Dear Readers: My assistant editor, Frank (the frog) is hopping through Europe presently. I’ve begun writing to him to keep him abreast of happenings here. Below is the first of, hopefully, many letters to him, as he travels.
Do you know this song? It goes like this: “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world it would be”.
Perry Como, a well-known singer from before your time, made the song popular. It was kind of a schmaltzy little song.
In Marlin, Texas, when I was about eight years old, I sang that song as a solo. At the concert, my voice teacher, Mrs. Plunkett, had a handsome young man place me to sit atop a grand piano, holding a candle as I sang. Those words seem so fitting now when I think about recent happenstances in my life. One involves a most interesting woman.
It was at book club meeting. She came bustling into the restaurant, happily telling us all about something before she’d even fully reached the table. As she breathlessly put her things down, we all stopped to hear what she had to say. You’ve known that type of person — it’s someone you may not know but you want to know. You’re somehow very aware that there’s going to be something fun or intriguing coming out of that brain of theirs.
Frank, you didn’t know because you had already left for your travels, but it was my first time to attend the church’s evening book group and I was excited yet pensive about joining a group who had been meeting together and loving each other’s company for quite some time. That’s what had been my excuse for becoming somewhat recluse lately. I’m a newcomer and we aren’t always easily accepted, was my thought.
Even though I found this woman so intriguing, I seemed to be slumping deeper into my seat. As Martha talked, I came to the erroneous conclusion that I might not slide so easily into this entwined group of lovely, avid readers. New to Charleston, new to church, even at my age, new to so much. Who was I and where was I from? These women were all from a stable, traditional background with husband and career, lifelong friends beside them, a history of baptisms and weddings and baby showers shared, and a full calendar of events they now attend together, and and and. All that.
Knowing the questions would come and they’d want to learn more about moi, I was feeling a little like an oddity. I’m not like them. You know. That’s my usual mantra. However, even at age 66, some long-held beliefs of mine are now falling to the wayside.
Little did I know, this Martha would prove over time to be the one who would jiggle me out of my malais, she’d be the spark to light just one little candle — my candle — and the angel gently flapping her wings over my shoulders, persisting that I move forward into this new life in Charleston.
There were pairs of women within the circle who were having their own chat but when the leader asked me to tell about myself, the group became politely silent to listen. So, a little of my story was told. Yes. A little. I’ve finally learned to summarize and stick with the highlights (most of the time).
But, Frank, you know all the stories I didn’t take their time to share. You know the ho-hum facts:
Born in Marlin, a small town in the heart of Texas, I mostly spent my growing up years in Austin, then a while in Dallas, a stint in Waco, raised my children in El Paso til they were 9 and 13, divorced and back home, introducing my babies to the warmth and love of Waco. With each step, I gained the dearest of friends — many of whom are still a big part of my life.
Frank, you know, too, the funky, different, perhaps unusual parts to the story – A time spent living in San Jose del Cabo, then Austin, Honduras, Belize, Washington, DC., and most recently, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
Those travels all occurred in recent years. Before that, though, was my 18-year marriage to a fun and interesting man with a great brain. He was, I thought, my walking encyclopedia. We had two precious children together. We made good friendships, had a rich spiritual life and social life together, filled with colorful travel and stimulating conversation. Then insurmountable problems that had been brewing for years came rising up like a volcano about to erupt, and I left, taking my children with me.
For many years before leaving, I so wanted things to be right. I looked away from every dark experience that reared it’s ugly head. I grabbed the paintbrush and lavished brightness and light over all the dark clouds that grew over and around us. At times it was exhausting but so worth it in the long run. My children look at life with a sense of positivity and peace and that’s what I wanted.
I left in El Paso a group of people who had become my family. There are a few with abundantly open and understanding hearts with whom I still communicate.
The children and I flew to the new nest I’d formed in Waco, where we were surrounded by a loving support group. From there, we experienced such a profusion of good things that when difficulties erupted, they were small in comparison. Life was filled with excitement as I watched my children flourish. They’re still flourishing today.
So, Frank, it’s that background that I somehow felt cast me in the role of oddball, someone who doesn’t fit in. But, recently, there have been those who’ve appeared out of nowhere to debunk my theory and awaken me to a new thought. Martha is one of them. I’m thinking now that we all have our stories. We all stand apart from each other, separated, until that space is broken and barriers are released to fall down.
Martha was pleasantly persistent, or encouraging, I should say. After book club meeting, we chatted in the parking lot of the restaurant for a good 45 minutes, learning about each other. Within a few days she was texting me with information about choir, about church. Another few days passed and I was receiving the choir rehearsal calendar. Later, another text. She was forwarding my information to the choir director. This woman was getting it done. I believe she instinctively knew, even without knowing of my resistance, that she needed to stay on me with this.
Today marked my third Sunday of singing in the choir among a group of people whom are fast becoming good friends. Martha was sitting there behind me and as I looked back at her, she gave me a wink. That song I sang sixty years ago came to life, with a new friend providing that spark and lighting a candle for me. For that, I’m so grateful.
In my opinion, dear Frank, you should add that song to your repertoire. Happy travels and until then, let’s sing:
“If everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world it would be.”