Keeping Your Waiting Place Bright

If you need a quick dose of profound inspiration, try a picture book. After spending many a night of the last decade in a rocking chair with a small person and a picture book, the children's genre has been resurrected as my favorite. These books influenced me in the influential years. But as someone who is trying to be an adult, with some of life's difficulties to make me think more deeply, I've realized there is great wisdom to be found on an illustrated page.

It's been helpful this summer, when I've been stuck in the Waiting Place. It's a place Dr. Seuss described in Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Dr. Seuss stories almost always tackle some larger social issue. I was surprised to find a book of his political cartoons at the library one day. I had no idea he was an outspoken voice in WWII, trying to urge Americans to take the threat seriously. But...the Waiting Place. 

It's different than a Lurch or a Slump. 

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

I'll admit there has been a bit of Lurching and Slumping this summer, but nothing that a few good hours to myself, or with friends couldn't fix. 

No, this has been the summer of  

The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No

And that is me. I'm waiting for someone to have faith in my story. 

Compared to others, my Waiting Place isn't so bad.

People in my life are Waiting to have cancer or not.

They're Waiting for a forest fire to burn their house or not. 

Outside the sky is dark and smoky, the sun a heart-squeezing red that makes me want to pack the car. Waiting for a disaster or not. 

In my inbox is the lack of an email saying we've found Time Walker's home. Waiting for a career or not. 

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape 
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
Where Boom Bands are playing. 

And that's the secret, right there. I still have to wait, but why not wait in a bright place with Boom Bands, instead of a dark place with doubts? Dark places grow mold and fungus and doubt and fear. And that's gross. So instead I'll write blog posts about poop. I know...but it's a different kind of gross, right? 

I had another profound picture book moment reading Harold and the Purple Crayon to Weezie. If you haven't read it, well then, gasp. You should. Harold, with his purple crayon, can create whatever he has the imagination to think of. But he has a hard time getting where he needs and wants to be most. I feel you Harold. I really do. No matter how many windows you draw, you just can't find your window, and your home. 

In the car, the kids and I have been listening to Half Magic, by Edward Eager, a great book from the 50s. 

Something one of the characters said grabbed me by the collar and jerked me right out of a dark, doubting place. "She knew she would win in the end, because she'd wished it that way. But what was she to do in the beginning and middle?"

She figured it out though, and so am I. 

Here's wishing you Boom Bands and brightness in your Waiting Places, and, like Harold, if you can't find home, draw your window around the moon.


I've been posting daily #timetraveltips on Instagram and Facebook. I learn something new everyday, and if you'd like to join me by liking, following and sharing, it would make my Waiting Place even brighter. 


Because poop.

Sometimes, you're standing at a softball game, holding a McDonald's bag full of poop.

Because your husband is out of town, and for some insane reason, softball games for eight-year-olds last two and a half hours.

Because you're holding the baby who is the only one brave enough to cry about how boring the game is. Strike-one-two-three, ball-one-two-three-four, out-walk-walk-walk-out-walk-out, repeat. Make it stop!

Because another parent just asked you if that was your kid squatting in the grass out yonder toward right field.

Because it's potty-training time and you asked him not to poop in his pants, so he didn't.

Because it was already a rough enough day to get dinner from McDonalds, which a friend pointed out is already poop in a bag. But the bag and an empty french fry container do come in handy when you have to scoop your kid's poop. And it couldn't just be a little poop...must have been the McDonalds.

Because just then, your husband drives up, back from a week-long work trip. "Hi! You guys went to McDonald's, huh?"


Harrison Ford Knows Me

Back in time, I was a waitress at a Mexican restaurant on main street. I had just graduated from high school and needed those tips to buy all my ridiculously priced text books when I started college. One slow afternoon, my friend, the hostess, seated three old guys, the only customers for hours. I brought out menus, hoping they weren't cheapskates.

"Welcome to Hernan..." My voice dribbled off while my eyes and brain argued about who I was seeing. He was a little bit shorter than I thought, his stubble white, a few more wrinkles than I expected, but holy crap that's Han Solo! 

He got a resigned look on his face, and sighed patiently while obviously wishing his waitress had been less nerdy. I wonder if he can tell which of his movies people like best by the look on their faces. Round eyes and speechless indicates Star Wars fans. Indiana Jones fans stammer. Action flick fans give him a knowing nod, and maybe a salute, Mr. President. 

