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Guest Post– Mary Webb

November 13, 2012

Today as my guest I am happy to have Mary Webb!

I realize this will make me seem like the devil or a hater or, worse, both. 

And yet, I’m going to go ahead and put this out there anyway: Jory has taken to praying. She has become a serious holy roller on wheels.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s cute. She looks like a little angel (that alone is worth the price of admission) with her eyes squeezed tight, hands clasped together and praying fervently.

And, she says some really beautiful prayers. “Jesus, my personal savior, I ask you to receive his heart. His heart is bad. His heart is hurting. Please help him Jesus. His family needs him, Jesus. I ask this from the Lord. Amen!” No, I’m not making any of this up. She picked up the language from going to a prayer service with Mama two weeks ago. Still, I marvel at how aptly she tailors the prayer to what circumstance she is praying about. So, not only have I expressed to her the strength and conviction she has, but just stood in awe of her. A four-year-old has put my prayers to shame.

And, I always felt like a really good prayer-er. (You know what I mean.)

So, you’re probably wondering what’s my issue with the prayers. Who wouldn’t want a miniature prayer warrior?

I love what she does. It’s just slightly, a wee, tiny bit…exhausting. Beautiful, but exhausting. She prays wwwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy long. At any moment, I feel like she’s going to reach over, thump me on the forehead with the heel of her palm and slay me in the spirit like a TV evangelist. Who was that Marvin Gorman? Benny Hinn?

There’s been a couple of instances I was between going to sleep and tapping her on the shoulder and saying, Hey, Jory! I’m not getting any younger here. Wrap it up.

And, this is where, if you hadn’t been before, you’ve commenced calling me a devil.

I’m not. I love the praying. I just don’t like what I feel it represents for her, which is worrrying.

You see, the prayer I mentioned above concerns a really unfortunate event that occurred in my family’s life more than a year ago, but which I just shared with the children. My kids have always prayed, but it was the usual kid prayers, i.e., in the morning, at night, at meals, what they’re thankful for at my prompting, occasional Christmas toy pleas. But after learning about this situation, the praying began in full force. And, at every interval, i.e., on the way to school, on the way back from school, while I’m trying to brush her teeth, when I walked through her room to put away laundry in Quentin’s room, when I walked back through her room from putting away laundry in Quentin’s room, at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning, when I was using the bathroom, etc. And while the situation is one I’m praying over ceaselessly, too, I’m just concerned that she has been filled with a spirit of anxiety.

Wednesday gave her cause for much alarm and many, many, many opportunities to beseech almighty God. That day the devil saw fit to attack me the whole day. It started when I woke up before 5 a.m. (intentionally) to do some school work I was too pooped to pop to do the night before on just the second day of the school year. Joke was on me because for the third time in as many weeks my Internet service was out…for no apparent reason. I just took a deep breath and tried to dial down the expletive-filled speech I was preparing in my head for my call to Cox later that day. Devil looked at me being all high and mighty and decided to take a better shot because a moment later, I walked into my room and noticed my iPod’s case and headphones laying on my bed, but no iPod. Generally, that means I’m charging it, or I left it in the car where I was using it. That morning, a sinking feeling registered in my stomach. Old as I’m getting, I couldn’t recall leaving it in the car, though I know I had used it there the night before. Old as I’m getting, I did vaguely remember pushing it back down in my pocket a few times the night before when, for the first time, I’d gone back to Quentin’s football practice a little early to watch him and to let Jory play on the gym set. Old as I’m getting, I realized the reason that is my last recollection of having it is because that’s the last time I did have it. My iPod had fallen from my pocket when I was sitting, and I didn’t hear it because it fell in the grass. Old as I’m getting, it never occurred to me that my iPod wasn’t in my pocket when I left the park.

I tried not to panic, but that’s what was creeping up inside of me. Then, I made a bargain with God. Hey, Lord! Remember that phone I found in Target Saturday and turned in? Well, hook my iPod up like that.

And then in desperation I added, C’mon, God! Don’t do me like this. You know I can’t live without my iPod.

Drove by the park that morning on the way to school with the extra time I had from rising early, but it wasn’t there.

Jory prayed the rest of the ride to school and all the way to her classroom door. Okay, baby. That’s enough, sweetheart! I said, as I shooed her into the door.

