In the summer, when the air was warm and my skinny nine-year old legs were brown and bare, I swung impatiently on the garden gate. My belly tingled in anticipation and every time I heard a car coming down the road, my heart pounded so fast and so loud I thought the whole world could hear it.
When the weather was too cold to be outside or if it was raining (quite frequently in England!), I sat with my nose pressed up against the window pane in the living room, fogging up the glass with each breath I exhaled. Eventually the shiny black car would swing around the corner and come to a halt in front of the “prefab” where I lived, and I would fly to the front door.
My parents had married during the second world war and, until I was about five years old, they had shared a tiny, two-bedroom apartment with my mother’s older sister and her husband. After the war, the British government erected hundreds of prefabricated homes (prefabs) to house all those who had lost their homes during the war, and we qualified.
Ours was a typical lower income, middle class working family. Both my parents worked but it was always a struggle for them to just cover the basic needs. My mother miraculously juggled the shillings and the pennies and made ends meet. I have a very clear mental picture of her sitting at the kitchen table with her little accounts book open and the long green metal box with the labeled slots (rent, gas, electricity, insurance, etc.) on the table beside her.
But Sundays were different. Sundays were magical and the magic always began with my childish anticipation of Aunty Polly’s arrival. Her husband, my Uncle Gordon, always accompanied her but I never really paid him much attention. He was a very quiet unassuming man who, once they arrived, would sit in a corner and read the Sunday newspaper from cover to cover, drinking the endless cups of tea that my mother made. I think he saved the paper especially for this occasion. But he was never the cause of my excitement. He was just the driver; a means to an end.
I suppose I could describe Aunty Polly in several different ways. Physically she was strikingly beautiful with her short, rippling black hair and vibrant red lips – such a dramatic contrast to her dark features. (I found out later that her features and coloring came from her Jewish background.) And – oh how she dressed! She never wore anything “ordinary” and everything matched.
She was elegant, refined and expensive looking, but not in an untouchable way. I think fashion critics would have labeled her as “quietly chic” and as having that indefinable something called “style” and “class”. And she had a vivacity about her that made the whole world come to life.
Aunty Polly was my real life “Fairy Godmother” who brought so much joy into my life. She waved her wand over my childhood and candy and ice cream appeared every Sunday as if by magic. I’m sure that much of my excitement and anticipation was based on the mouth-watering sensations produced by my taste buds as I waited impatiently on the gate or at the window. Aunty Polly was also a superb seamstress, so often there was the added joy of a new dress in the latest style, made beautiful fabric in the most perfect of colors.
On the very rare occasion, we would make the trip to her house which was a veritable adventure in and of itself. When she lived in one house this would entail two different bus rides and a long walk in a very posh part of town. After moving to a different house, which was actually an enormous apartment, the journey included a train ride which was probably the most exciting thing we had done all year!
Visiting Polly’s house was like going to Aladdin’s cave. Her home was large and spacious and full of so many interesting things. There were many pictures on the walls, ornaments on coffee tables (probably very expensive curios and “objets d’art”), and fresh flowers filled vases in every room – even the bathrooms. The furniture was the kind you saw in magazines or drooled over in showrooms, and there was always music playing. Our prefab was very dull and bare by comparison. I hated going home.
But Aunty Polly was more to me than all of this. When she put her arms around me it was the sweetest, the most heavenly sensation I ever experienced. I didn’t want it to end. I felt loved and wanted just exactly as I was and it felt so good to be inside the circle of her loving arms. And, oh how she smelled! She always wore the most exquisite perfume that made me want to bury my face in her neck and never let go again.
She never tried to change me or tell me how I should or should not be or how to act. She just accepted and loved me for who I was. She actually listened to me and always seemed interested in everything I had to say. Even as I grew older and became a troubled and rebellious teenager, Aunty Polly continued to love me and hug me and to honor me as my own person. Her home was always open to me no matter what.
She was the oasis in my childhood years and through my teens. If I had understood that at the time I’m sure I would have said many prayers of gratitude to God for her presence in my life. I always found refuge and refreshment with her. But most of all I received an unconditional love that formed the basis of my survival and eventual “return to life” in later years. Thank you Aunty Polly.
Before you start shouting “spelling”, let me explain. The word “oases” is the plural for the word “oasis”. And just what is an oasis you might ask. Well, the New Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines oasis as “a fertile or green area in an arid region”.
