Brand New Starts

3 Feb

I can still remember the feel of the scratchy rug beneath my body. We sat in a circle on the colorful carpeted ground, our kindergarten teacher reading to us from a storybook. It might have been about farm animals, or red fire trucks, or rainbow fish.

I looked up and saw my dad peeking his face through that narrow, rectangular crack in the schoolroom door. The smile on his face revealed that things were about to change.

He checked me out from school that day. There was a cool breeze in the air that afternoon, an ease and happiness as we celebrated the soon-to-be arrival of my new little brother.

For five years, it had just been me. I was the blonde wild child, having solo adventures with my 1970s-era Mom and Dad. We read and explored and sang music and hiked.

And then it wasn’t just me.

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I was used to a rambling elementary school, nestled amongst trees and green grass and rolling mountains on the vista in the distance. And at home, after school, a wide open back yard and a nearby back-of-the-back-yard creek.

Then, at 9-years-old, I learned that people also lived in big cities.

My new school had three stories and no grass, just concrete. My new home was concrete, too—an apartment that was small and different, but somehow also signified adventure.

We drove down interstates, went to the ballet, saw “Star Wars” and “Rocky” on screens bigger than I’d ever seen, walked across a college campus larger than the whole of my prior, much more permanent hometown.

Austin was home for just a year, yet it showed me what ‘bigger’ and ‘more’ and sometimes-but-not-always-better could be.

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thank God she asked to sit next to me on the school bus that day.

A new student at a new school for my first year of high school, I would pull into myself at the cafeteria table, in P.E., on the bus for field trips.

She, too, was new and nervous like me.

But then she asked if she could next to me on that Autumn visit to the Museum of Art, and we talked about (imagine! 14-year-olds talking about) Emily Dickinson and Bob Dylan and Arkansas and Mississippi.

A brand new friendship blossomed that day, and we navigated the world of high school with other new, just-a-little-weird kids. We became soul sisters and college roommates and bridesmaids.

When I came home from school that day and raved to my mother about my new friend Angela, Mom admitted that she had been praying every single morning since we’d moved states away to this new place. She’d prayed for friends, and that I wouldn’t be so sad, and that I’d find my way.

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“You can’t do this! You CAN NOT do this!”

I yelled.

But the yelling only hit the thin walls and bounced off the cracking, yellow linoleum in the small, cheap, perfectly-collegiate apartment. I yelled, then cried, then did it all over again in a sad, unexpected routine.

A marriage, a child, a divorce in a span of time that was really was too short.

The new start from just two years ago–a start marked by giddy grins, and big dreams, and white lace—gone too quickly, maybe gone because it had been too quickly.

I held onto that sweet, blonde bundle (so much like me, so much like him) and yelled again, but this time a bit quieter.

Yelling only works for so long, after all, and I learned to be strong and optimistic and thankful for friends and family.

The apartment walls, the baby, my newfound ‘me-ness.’

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I may have said it looked like something that exploded in “The Exorcist,” but I was totally wrong about the taste of guacamole.

Delicious, divine.

It took me close to 40 years to appreciate the avocado.

I was 27 before I even tried a salad.

And let’s not even mention the fact that I wrongly charred my steaks for way too many decades of my life.

Or that I didn’t really know about wine.

The discovery of something new, something really good on the palate. A small thing, sure, but a small thing that spills over and into other parts of your life.

After all, said Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

(I also think the Bible says something in the realm of, “And then God made cake on the eighth day.”)

New food, new appreciation, new enjoyment.

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I sat in the hospital room, clutching my little girl’s hand.

I felt hopeless, out of control, angry, overwhelmingly exhausted.

She lay there, listless and drained. But with a small, sweet smile on her face. (“It will be okay, Momma,” it said.)

We received a diagnosis that hurt my heart and scared me so.

A brand new start.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I’m not sure why mountains do things for my soul, but they most certainly do.

I stood atop one once, surrounded by fellow teenagers, our faces shining and our insides burning. We were in love with God.

That was one beginning.

I stood atop one once, by myself, looking down at the ant-sized scene below. There was a camp, and a lake, and a road. I was in love with God.

That was another beginning.

God brings me to mountains again and again, to remind me that beginnings aren’t really beginnings. They’re beginnings again.

A brand new start.

Again.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I (we all) could write a book about the changes, the turns in direction, the new starts in our lives.

The night I met my new husband, the births of my children, the time I learned to drive a stick shift, the first trip out of the country, the first time I lost someone close to me, the completion of my first 5K, the first turning of a page, my discovery of grace.

Life is about those things. Those new things.

Each day is a movement from here to there, from falling down to getting up, from not knowing to understanding, from old to new, from happy to sad, from sad to happy.

At this time of year (the beginning of the year), brand new starts are commonplace. They’re expected, in fact. They’re talked about, often bragged about (then often bemoaned about).

Resolutions, changes, starting overs, vows, promises.

And, as I think about all of those brand new starts throughout my life, I know that they are good things.

We cannot stay stagnant.

And we must embrace the starts, despite how they come to us.

They may be welcome, like those resolutions and changes we celebrate at the new year, during the season of Lent, during a pivotal birthday year (30!, 50!), as the calendar changes from cold to warm again. They are the brand new starts we want and desire.

But they may also come unbidden (an illness, a death, a loss, a challenge), and knock us off our feet. They are not welcome, and we do everything we can to push them away.

Until we realize that they, too, are opportunities. Sometimes even blessings.

Someone (it could have been Bob Dylan, or maybe my mother) once said, “There’s nothing so stable as change.”

It’s so true.

We can’t make it through life without old doors closing, new doors (or windows) opening, maps unfurling, pages turning.

Let’s get started on something new.

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One Response to “Brand New Starts”

  1. Cindy M Jones February 9, 2016 at 3:33 am #

    Reblogged this on Storyhaunts and commented:
    Great post by Cheryl

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