[Summer 2012] Bonnie Raitt, now 62, has a new album out and one reviewer described it like this: “Bonnie Raitt’s voice is even better with more miles on it, still sounding like the sonic equivalent of a glass of Southern Comfort.” [Allen Morrison reviewing her new album “Slipstream” April 2, 2012] What a great phrase! To my way of thinking, the comparison could not be more spot-on. But in this decade of craft beer and Merlot I wonder if the metaphor might be lost on some.
I saw Bonnie Raitt before she was legend at some old ballroom downtown Minneapolis in the mid 70’s. She kept a standing-room-only crowd mesmerized singing the blues like we had never heard before with pure lyrics in warm tones oh so familiar. Really … just like a glass of Southern Comfort.
For me a reflection about alcohol could potentially take a number of turns and twists. After all, my dad got his 1 year Alcoholics Anonymous pin at the tender age of 80 and I watched my mother cry over his drinking until she died. She never did get to see him clean and sober. My husband’s dad went through the spin-dry once a year for five years after his wife of 28 years divorced him because she finally just couldn’t take it anymore. It could be argued that Karl and I have a little bit of baggage when it comes to drinking. It also could be argued that there might be some generational tendencies at play in our home. We probably need to remind ourselves to be a little careful about that from time to time.
Last summer when our family began to unravel at the seams, Karl and I began to lick our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves. This of course involved wine. Nightly wine.
I remember one evening in particular; we took a bottle of red into our side yard with two over-sized titanium glasses. We settled into our pastel Adirondack chairs under the big Oak tree and poured ourselves each a two-glass glass. We began to commiserate, trying in vain to solve problems that were clearly not ours to solve. In other words we were having ourselves a first class pity party. And you know what they say about self-pity: it’s like peeing in your pants on a cold winter’s day; a very warm feeling for a very short time.
It was a perfect summer evening; a warm breeze rustling through the oak leaves above us, gently stirring the bamboo coconut wind chime my sister gave me. The musical strains of Amos Lee’s “Mission Bell” were lilting from next door.
We have the BEST neighbors all around us; every one of them in every direction. Tom and Allison, our neighbors to the north, have outdoor speakers mounted under their gutters so we get the benefit of the music they play. Love. It. They also installed a sprinkler system to cover the area around the limestone stone fire pit they built on our property line. It’s gorgeous, complete with two-tier seating made of foundation stones of an old barn. The fire pit is 11 feet across and 3 feet deep. It’s such a beautiful setting … no kidding … we’re talking Architectural Digest kind of beautiful.
So there we sat in Adirondack chairs, on a pretty summer night, on our pretty little street, listening to “Windows Are Rolled Down”, sipping Malbec and crying in our beer. It had been a TRYING year and we were TRYING to make sense of it all. What the heck was going on with our kids? Last year they were normal everyday boys, raised with love in the suburbs. This year, all of a sudden, they are either in jail or pregnant, having been secretly involved with drugs and sex.
WHAT. THE. HECK.
How will we make sense of this?
What are we going to do?
What’s going to happen?
How can we trust God with this?
Didn’t we tell them?
Over and over?
How could they not get it?
How could they do this to us?
How could they derail their young lives like this?
We had laid out a cake-walk for them, now they will have it so hard.
Waa. Waa. Waa. Sip. Sip. Sip. Waa. Waa. Waa.
The sun set. Fireflies flickered across the yard. Bats began to dive-bomb mosquitoes. Suddenly we noticed we no longer heard music; Amos Lee had been replaced by deafening tree frogs and cicadas. Heeaay! I pick up my cell to text Tom, “Hey, where’s our music? We’re still out here. Turn the music back on.” Before I could press SEND, another sound joined the chorus. Whaassssshhhh. We strained to identify the sound, when louder … WHAAASSSHHHH. Suddenly it made sense. We both caught it in the side of the head full force. The lawn sprinkler had come to life. At point blank range. From the grassy knoll. We couldn’t help but laugh out loud, scramble for our titanium, and run for cover.
Back inside our house, I giggled as I dabbed at one side of my dripping head with a dry towel, wiping mascara running down one side of my face.
I stared into the mirror. “Ok”, I thought, “enough is enough. Even inanimate lawn equipment could tell that it was time for us to stop moaning over things we had no control over. Our kids’ predicaments were clearly were not ours and rehashing it over and over was never going to change that fact.
It occurred to me that they didn’t need us to fix it for them. They didn’t need us to nag them about it. They didn’t need us to make them feel judged. And they certainly didn’t need to see us glassy-eyed every night.
What they needed was to know that we would love them forever no matter what. They needed to know they would have a soft place to land when this all blew over. They needed to know their folks were stronger than this unexpected turn of events and they could count on us.
None of that was going to come from us the repeating the generational tendencies of our fathers. After all, if they couldn’t see us trusting God with them, how could they ever learn to trust God with their own lives?
So as warm and welcoming a glass of Southern Comfort might seem, as relaxing as a glass … make that a bottle … of Malbec may be at day’s end, what this family needed to get through this was a straight shot of clear thinking and a little mercy chaser.