January 4, 2010


Since the New Year began, I have been ensconced in office cleaning. I am not the sort of person who thinks organization matters, until I cannot see what I’m doing. I adhere to the slogan, “organized people are just too lazy to look for things”, and yet I silently envy them.

Organization is not something that comes naturally or easily to me. When I worked at the grocery store and literally was responsible for nearly a million dollars/week, I had no choice but to be organized and have a militant system for such organization. We had spreadsheets and weekly balance charts that required as much. I never wavered from my rule, do everything in the exact order, every time, the same exact way. It was my way of ensuring organization. I’ve even preached it to my daughters.

However, I digress, as I often do. You see, were it not for my lack of organization, my memory never would have been tweaked with today’s joy. I discovered a penlight, from a church retreat in 1982.

The memories flooded. I was 15, going on 16. Only a year’s difference from my daughter today. It feels like yesterday, especially when I tell stories or give her advice. She has a crush on a boy and wants to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. My point of reference is my own nerdy self at that age. As we’ve discussed strategies over the past week, I never imagined that I would discover a memento that would bring it all to light. Marvelous Light, even.

When I was almost her age, I went to a state retreat with my church youth group. I had a very pretty and cool best friend. She went to another school, which was almost better. We never had to discover how cool or not cool we were once we left the walls of academia behind. So we arrived on a Friday evening, her parents were the youth leaders. We were in Orlando, Florida. We sat at the group rally, wearing “high energy” surf/ski shirts and expressing our coolness as much as we could. We spied a few boys in the group next to us and that was it. That age, those desires we cannot deny… we met the holy grail of youth gatherings, “cute boys”.

We arranged our workshops to spend time with the cute boys and in the best 80s effort imaginable, we were in constant contact. That Saturday evening was an outdoor church service, where everyone in attendance was given a penlight. We stood in a field, hundreds, perhaps thousands of us, shining in the dark, singing with praise, "Into His Marvelous Light". We were so uplifted. After the service, a dance followed.

I froze with fear. My joy evaporated, replaced with terror. I had never danced. I wanted to dance, my soul ached to dance, but my feet knew there was a better time to dance. This was not such a time to subject myself to that level of humiliation. The “cute boys” were less than enamored with my refusal to dance. One cute boy danced with my friend, but my cute boy found others. It happens.

After that retreat, I spent weeks in my room, behind a closed door, counting steps, listening to things I’d rather not admit to now, practicing, dancing, and almost replicating Napoleon Dynamite. No way was I ever going to be somewhere I wouldn’t dance again. I learned, I danced, I succeeded, but that isn’t the point of my tale.

This week, my own lovely child is working up the courage to ask a handsome young boy to join her in a splendid dance. I do hope… they dance. It doesn’t matter who is or isn’t watching. I hope she dances. I look at my now dead battery of a long forgotten penlight and think, indeed, that light once shined. I want her to step gracefully into that marvelous light, I want her to shine and love and breathe and live. Today is now. The moment is here.

Shine, my baby girl. Don't let your battery die, let your light glow.



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