While we're paused here, with my mouth hanging open and Mr. Ford preparing for the worst, let's go over the things I would have said, had I been prepared for a conversation with Indiana Jones:

I'd say,"You're not the man I knew ten years ago."
And he'd say, "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."

Or maybe, "Indiana Jones. I always knew some day you'd come walking back through my door. I never doubted that. Something made it inevitable. So, what are you doing here in Nepal?"

I could have brought him a sopapilla for dessert and said, "Chilled monkey brains."

Or maybe if he spilled his drink, "I hate the water...and I hate being wet...and I hate you!" He would have laughed and laughed, I'm sure of it.

Before he left I'd switch to Star Wars.

"So. You got your lunch and you're just leaving, then?"

"That's right, yeah," he'd say. "Got some old debts I gotta pay off with this stuff. Even if I didn't, you don't think I'd be fool enough to stick around here, do you? Why don't you come with us? You're pretty good in a fight. We could use you."

I'd wink and say, "You stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder." 
To which he'd reply...say it with me Nerds!..."Who's scruffy-looking?" 

As he headed for the door I'd say, "All right. Well, take care of yourself, Han. I guess that's what you're best at, isn't it?"
He'd stop, look back, and say, "Hey, Jess...may the Force be with you." 

And my life would be complete. 

But that's not how it went down. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Hey, I know you."

And Harrison Ford said, "Oh, yeah, I thought I recognized you, too." 

That's what Harrison Ford said. To me. 

I think I laughed, but I can't really remember. The two guys sitting with Mr. Ford watched, amused, while I stood there for a second, forgetting what should happen next. Water! Right. Water.

While they looked at their menus, I sprint-walked into the back and attacked my coworker. "Do you not know who that is? How can you not know who that is?" She kind of shrugged. 

I paced in a few figure eights and my feet may have left the floor a few times. I had a decision to make--the greatest moral dilemma of my short life. Did I rat him out to my boss, who would die of joy to have a celebrity in her cute little main street dive? Or did I let him eat lunch in peace with his two friends who looked kind of familiar and were probably famous, but were not Han Solo so I didn't really care? (Now I'm pretty sure one was the blonde guy from The Fugitive, and the other was quite possibly Billy Bob Thorton. Yup.) So, did I betray Han to the Empire? Turn Indiana over to the Nazis? (The Empire and the Nazis represent the loss of Mr. Ford's peaceful lunch, by the way, not my boss. Just thought I should make that clear.) 

Don't judge me. I decided in my teenage head that if my boss found out I didn't tell her, I might actually get in trouble. Mostly, I knew it would make her happy. "Guess who's in your restaurant," I said. I'm sorry Mr. Ford. Truly I am. 

Out came the Polaroid and the enthusiasm, and poof! went his privacy. 

Really, everyone was pretty cool about it. He posed for the picture, kind of sort of smiled, then ate shredded pork enchiladas with verde sauce, drank two ice teas and left a normal tip. It probably would have been bigger if I'd kept my mouth shut. The whole time I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh, Harrison Ford looks just like Harrison Ford!" 
Apparently movie stars prefer shredded pork.

I tried to be conspiratorially helpful, play the mature semi-adult that I was so he would know that I was really on his side. He's lucky he didn't meet me now. Now that I'm a "real" adult, I have no reason to try to be cool, and I would have pulled a chair right up to the table while I bombarded him with lines and questions, and impersonations, completely humiliating myself and not even caring. So, even though you got a much milder response from Teen Me, really, Mr. Ford, I'm sorry about your lunch in 2001. At least I didn't have Instagram, right? I had to spread the news the old fashioned way, and it gave him time to escape. 

I heard that he came back a few times after I'd moved on to college, and a few years later I heard that the little restaurant moved to a new location when half the block had to be demolished after an accidental explosion. Things change, and some things will only happen once. So, even though I betrayed a childhood hero, I'm grateful for the Polaroid my boss took, and made me walk all the way across town to have enlarged and copied. She hung it up by the front door, right next to the fake palm trees and the Virgin Mary candles. 
Hanging out with Harrison.
(I cropped the picture for privacy purposes, and yes,
I made sure I got to stand right next to Mr. Ford. I don't
care who's restaurant it was, I found him first.)