90: Remember the Watermelons

90: Remember the Watermelons

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Remember the Watermelons

Faith is reason grown courageous.

~Sherwood Eddy

I am scared out of my mind. A big, fat-knuckled hand grabs my throat, and I feel like I’m choking. I’m off balance, dizzy, and lightheaded with fear, shaky and unfocused. You might wonder what has predicated this terror. Did I just learn I’m facing a fatal disease? Am I the victim of a violent crime and having flashbacks of a masked man lurking in the shadows?

No. I’m simply getting married in mid-life. Okay, late mid-life. I thought this was what I’d wanted for so long, but it’s five days before my wedding and I can taste dread in my soul. I know I should be happy, excited even, but for now, my fears are front and center. I’ve been through this before. Although it was a brief marriage, a lifetime ago, I know the pain of separating, extricating oneself from another and divorcing. Remnants of that pain still resonate deep in my psyche.

So what am I really afraid of? I ask myself that question in calmer moments. My first response: It will go badly. We’ll be perpetually angry with each other; our home will reek of tension and silence. We’ll become strangers, disconnected from one another. Or worse, screaming and yelling will become our mode of talk. That image is familiar as I know I lived it growing up. Don’t get me wrong; there were some carefree, happy times when my parents seemed relaxed. I can even recall moments of affectionate teasing between them, and I would giggle at their playfulness. But there are too many memories of walking on eggshells, feeling sad and nervous, wondering why they couldn’t just get along.

Now my logic tells me I don’t have to repeat prior experiences. As a psychotherapist, I even stress this to my patients. “You don’t have to carry on the tradition,” I tell them when they express their fears they will not be adequate parents, or lovers or partners. “You can do things differently,” I encourage. I try to focus on my own advice, wanting desperately to believe I have the power to create something better. I realize it’s not all up to me, but I do have a significant contribution to the state of the marriage. I also know that when all is said and done, it’s a leap of faith we all take when we make a life commitment.

Faith. My mind drifts to a recent experience with my fourteen-year-old daughter. Several months ago, she planted watermelon seeds by the side of our small, red brick home. Picture this: little sun, thin, dry soil, crumbly to the touch and weeds sprouting everywhere. I tried my best to dissuade her. “Why don’t you plant flowers in the front yard? Or what about tomatoes again? They were so sweet and tasty last year.”

She would have nothing of it. She sang as she worked, digging the grainy dirt to bury the shiny black watermelon seeds. I knew she was in for disappointment, and I wanted desperately to shield her from it.

“Laura,” I said gently, “try not to get your hopes up. It just might not work here. We just don’t have the right kind of soil.”

“Mom,” she said, sighing, “I know the watermelons will grow. It will just take a month or two. You’ll see.”

For weeks, she came home directly from school and rushed to the side of our house, green hose in hand to water the barren ground. Each day when she finished, I gave my little speech. “Don’t get your hopes up, sweetie. This will not be your fault. The ground is just too barren.”

And each day she would sigh as though she were talking to a headstrong child. “Mom, just wait; I know what I’m doing. Have a little faith.”

Two months passed, and my doorbell chimed early one evening. My elderly neighbor was standing there, disbelief shining on her face. She urged me to come outside quickly. I ran to the side of my house and saw three small balls, cradled in dark green vines. Green and white flecks of color streaked across them. I yelled for my daughter, and we both stared at the budding fruit in silence. Then she jumped up and down, a grin bursting on her face. “I told you, I told you. You just need to have a little faith, Mom.”

Faith. I savor the word on my tongue. My hands are shaking as the reality of the next five days hits me. I take several, long, deep breaths, exhaling slowly, allowing bits of calm to seep through my body. Okay, then, I make up my mind resolutely. I will leap off the cliff.

~Bari Benjamin

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