Should have asked her to pray I wouldn’t be late for work with her long-windedness. Well, I was late, but not because of her long-windedness. No, it was Quentin’s bus driver’s fault. He catches her one block up from my school. After I parked and dropped off my things, we walked to his stop. As we approached, I saw there were no other students, though it was about the time she normally arrives. Then, I realized, This chic came early and left my child.

Okay, so his school is a stone’s throw from mine, but I only had about nine minutes. Half of that was used trying to get Quentin’s turtle self to cross back over Esplanade Avenue and back to the parking lot quickly. No amount of C’mon, Quentin’s or Tell me when we get in the car, Quentin’s put any pep in his step or halted the full-blown conversation he was trying to engage me in.

So, late I was. (I won’t say that that next day after waiting in the rain because the driver was late dropping him off, the bus pulled up and there was no Quentin. He had decided not to take the bus because I “told him Lil’ Melvin was picking him up from school.” No, I told him Lil’ Melvin was keeping them later that day. In fact, when he started with his new favorite line of questioning “Why you just can’t…” as in “Why you just can’t let Lil’ Melvin pick me up?”, I shot it down with the response that it wasn’t Lil’ Melvin’s job to pick him, and it’s enough of a favor that he was keeping them for me later. Next time, Quentin puts words in my mouth about who I said was picking him up, he’s going to have a long time to recount that conversation in his head because he’ll be resting at school for the night.)

Sorry, I wasn’t supposed to say all that.

The main reason I’m anal about time and being prompt is because when I’m late, my day just unravels from there. I can never catch up. You saw how the day began. Now, the way the rest of the day unfolded had no bearing on me being tardy; it just serves to illustrate how crazy the day was.

After working like a Hebrew slave the first few days of the week, I got assigned a morning of student ID-picture-taking sessions. Easy breezy because all I had to do was watch them until the lady came to take their pictures in the hall. This afforded me a chance to work on lesson plans virtually uninterrupted for like four hours. If you’ve never written lesson plans, you need to know starting them off is like a real drag, but once you get started, you’re okay. I was rolling right along when all of a sudden, I hear desks falling over. I look up, expecting to see a fight, because what else causes that kind of ruckus? But nothing. So where is the noise coming from as more desks fall. Then, students just start getting up out of their desks and plastering themselves to the wall like they’re a pool of something is spreading on the floor and they don’t want it to get on their shoes. I look down, and there is a male student having a seizure on the floor.

To say this is the first time something like this happened in my class, I have to say I was efficient in getting medical supplies from my stash and getting the proper staff alerted. I was also pretty good about getting the kids out of the room without much fuss and allaying their fears. One kid wanted to know if he could catch it.

After the student was taken away by ambulance, all my earlier cool collectedness dissipated, and I realized I felt pretty shaken up by what happened, though I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was because I realized I had someone else’s life in my hands, in a way. Maybe I just discovered how Quentin’s first grade teacher Ms. Loupe must have felt when he seized in her class.

Whatever the case, I knew I wasn’t recovering the rest of the day.

My advisory students took full advantage of my not getting it together when they came back to me for afternoon sessions.

All I wanted to do was go home. Except at 3:30 when I got in my car, I couldn’t because it wouldn’t start. Are you freakin’ serious? I thought. On this day? With a practically new used car?

I called Mama to tell her I was going to be late getting the kids and why. She said I sounded nervous. No, I don’t get nervous. You’re mistaking what you hear for weariness.

Thankfully, a male teacher gave me a jump pretty quickly. Another one who came to my rescue pointed out that my front left tire needed to be replaced ASAP because the wires were showing. While I was grateful he called this to my attention (I’m usually oblivious to this sort of thing),  I was thinking how that was just one more thing. Certainly, I should have met my quota of mishaps for the day.

When I made it to pick up Quentin and Jory, the ride to the auto parts store to check my battery and used tire place to get a replacement was filled up with Jory’s intense prayers. Then, she kept expressing repeatedly how sorry she was about what happened to my car.

I decided then it was time to help her start cranking out a new type of prayer. They’re good about listing the things they’re thankful for when things are going well; it was time they learned how to offer thanksgiving when things weren’t going so well.

“Jory, I’m glad my car stopped on me today.”

