Coffee with Cream and Sugar
An Invitation into the Sweet Oneness of God
JOSEPH JACKSON (BLACK LIKE COFFEE)
Precious memories, oh how they linger!
Back to school, new clothes, books, and backpacks. Reading, writing, and arithmetic.
I find myself this particular September day musing and reminiscing about my summer in Lexington, Kentucky many years gone by.
Grandmother, granddaddy, great granny, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Chickens, church, the children on the hill, known as Georgetown Street. People hanging out in the park, Douglas Park, a popular place for the majority Black folks on the West End of town.
Grandmother’s flowers (mostly petunias) and her firm but fair loving discipline. Her brown porcelain praying hands that I inherited also remind me of her clapping hands in church on Sunday mornings at the Pleasant Green Baptist Church. (Reminds me of that song by Bill Withers called Grandma’s Hands with lyrics that sing…Grandma’s hands…clapped in church on Sunday morning…Grandma’s hands used to hand me piece of candy…Grandma’s hands picked me up each time I fell…if I get to heaven, I’ll look for Grandma’s hands…Hmm-mmh.)
Granddaddy’s yard tools that he stored beneath the house. I dreaded having to fight through the spider webs and creepy bugs to fetch yard and garden ware. Granddad’s cap, bib cocked to the side, when worn to the front. But often, he wore his cap with bib backwards, bottle of Kentucky bourbon in his back pocket, his signature stature and strut. Oh, and his old 1950’s burgundy Buick. It was a tank! The snacks and treats that he brought home at night spoiled me a little, but not to the point of becoming “rotten to the core.”
The fruit wagon– “Fruit Man! Fruit Man! Fruit Man!” was the beckoning call, which awakened the neighborhood in the morning. And in the evening, Mr. Frosty’s ice cream truck entered the neighborhood with alarming bells. Fruit wagon in the morning–ice cream truck in the evening–What a life!
My summer activities became my September memories.
Back to school now! High school, homeroom, lockers, stairwells, classes, football, homecoming, autumn leaves, girlfriends, guys “shootin’ the breeze, bragging, clowning, heckling, teasing.
September transitions. From heat, haze, and humidity to cool, colors, and cozy.
The beauty of the landscape and bounty of the harvest.
I’ll always remember my Septembers.
What about yours?
HEATHER LEE (WHITE LIKE CREAM)
Joe asks, what about yours? As I read through his reflection, what jumps out at me first is the fruit wagon.
My Septembers have always held the heaviness of the harvest. That’s all I can come up with as I’m writing today, which happens to be the last day of September. It’s like each September I hold all the Septembers gone by—gathering them up with every other season that has come before. That image of the fruit wagon has been working on me. Perhaps I could use a wagon to carry the heavy, fruitful harvest of my Septembers.
I don’t have a sense, really, of a fruit wagon coming into my neighborhood in the morning. That sounds cool. I wonder if there were any white kids there (Joe says no). When I was young, my grandfather, who was a carpenter (he had a tool shed too—I think a little less scary but wondrous nonetheless), had a small fruit farm that he and my grandma lived on in Hartland, WI. My sister and I spent a lot of time helping them pick berries in the summer to sell by the pound, quart, or pint to those that sometimes came from miles around to their little farm on Highway K. The last crop of the year—in late September–would be the pumpkins. My sister and I would ride with him out to the field in a kind of wagon that he pulled behind his old red tractor. We would help him gather the pumpkins into the wagon and then ride back up to the driveway where we would sort them into sizes. I don’t really remember the amounts but something like $1-small. $2-medium. $5 (that was a lot)-for the BIG ONES. Grandpa would always tell us that we couldn’t have the biggest one as it would be too much money lost. He just couldn’t afford to give it to us. Maybe there was a truth in it for him, I suppose—he had been formed in the depression era–, but I think he was mostly teasing as it seems we always ended up taking it home…maybe like Joe’s granddaddy’s treats at dusk. Spoiled us…but not to the core…and we had to work for it a bit.
I wrote a song called The Harvest. I like to sing it in September. There is a line in it that reads, “red’s on the maple, soup’s on the table, and there’s tears from the years in my chest.” That line still seems to capture September for me. Seems a bit more melancholy than Joe’s Septembers, although I wonder if my melancholy set it sometime after all those childhood years. I can’t imagine that there isn’t some weight in Joe’s fruit wagon or resting in that bottle of bourbon in grandfather’s back pocket.
SUGAR (THE SWEET ONENESS OF GOD)
Joe and I met this morning for spiritual guidance, September 23, 2023. We were feeling and reflecting on September again and realized that we wrote the words for coffee and cream LAST September and have yet to share them with all of you. The slow sweetness of God allows this to be just fine.
As we considered that September feeling, we invited ourselves into the question that this blog is always posing…where do we notice the sugar—where is that sweet, sweet, spirit of God stirring our stories together and showing us a unified and shared experience of September?
The practice of Lectio Divina is one that arises in response. In Joe’s question, what about yours?–he is teaching a form of Lectio Divina…inviting each of us to simply read the words and listen with the ear of the heart to what arises. I heard “fruit wagon”, and it took me back to my grandfather’s farm and my grandfather’s ways. We then noticed that Joe’s granddaddy’s ways are also right there in Joe’s September. This sharing brought us to a conversation about what the fruit wagon coming into the neighborhood was like, and I learned that it was not a black man bringing the wagon (as I had imagined), but an old white man…maybe one not too different from my grandfather with his pumpkins, which made the intersection of the stories take on a mysterious sweetness for both of us too. Then we wondered about the scary and wonderous tool storage areas…and then we talked about Grandma’s candy. Joe reflected that his grandma didn’t always have a lot of candy to give out so when you got a piece (it was peppermint), this was something special. Maybe like when my grandpa let us have that special pumpkin. Or maybe, we wonder, if it’s a little like God’s grace…grandpa’s pumpkin…grandma’s candy…surprising us a sweet and special gift of oneness. This is how Lectio on life can work…just notice what is calling your attention and follow it, share it with one another, and in this sharing of stories and weaving them together, notice the sweet presence of God and the abundance of the fruit wagon coming into your neighborhood.
We shared a little more deeply about that melancholy question…the way that September conjures up tears and somehow works on us later in life, carrying all the love we have come into and let go of along the way…maybe something like that lyric in the Harvest song that touches the years of tears in our chests.
So, tell us about your Septembers.