Every day I’m surrounded by relics of my past that reach into my present. Then there’s the odd relic I buy for myself because I know I need it. Even though I don’t know where it will take me. The photo above shows three of my relics.
The big furry raccoon is a gift from two male seminary students. Unannounced, they came to my faculty office the week of their graduation in 1986/7. Each had taken multiple courses from me. Yet to their sorrow, they had been less than supportive my first semester of teaching. They came bearing a gift of contrition and gratitude. Their way of making amends and reaching out to acknowledge complicity in my first-year trial by fire.
I promptly, there and then, gave this furry beast his name: Klein Calvin. That’s Calvin for Reformed theologian John Calvin, not Calvin Klein. And Klein for the German word for small. Again, not for the clothing brand Calvin Klein.
Over the years, Klein Calvin has occupied seats of honor in my house. From these exalted seats he has given my grandchildren tons of fun and caused Smudge, our rescued cat, moments of extreme consternation.
The smaller white teddy bear with a heart is also a gift. This time from my theology class in spring 1999. A surprise gift the week I returned to class after time off following my mother’s death. The class hadn’t been particularly easy. These were the years after our new sexuality policy was approved by the Board, giving aid and comfort (in my unchanged opinion) to those who were on the lookout for deviation.
Yet here was this totally unexpected gift, made possible because of human ties that bind us. When I was a child I never owned a real teddy bear. This is my teddy bear. She’s been sitting on the sofa in my office for years. Sometimes hugged close when I’ve felt overwhelmed about not having my mother present to answer at least a thousand questions.
Finally, right there in the middle is my newest cuddly friend. I’ve christened her Baby El. A likeness of me. When she arrived two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to do with her.
For now, I’m certain she is not about my father. She’s about me. I want to know myself better and honor myself. Especially, but not only, that little girl who still resides in me. Now woven into every fiber of my being.
If I just think about getting to know myself (and that little girl…), it won’t happen. I need to practice honoring myself for real. And Baby El is my partner in this. She’s real. She’s present. And she always welcomes me with a smile.
Which, by the way, is helping free me from making D into the bad man he is not, or even into a very large version of Baby El.
I used to think I could work it all out in my head or in my writing. Both are important. Yet having a concrete stand-in ally (who represents me) makes all the difference. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in me: shame, fear, the need for comfort, discouragement or wanting someone to share my joy. She’s there for me, and I’m there for her.
I also want you to know how I came to this point. It’s all about a book I just finished. More on that later.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 August 2018
Photo taken by ERFraser, 29 August 2018