talk about our families, me particularly taking pleasure in how she said, sounding just like my Mother, though their voices are/were nothing alike, when she talked about my sisters, Joy and Caroline.  She had known them all of their lives and she knew them not only from her own interaction, but from the things my Mother had shared with her for over sixty years – it was quite a moment.

Leona talked about the day I was born, she talked about me being named after her, a fact I did not learn until I was in my forties, her middle name is Christine, and then she started to go into detailed stories about her and my Mother, about their good times and bad, the things they survived and supported each other through, their love for God and the calling to service they both felt, how they had met at church, during a service where my Father was preaching.

I complement her on her skirt, and she said that she got it because of me, and the nice skirts I always wear; at that moment, I feel like crying, how in the world has she kept track of my clothes? I also mention that I saw her bay leaf tree, in a pot, on the front porch, and she tells me that it is not as big as my tree, that my Mother used to talk to her about my bay tree.  I am a bit in shock.  It has been so many years since Kate and I have stopped here, why?

The stories continue, and then the conversation comes full circle to my Mother, their friendship, and Leona’s desire to publish my Mother words – I am suddenly thrilled to share with her that I have felt the same way, and tell her about the Dialogue, on these pages. She wants to read the Bible study I published in August, and I assure her I will mail it to her, which I did.  She tells me that she has been praying a lot about this issue, and promising the Lord that she is going to get my Mother’s words out there – she talks about God the way my Mother did, I find comfort in hearing her speak.

She tells me that she wants to meet Baby D, Hannah and Tim’s unborn child; that she has a special feeling about the Baby and that she wants to hold it and pray for it – I tell her I shall expect her, when the Baby comes, she is thrilled at the prospect of a visit to New England.

I then tell her how much I regret that I did not bring my Mother back to Ohio, her response:

“Honey, I do not think you need to grieve about that, because even when she got that little house, you know, she didn’t want to stay because that wasn’t her calling. Jill the strongest thing her life, was to try and do God’s will; and as far as she was concerned that wasn’t God’s will her staying in that little house, and in her mind she would be doing nothing.  I cried much, I wanted her to stay and have her little house and little garden.  But she was God’s first, she was married to God.  In her mind she had to be faithful, and she was.  I have no regrets about all that.”

She is speaking about my Mother, whose move to Columbus, at mid-life, did not last as long as her friend would have liked.

We then start to talk about everything my Mother did, after leaving the comfort of the house on Grasmere, going off to Costa Rica, and Holland, and even Africa to preach.

The visit starts to draw to a close; but Leona tells me that if I hear she has gone, she wants me to know that: “If I went tonight, you can know I went happy.”

We leave; there are other stops to be made tomorrow, other words to be shared; but That Is All For Now.

2 Responses to The Dialogue

  1. The Dialogue on September 22, 2017 at 1:00 am

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