Last weekend on a whim, I went to my parent’s house with the kids. I had photo shoots in the NJ/NY area, and my mom had an art gallery reception. The reception was on the downtown streets of Blairstown. It reminded me of another time there.
I was coming out of a very dark time in life (DREADFUL broken heart) and things were made better by my new friendship with my friend, Matt. We didn’t know each other quite well yet and found ourselves seeing Harry Potter with other friends one Friday night. I hadn’t read the books yet and I was completely lost by the movie, but I loved hanging out with a bunch of fun, quirky, open friends. I believe we went to a diner later that night, where I no doubt ate cheese fries and pie. Not together, but one after the other, or half and half and half and half, because sweet and salty deserve each other, but not necessarily in the same mouthful. The next morning we got together for what was soon to be a weekly ritual – Saturday brunch at Perkins.
Since we kept passing each other’s friendship tests, and we really didn’t want to miss each other should we part, I invited him to my parent’s farm in Blairstown, NJ for dinner that night. We were all in fine form that night. Someone was high. Someone was tipsy. Someone kept giggling at fart jokes. (probably me) The food was great. The country town was hopping that night because the symphony was in town, so all of the shops had open doors and wine and cheese. If you were really lucky, brownies. If you were really, really lucky – my mom’s art in her gallery. Some local horseback rider was showing off by riding his horse drunk, in a tux, and without a saddle. The air was festive and the people were in fine form. Including me. I was fine.
I was either in the art gallery, or in a bookstore, or in some place with wine, cheese, and maybe brownies, when a dark hush fell over the place. Someone inside said, “Oh no. They’re back.” Well, who?? I looked outside to see a tall figure walking down the street in a white robe and hood. He looked so strong and confident and people were whispering on the streets and moving away from him. The shopkeeper closed the shop door and told us that the KKK were still around Pennsylvania and sometimes crossed the border into NJ. I simply couldn’t believe it. I was literally yelling, “This is Jersey! In 2005! Don’t they know the North won the Civil War??? Have they gotten the memo? I’ll…I’ll…kill him. I’m not proud. I’d do it – just you wait.”
Matt and I decided there was only one thing to do. One logical thing. We were going to confront him (or them) and tell him (or them) to leave this beloved town. I was small, but anger made me crazy. Disturbing my mom’s beautiful town like that?
The best part of this story is that Matt is a very tall and very strong guy and I’m not. We both stormed out of that store for a confrontation, probably looking like a Boston Terrier excitedly following on the heels of a Great Dane and trying to look tough. In retrospect, were we nuts? This KKK member could be armed and murderous yet we ran down the street after him and yelled out “Hey!” He didn’t around. “Hey, you! You’re not running away from us!” And then he turned around..
It was a young teenage boy (maybe 13 or 14) and he was dressed as Gandalf the White Wizard – on his way to a school play. I still had trouble making sense of NOT fighting him until I saw the tinfoil sword attached to his hips. Yeah. Not a KKK member. We laughed and sent him on his quivering way – telling him to be careful. He was so nervous! I’m not even sure he knew what people thought he was but the relief I felt that my parents’ lovely small town wasn’t being invaded by intolerant, hateful, horrible people was immense. That weekend totally solidified my friendship with Matt in unexpected but awesome ways.
The point is, I was so willing to fight. So willing to fight to WIN. I was 105 pounds but my mouth and my spirit were/are worth 500 pounds at least. I have never really lost a fight and I didn’t intend to that day – had it not been a cute and scared young boy! Sometimes I wait for my moment. My moments. I wait to stand on a desk and recite “O Captain! My Captain!” To lead a peace rally. To lead. There’s no use in waiting, though. Be your big bad self TODAY. Only, be your big GOOD self.
This should totally be two posts, but like last week, I can’t seem to separate the relevant ones. I see connections flowing through this. It’s about the bravest man I ever knew and you can read all about it here, and if that “bravest man I ever knew” title doesn’t intrigue you enough, this is my ex/current friend’s family. There was/is a lot of love there, and respect too.
Joe Wions took a 2-3 year life expectancy with ALS and turned it into an inspiring 11 year journey of growth, love, and gratitude. “More Time to Love” is the book he wrote in an attempt to pay it forward to his community. I met him during his journey – maybe in the middle of it – and I was struck by his will to live and to spread love. This is the time. In the wake of the election and the way our country feels divided, I’ve decided to go on many missions to spread love in the best ways I know how. And sometimes that means honoring Scarlet’s wish to pay for the person behind us in the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. Sometimes that’s free photo shoots, and blog reviews, because I don’t always have much – but I have words and photos galore. Right now I’m telling you about this incredible Indigogo campaign to bring “More Time to Love” to life.
I could write 4,000 words on Joe Wions, and I have, but I urge you to go check out his family’s incredible Indigogo campaign and learn all about it. Look at the photos. Read the stories and the history. Read the comments and the backers. Share the link. Share this post. Tell a friend. Tell your mom. Write your own story about ALS. Read about it. This support is so needed.
This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “When it comes to the unexpected or to change…” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.