Red Tent – Re-Visited

Friend Kelly and I had a little natter tonight, as we are wont to do sometimes. (I never use names, you should note the use of real names). You know a friend is IN when your husband comes out and hears you talking, is immediately confused and then exits stage right (post-haste). We talked about kids and fighting other people’s battles and causes., crusades. When the patter of conversation resembles the cummulative clucking and pecking and groaning and purring that a flock of chickens makes.. well, most of the I men I know don’t have the patience to learn our language.

This goes back to the Red Tent, this goes back to women not having a place to go, once a month, or when someone is birthing a baby. We don’t have places other than our living rooms, ladies’ nights, our garages, to share these things, to live these things with each other. This strange way of speaking that women who are close have is a secret language, and even though we love the men in our lives, well, it keeps the men on the outside of things they can’t (or would choose not to) understand.

Kelly told me about a little girl in her school (where she teaches) named Siddalee. And I was like, YES! I wanted to name Kaia Siddalee, and then I wanted to name Avery Siddalee. Sidda is the little girl in the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, this book I read so long ago that I am sure I am not even qualified to write about it right now.

But I did remember, and I told Kelly, about going with a group of women that I worked with to see the movie when it came out, how the movie was well done, which never happens. How there is this one scene with Ashley Judd who is the tired mama, and all of her kids have, like, explosive diarrhea, and are throwing up and it’s a total mess. And she freaks out and she screams and she cries and she hits the kids.

I told Kelly how I looked down that row in the movie theater, all these moms trying to  hold all the threads, trying to keep control of their families and their bills, and we all had felt that way, every single one of us. And so we cried. Those rounded, young mom cheeks, all streaked with tears of sympathy for a comrade who gave in, who broke down.

Today I cleaned at church, all four bathrooms while husband took the AC units out and stored them away, as he clucked over the state of the tools and the janitor closets, broke a sweat mopping floors and was speculated over, as in, is that the new guy? that really good-looking tall one? (My Grinch heart grew!)

But before that I talked with Cindi and Jessica stopped in. Before that I spent a few minutes in helpless and insane giggles with a co-worker who has known me since I was a “newbie” way back in 2007. Before that I talked to my sister on FB about…. sister things. Before that I emailed with my mom and read a Momastery post.

We have these men and they are important, but they cannot, truly cannot, understand what it is to be female. And so these connections are, for me, priceless.

Last weekend we had a guest priest come and talk to us about the Flint water crisis. He said he was “once a deacon, always a deacon” and we all sort of palm slapped our foreheads with the unanimous feeling that a transitional deacon (that is, one who is going forward to be ordained as a priest) is not quite the same as someone who is called only to be a deacon.

After he left a friend who had been rather quiet on our previous weekends together told us that he was her former husband. And she sort of needed a hug, and she became a member of the midnight club, which meets once monthly and requires that you stay up until midnight.

She had a chance then, to unload in a way that maybe only women do, where you talk to these people who are almost strangers, just far enough out of your normal sphere where you are comfortable, but still of the same basic experience. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t sit around and man bash this priest. Instead we listened to this woman tell us of her own experience as a mother and as a wife, as a former spouse (we were forbidden from saying “ex” because she felt that was unfair as they’d been married and had children and LOVED each other). I’ve found that these weekends, where we don’t really know each other, this midnight club, where we stay up late and are punchy and exhausted and missing home; this is valuable time to know each other, to say things we wouldn’t say during the day.

All this to say, if I wanted to tell you the truth, in a way that is not to be confused with the gurgle of a chicken in a farmyard – I value and appreciate the women in my life. I value the mammas and the grandmas and the grannys and the young ones who sing in a choir and jump in, feet first, just like I did.

I miss my 80/20 friend, I miss the things I have stopped doing. I miss the Advent Pageant and I miss the soup kitchen. I miss signing up for any little thing I wanted to help with. I thought about that today, as I scrubbed toilets and washed mirrors and swept floors. I thought about it as I read the email on the pageant.

I miss my sister and I miss my mom and I wish that I didn’t have to be so damned wrapped up in the book of Isaiah, so wrapped up that my call has almost ceased to exist in real-time, in the time that counts, in the people that CANNOT wait three years for me to figure this thing out.

I miss the Red Tent.

I miss you. I hope you will wait for me.

I hope you will encourage me.

I hope you will pray for me.

I hope you won’t forget me, that you won’t move on without me.

I hold this dream tenderly in my hands, which are open, bared to you. One night, I will be in the kitchen at church, I’ll be back and it will be new to me all over again, the faces and where the spatulas are.

I will wear my Tigers cap and my grape apron and we’ll be talking in that way, those magic spells that conjure the tent into existence. About sassy girl children and husbands that are driving us nuts and are we giving out seconds yet or should we wait a bit and make sure everyone gets fed?

Carolyn will be there, and Jill, and Cindi will make an appearance too.

And you will walk through the door and the room will fall silent. And you will smile in that unsure way that you have, and you’ll walk to the sink and wash your hands, and you’ll get work and it will be as if you were never away.

It’s amazing to me, when I sit down to write, what comes out. It’s amazing to me that I learn what is really on my heart just by sitting down and letting my heart go, letting it travel through the imperfect veins of my heart and down through my arms and into my cold fingers.

Hold your women close. These are the people who know what it is to long for a child, to birth a child. The women who know what it is to be talked down to and doubted, the women who know what it is to be married and taken forever and ever out of ourselves.

(I’m pretty sure I’ve been interrupted at least 56 times in the last 20 minutes. I have one working on some sort of art project and one talking about what happens if I am running a five mile race and 2/5’s through the race…. blah blah blah and a husband who wants a ruler and a dog who is bleeding from his elbow and violently allergic to things and garlic bread that is gonna burn! and I’m saying, like a litany, like a prayer, “share with your sister, be nice to your sister, share with your sister”.)

The wind is blowing tonight, in a strangely warm way, the whisper of leaves as they scud along the sidewalk and the lawn is pronounced; I can hear the water down the road as it smashes relentlessly against the shore. I feel like Vianne in Chocolat, like it is time to move on, to let the wind take me.

But I am holding the line.

I am trying to stay where I am, to trust that this will be ok.

To resist the urge to run and abandon.

This is what we do, when the sky is dark and the wind is taking the living things off the trees. We hold the line. A barrier between all that wishes to be and all that is. A line in the sand.

It is hard to be a line in the sand.

I love you still.

And I miss you, Ellen.


“I’m hoping hard if it’s the thought that counts, that you don’t ever have to know what I think about… that every soul can always fit through Heaven’s door, with the weight of things it never told anyone before.” 




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