Friday, April 2, 2010

A Heart, a Cross, and a Key

Jesus kissed my daughter and me at least three times last weekend.  We were on a mother daughter roadtrip.  In search of the college.

I gassed up the Honda in Summersville.  The cashier let me mix bold roast coffee with flavored cappucino for no extra charge, but he wouldn't look me in the eye.  I squinted at him.  Look at me.  Nothing.

I put my dollar five on the counter.  "Can I ask you a weird question?"

He cowered.  "Weird?''

"Have you heard of people who are afraid of big, long bridges?  And sometimes state troopers'll drive 'em across?"

He used his finger in the corner of his t-shirt to clean the ledge over the cash drawer. 

"I've heard of it, but I don't think they do it 'round here," he said.  "You afraid of the New River Gorge bridge?"

When he said the name, my heart revved.  I nodded.

"You can't see over the sides, you know."

I took a breath.  It sounded like a death rattle.  "But it's really high and really long.  And it's raining to beat all."

"Just drive slow.  Stay in the middle."

And pray like nuts.

He looked out into the soaking wet night.

"The wind," he said.  "Be careful about the wind.  It'll blow your car all over the place."

My fingernails bit my palms.  I walked over to the door and got my umbrella ready to go.

"Thanks," I said inside the store.

"For nothing," I said outside.

I knocked on my daughter's window.  "Your turn to drive."

We drove five miles.  I waited.  For the mist to form on my palms.  For my heartbeat to make my shirt move.  For my daughter to look over at me and say, "You okay?"

And then we turned left onto State Route 39, miles before the gorge.  We drove past the low level of Summersville Lake.  Wound through a mile or two of rhodedendron and mobile homes.

"Pull over," I told my daughter. 


"We missed it," I said.  "You don't need to drive after all."

I looked at the stars as I walked around the back of the Honda.  I clasped my hands and made my index fingers point up.  Like a steeple. 

"Thank you so much."

The next morning, after our complimentary continental breakfast, we took our bags out to the car.  It wouldn't start.  My palms felt slick.

"Your dad's going to be so mad at me," I said.

The front desk clerk didn't have jumper cables.  The maintenance man fussed me out for not having AAA roadside assistance.  I went back out to the car.

"I guess we take a taxi to the college tour."

My daughter stuck her lower lip out. 

"If you could find out who has the car on either side of us, maybe--"

I walked through the lobby, towards the dining room.  I paused outside.  Lord. . . . help . . . please.

The room smelled like waffles.  I took off my eggplant-colored rain hat.

"Does anyone have a red Sebring or a light green Chevy Malibu?"

A man in a Nascar hat raised his hand.  "Red Sebring."

I squeaked.  Raised my eyes to the ceiling.  Thank you so much.

Nascar man and his elderly father followed me to the Honda.  They produced extra long jumper cables.

I reached out to touch their bright orangeness.  "They're beautiful."

The older man squinted at my battery.  "Looks original.  If I were  you, I'd high tail it up to Wal-Mart and spend $30 or $40 on a new one."

The car started.

'Just let it run 15, 20 minutes," Nascar man said when his dad wasn't looking.

I dug in my pockets.  "Can I give you twenty bucks?"

The man swatted air.  "Pa-lease."

I bit my lip.  "A hug then?"

He opened his arms. 

"Thank you so much, you guys," I said.  "You saved the day."

My daughter knocked on the windshield.

"I best be going," I said as I opened the car door.  "Have a nice life."

I glanced over at my daughter as we climbed a monstrous mountain between here and there.

"You know Jesus has kissed us twice on this trip."

She didn't look up from her AP biology book.

"I know," she said.  "I just hope he kisses me one more time."

I was pretty sure I knew what she was talking about--the ring.

Two days ago, I had walked into my favorite jewelry store.  I showed a picture of the ring to the store owner.

"A heart, a cross and a key," he said.  "It's clearly Christian, but what does it mean?"

"It's a promise ring," I said.

The jeweler shook his head.  "No, it's not.  A promise ring is a ring with a tiny diamond that tells a young lady a guy intends to marry her someday."

I took my jean jacket off and laid it on the glass case. 

"Actually," I said.  "It's a purity ring."

The jeweler squinted.  "A purity ring?  What's that mean?"

I pushed my shirt sleeves up and puffed my bangs off my forehead.

"It means she's saving herself for . . . you know . . . marriage."

The jeweler huffed.  "In this day and age?  Whoever heard of such a thing?"

I didn't smile.  "A mother can hope."

The jeweler snorted.  "I grew up in the age where women did that.  Saved themselves for marriage."

He kept talking as he bent to examine a stack of catalogs.  "Every woman I've ever talked to said she wished she hadn't waited."

I put my hands on the glass case.  "I wish I'd waited."

The jeweler paused his searching and looked up.  "You do?"

I nodded.  "That's something you can only give away once.  I wish I'd given it to my husband, instead of . . . "

The jeweler massaged his jaw.  "Wow," he said.  "That's really nice."

I looked at my hands on the case.  I touched my wedding ring, then the  ring my husband gave me for Mother's Day the year our middle child was born.

The jeweler stood.  "You still married to him?"

I nodded and pointed to the blue opal ring on my left hand.

"He bought this here, remember?"  I said.  "For our twentieth anniversary."

The jeweler lifted my hand to his face.  "Him?  Ah, he's a good guy."

We looked through the books for religious rings.  We saw faith, hope, and charity charms.  Star of David rings.  Crucifixes, with and without Jesus on them.

The jeweler closed the last catalog.  "No purity rings,"  he said.  "I can make one.  Engrave a signet ring with the heart, cross, and key."

I headed for the door.  "I'll get back to you."

The college tour guide was not earning his keep. 

I leaned over and whispered in my daughter's ear.  "Wanna cut out?" I said.  "I'd rather go back over that mountain today than tonight."

She yawned.  "Yeah.  Let's."

We found the Honda in the vast commuter parking lot.  I held my breath as I turned the key in the ignition.  Success.

Before I backed out, I handed the Mapquest directions to my daughter.

"Basically, we're going to follow 'em in reverse," I said.  

She turned to the last page.  "We need Route 29 West," she said.  "Turn right at the second stop light."

After the second stop light, that's when I saw it.  The Lifeway store.  I flipped my turn signal on just seconds before I whipped the car into the parking lot.

My daughter clutched the grab handle over her window.  "What are you doing?"

"This is your third kiss," I said.

"How do you know?"

I smiled as I put the car in park.  "Just a feeling."

There they were.  Up by the cash registers.  Not one but two.  Two different styles of heart, cross, key rings.  The sign said, "Ask cashier to order your size."

My daughter flipped the display case back and forth.  "Which one do you like better?"

I shook my head.  "It's your ring."

"I like this one.  It's--"

"More delicate.  More feminine."

She smiled.

The salesperson took it out of the case.  "We can mail it to you in your size, but it'll take a few weeks."

I leaned against the counter.  "If this one fits, can she have it?"

The salesperson took the ring out of the box.  "Sure.  If it fits."

I put my hand on my chest.  My daughter slid the ring on, gave it a nudge to get it over her knuckle. 

She extended her arm and smiled at the ring.  "It's perfect."

I grinned.  "Awesome, but you can't wear it home.  You have to wait 'til Easter."

Her lower lip came out.  I shut my eyes and shook my head.

"Oh, okay," she said. 

Out in the car, she opened her phone.

"Who you texting?" I said.


"What are  you saying?"

She smiled at the keyboard.  "I'm telling him Jesus is the best kisser ever."

1 comment:

Pam Andrews Hanson said...

Brought tears to my eyes!


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