I’m sure you can all conjure up an illustration from some book you have read or a movie you have seen at some time in your past. A vast stretch of yellow desert seeming never to end, unfolding under the scorching midday sun. A straggling line of over-burdened camels plodding through the heat, ridden by dark-skinned men in their long robes and traditional keffiyeh (headdresses). I feel thirsty just thinking about it.
Then, suddenly, there is a splash of vivid green. A half a dozen palm trees and a small patch of luxurious green surrounding a natural waterhole appear on the horizon. There is refreshment, rest, and restoration; a small sanctuary in that land of never-ending parched sand.
The first thirty five years of my life were very arid in many places for long stretches of time, especially the period from age twenty to thirty five. However, as I look back over the years from today’s vantage point, I can see that there were many oases along the way that literally saved my life and refreshed and restored my soul, even though I did not recognize them for what they were at the time.
I am sure if you look back over your life you will be able to recognize similar oases that helped you through the tough times of your journey. Sometimes these oases present themselves as people, special angels that cross your path and help to lighten the load of the burdens you are carrying at that time. People who listen to you, offer you their broad shoulders to cry on, and encourage you to become the person God intended you to be.
In other moments these oases may be in the form of a special place. Somewhere that is full of peace which offers you comfort and solace. A place that allows you to retreat from the world and all its distractions and difficulties. A sanctuary that offers you the opportunity to regroup, to relax, to find solutions. A moment in time to come home to yourself, to grieve, to cry, and then to find the strength to carry on.
I am grateful for the oases that God placed on my path. Those places of peace and restfulness, those people who supported and restored me and offered me a haven of of safety in the midst of trouble, danger, or difficulty. In some measure they have all lead me to the place of joy that is my life today.
I feel like a Mamma Bear in the middle of the great hibernation. I have no desire to stir out of my warm cave. I have no desire to get up, go out, do anything at all. I just want to stay curled up where it’s nice and warm and be cozy.
Much of the country may be under snow right now. Thank God Florida isn’t. But that still doesn’t change the fact that it is freezing cold – by Floridian standards. We have had heavier frost the last two nights than we have had all winter. I almost can’t believe I’m referring to winter, freezing temperatures, and Florida all in the same paragraph. But for whatever reason, we are experiencing a true winter season in the sunny south this year.
I could make it all about me and say that perhaps I need yet another lesson in gratitude; gratitude that we don’t get this kind of weather every year. Or perhaps I needed to learn once again not to take things for granted. Humility would be attached to that one. But, because it’s NOT all about me, I guess we’re just having an abnormally cold winter.
The reason this is such a big deal for me is because it affects my whole temperament. I plain don’t like the cold. It makes me grumpy and keeps me locked inside. Not that I don’t go out; I get my errands done and meet all my commitments. There’s just no joy to it, and if I can stay home, I do.
It’s most definitely put a crimp in my outdoors style. Haven’t been able to get outside to do much gardening, and the bad weather has affected the garden big time this year. On those odd few days that it has been warm enough to get out there, I have hacked away a lot of frost-burned plants and trees. Damage control has been the main name of the game.
The other major area that has been impacted is my writing. I really don’t like to sit in front of the computer for any length of time indoors. Even if it is cold outside that somehow doesn’t make it enjoyable to be writing indoors. So I have done very little writing and that is an irritation in and of itself. And what has frustrated me even more is that some days the sun has been shining, the sky is blue, and it has all the makings of a “come hither” look outside, but the thermometer has hovered in the low fifties:-(.
But this morning, four of my readings really got into my heart. Two were on the topic of “now"/the present moment”, and two were about “commitment” – my commitment to life and God, and God’s commitment to me. One of the “now” readings was headed by a quotation from Buddha:
”There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
Only Buddha could have said that! The short reflections following the quotation said: “Even with our eyes open, we sometimes go through our days as if we were sleepwalking. these are the only days we have; we need to be aware of them.” (From the Daily Book Of Positive Quotations by Linda Picone.)
Both the quotation and the reflection really tugged at my heart, and I realized that even though it is good to have “down days”, days when I am not busy doing, it is probably not good to have too many of them in row. And that is what I have been doing in my great hibernation. I have enjoyed some great books, I have caught up on some Tivo, but I have also been “sleepwalking” through a lot of my days.
I have done a little writing but it’s been my “other writing”, the stuff I hope to turn into a book. But I have been thinking that there is no reason that I shouldn’t share some of that here in this forum. Each short chapter is a self-contained story unto itself and can stand alone. So keep your eyes open for articles under a new topic: Oases. See you on the pages!!