“What?” she shrieked.

“It was better it happened today, even though it was raining, than it would have been if it had happened to us when we were coming home from camp two weeks ago that late at night and that far away from home. (Especially since Tee-Tee Linda’s journey knapsack didn’t include a flashlight or any real important emergency supplies, I wanted to add).”

I let her chew on that awhile before I added, “And, it was nice that my fellow teacher helped my car to get started. What if nobody had come out to help me?”

“That was nice of that man,” she conceded.

A few minutes later when we got to tire place and the man had actually just left, the man I assumed was the tire man (he was dressed in a service uniform) actually ran to the stop sign at Broad Street to flag the real tire merchant down. And, though he had been leaving early to fast (he was some sort of Middle Eastern), he came back to change my tire…in the rain.

I made sure to point all this out to Jory, adding that bad tires and the amount of rain we’d been experiencing in the city don’t mix.

When he told me he only took cash and I only had a debit card, he trusted me enough to go to the gas station next door to use the ATM. I shared that with Jory, too.

When we got to the parts store, the attendant told me that he’d have to charge my battery first so it had enough juice to run the diagnostic test. I told him I’d bring it back about 6 when I’d be in the area for Quentin’s practice. When I came back, he was enough of a gentleman to get us chairs to sit while we waited the 30 minutes for the battery to charge.

By now, Jory was getting the hang of it.

“It’s nice that man got us chairs, so we can be comfortable and not have to stand up and make our legs hurt.”

“You know what? You’re absolutely right.”

Then, he came back with bad news. Either I needed a new battery, or it could be something worse like the alternator. I would have to buy a new battery before he could tell which it was.

“Thank God today is payday,” I said as much for Jory’s edification as it was to lift my flagging spirit.

Then, he came back and showed me how, even with the new battery, something was causing a drain on it because something about the volts wasn’t high enough. (I may have this wrong. He showed me the numbers it was running and explained what they meant.)

Jory started in with the “worry” praying when we got back in the car.

“No, no, no,” I said. “We’re thankful for the new battery. And thankful that the man helped us, even though he had already clocked out when we came in and was working off the clock. And, we’re thankful that he told me the truth about the battery, even though it wasn’t his problem. And, we’re thankful that he’s going to check it again for us tomorrow to see if it’s okay or not.” (He did, and it was. Thank Jesus!)

When Jory laid down to sleep that night, she still said her prayers. They were still long. I would have fallen asleep next to her, but Quentin already had that spot. But that night, they weren’t as worry-filled. She had a lot to be thankful for. She’s a quick learner.

When I laid down to rest that night, I slept peacefully. I think it was because I remembered my blessings all day. It was pleasant to rest despite the day, especially when I know, in the past, mentally reliving hellish days have kept me wide awake.

Now speaking of Quentin sleeping with Jory, if there was a situation I wish she’d spend a good amount of time praying over it would be Quentin’s recent spate of nightmares brought on my some movie called Beyond the Grave my mother was wise enough to share with him and Jory that same day. Other than Jory’s praying, the other constant conversation was this movie where a boy came back to life, but his sister died, and another man was killed and several other things. When they were telling me about it, I had the passing thought: Why did Mama think this was appropriate for them?

Still, I didn’t connect his desire to bunk with Jory that night with the movie. Even over the course of the next two days, when he seemed obsessed about hell and going there because he was “bad” or coming in after 11 pm Thursday from my hairdresser appointment to find him sleeping in my bed was I savvy enough to draw the conclusion. It wasn’t until Friday after we were leaving his cancelled football game and with bedtime looming that he sputtered out the reason he was having nightmares and wouldn’t sleep in his bed anymore.

Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh, I thought. I’ll be making a call tonight to my dear, sweet mother to ask her what she was thinking and to tell her if I spend one more night in Quentin’s room where he had been sleeping like a big boy in complete darkness since the moment we moved here, even though it was a new and strange place and even though it’s the last room of the how, she was going to lose her empty-nester status because she was going to inherit a 9-year-old tenant.

Her only response was that she didn’t mean to scare him. Well, hell, I hope not. Then, your grandparenting would have been called into serious question.

And, so I’m going to get Jory to pray for her as well.

Mary Webb

The Summer of Superheroes and the Making of Iron Boy

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