It was Tuesday. At 11:00am. In my kitchen. I was standing over the sink, lamenting the countless water spots that littered my stainless steel sink. With absolutely no hesitation, I reached under that sink, pulled out my Weiman’s Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish plus two fresh reusable, recyclable dishrags and began to earnestly polish that puppy. In no time, the sink was more shiny than glitter in the sun. Job finished . . .But then my eyes caught something else . . . those pesky streaks stretched across an otherwise clean and uncluttered countertop. I began to pull out the homemade vinegar/water spray bottle solution and more dishrags, when I just stopped. I just froze. I stood. I stared.
And at that moment . . . the light when on and time seemed to be moving backwards. It was as if the bulb not only was turned on, but had somehow maxed out its ability to shed one more ounce of light. There I was, in the kitchen, holding my Weiman’s, at age 61 and 1/2, looking at a glistening kitchen, recognizing that I had successfully and honestly turned into my mother. I was Izzy. It finally happened.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my mother, God rest her soul. She was everything to me. A great, great mother. A great mother. And I miss her dearly. And Isabelle Washford Greiner spent a large chunk of her life . . . in the kitchen.
The kitchen happened to be in the center of my childhood house, and was on the small side. In that crazy tiny kitchen, she cooked up a storm in there, clinking and clambering those pots and pans until she produced a meal. And as the family finished eating, Isabelle would be cleaning that kitchen with the gusto of a race horse in first place headed for the finish line. Tidy in and tidy out, morning, noon, and night, each and every day. And now, I was doing the very same thing, in much the same way, as my mom had long ago done. Holy transformation, Batman!
Really – as a youngster, no one accused me of being neat and tidy. In fact, I was just the opposite. My clothes never saw a closet they liked. My bedroom floor was too littered with junk, trash, and other assorted sundries to ever be seen. Pencils, pens, paper, books, dishes, laundry, etc. were piled high. I am sure that even bugs detested the quality of life in my room and scampered away. But, I was one happy camper there.
My mother’s kitchen was perfection. My room was beyond a catastrophic failure.
And all I could think was . . .What happened to that girl?
I looked at my kitchen at that moment and began to think way more deeply than I expected.
What happened to that girl who was so sure that she could solve poverty . . . eliminate hunger . . . end war? What happened to that girl who protested for change . . .participated in every sit-in in the near metro vicinity . . . fought for social justice. What happened to that girl who listened to hard rock music full blast, wore clothes that represented the meaning of the 70s, jumped off cliffs, slid down mountains, and in general approached life by taking risks without ever thinking about potential consequences?
What happened to that girl?
Never in my wildest dreams in my youth did I ever think I would own a kitchen, let alone have one with granite, stainless steel, hardwood, and recycled crown moulding. I had no idea that I would be married for forty years, have four children, and spend a lifetime working in education. I had no idea that there would be so many twists and turns to my life and that there would be so many choices to make in so such a short amount of time.
What happened to this girl was the same thing that happened to my mom.
We grew up.
And in growing up, we both learned similar lessons in very different generations.
I have learned that world change comes slow. I may want it to be faster than the speed of lightening and more powerful than a locomotive, but it still comes slow. I have learned that fights worth fighting won’t fall off my radar. I’m still out there doing my part for poverty, hunger, and war. I’m just not as dramatic or over-the-top about it.
I have learned that there are ways to protest beyond carrying a handprinted sign and marching through the streets, that sometimes what we don’t say or do is much more powerful than too many words and too much action. I have learned to love more than one category of music and one type of apparel. Luke Bryan and flannel shirts are my friends.
And finally, I have learned that it is very important for all of us to continue to take risks, every day . . . in every way. Growing up doesn’t mean settling. Not at all. Today, I may be unable to jump off roofs or ride a bike with no hands or backflip off the trampoline into the swimming pool, but I can still be a risk-taker.
We can step forward even when it is uncomfortable. We can work for those who can’t work for themselves. We can walk on the edge of life and feel that wind on our backs. And we can spend everyday anxiously anticipating the next adventure that lurks around the corner.
My phrase can’t be “What happened to that girl?” It must be “The ride of her life is going to happen to that girl.” Let the crazy fun continue.