Hello! welcome to a Brand New Secondary Sunday!
You may have noticed that this post is later than the rest… yeah. I just realized that I never actually set a publish date on this and it didn’t actually publish.
Sorry from the author…. now a back to the story:
Hello, I hope you are ready for a brand new Secondary Sunday.
Today’s story is about Sam and Elma. Oh, you don’t know them? Well, of course not. You see, you tend not to notice people around you, and look, I don’t blame you. I understand you were in a… complicated period in your life when the whole Sam and Elma thing happened, so I’m not going to judge you about looking away.
But I guessed that now that you’ve had some time to think (It took you longer than usual to get over that thing… Daisy was beginning to worry, just fyi.) you’ll appreciate a look into what you lost… or well, missed. You hate that word, don’t you?
Lost, like there was something being misplaced in your head.
I’m sorry I used it.
So, here’s something you missed:
This is the Story of Sam and Elma
You’ve seen Sam and Elma several times over the years. That’s not important to the story or to who they are in your narrative. None of what’s happened in your past ultimately is important to any narrative.
So let’s forget about that.
What’s important to Sam and Elma’s story is the period of time in your life about 7 or 8 months ago.
You remember what happened 7 or 8 months ago, right?
Of course you do, silly.
It’d be pointless to tell you about it, since you lived through it.
The immediate past, unlike the rest of your past, is still relevant to your narrative, so of course you haven’t forgotten it.
But enough about you, and that long absence from your own life. This is about Sam and Elma, not you.
Sam and Elma met about 45 years ago. It was sunny, as it often is when people talk about their pasts as if it were a different world altogether, easier, more bearable.
But it was not.
See, it was sunny that day but that doesn’t mean it was an easier time. Nothing is ever easy, especially beginnings. It was beautiful, though, and enchanting, and exhilarating, and yes, scary.
Elma had flowers on her hair. Not daisies or the flowers you see nowadays in festivals and Pinterest or even Instagram (You don’t really use Instagram though, so that’s a moot point), but wild flowers, the kind you see growing in cracks on sidewalks. They were dandelions, tangled on messy curls and trying to hold wild pieces of sunlight against what your gramma would have called a bird’s nest of hair.
They were 16 and they had never heard about a love that wasn’t ingrained in service and humility. Sam will never forget the way Elma’s smile looked like on that hot summer day with dandelions on her hair and a long skirt that moved just barely against her long legs.
First impressions are important, you see. Not at first.
When you have them they are like… the feeling of something that might stay with you or might go away. But afterward, when there’s no sun shining on your window and you have a bruised dandelion resting on the palm of your hand, that first impression is everything.
And that twisting feeling in the pit of your stomach that echoed some of your mother’s words about people like Elma, like Elma’s parents, people who weren’t safe at the time.
Sam remembers all that, but they’re not what they used to be. There’s no regret over not talking to her, or even offering help when Susan bumped into her not so accidentally and knocked off some of her books. There’s also less nerves, less of an impatient bird beating wings against a caged chest. Now there’s just… fondness, but also nostalgia.
Sam wishes things had been easier back then, that seeing a girl laughing on the other side of the street had felt more like the thrill of something exciting and less like the bruising of a muscle you don’t remember ever having.
It’s not even easy now, but easier.
They’re celebrating their 45th anniversary right now. You’re sitting nearby. You’re on a quiet restaurant, it’s about 7 or 8 months in the past so you know you’re not paying attention to the two elderly women a little bit to your left. They’re holding hands and talking in hushed whispers about flowers in hairs and dimples in flushed cheeks.
If you’d look around you would notice that one of them greets you every morning on the way to school. Her name’s Elma, and she owns the flower shop right outside your department complex.
You would think that you’re the kind of person who would normally not notice a woman with a name tag that say Elma, who holds flowers the way people hold hands. But she’s always been nice to you, and you remember thinking about how kind her brown eyes were that time you bumped into her on your way to meet– you know who you were meeting. She held your arm to stop you from falling, the flowers she had so carefully fixed into a bouquet to place in the baskets outside bruised when they hit the ground. She dropped them as if you were more important than the things she held the way others love: tenderly, quietly, fiercely.
She said, “hey, there. Be careful.” And she smiled.
You smiled as well. And you thought that she looked the way grandmothers look in storybooks. You also noticed the small rainbow pin on her blouse right next to the Black Lives Matter one, both were close to her heart, and how her dark skin didn’t look dulled by age.
You thanked her, and almost like the action was new to you, you bent down, picked up the slightly less lively bouquet and held it to her body.
“Oh,” she giggled, “this is the first time a boy ever gives me flowers.”
You laughed at that, like you were in on the joke, and then carried on your way.
She still smiles at you every day and sometimes hands you flowers if you’re not busy. It’s been a rough couple of months though, so her smiles often go by unseen.
It’s okay. She gets enough appreciation at home where Sam often waits for her with dinner or takeout, depending on how the mood is.
(Elma would tell you that she likes the takeout days better, only because they remind her of past days. They weren’t easier days, but they were sweet on their way.)
Elma remembers a time when every day was takeout day. When touching was sacred but also forbidden, days where Sam would often go quiet… days where phone calls were limited and a parent’s love was hard bought. They weren’t easy days, any day is hardly an easy day. But back then it seemed even harder, scarier, like any word would make the simple tower of hard decisions topple to the ground. Elma knew the ripple would take them down as well.
She often thought she was being unfair, to Sam. Life was harder for Elma that’s true, but it didn’t have to be hard for Sam. Sam whose only mistake was to have looked the wrong way one sunny afternoon and locked eyes with a girl so far removed from Sam’s own reality that she smiled at her.
Maybe if Elma had kept her smile and her eyes to herself Sam wouldn’t have had to lose so much.
But Sam doesn’t care about that. Sam cares about the fact that she fell in love with a girl on a sunny afternoon just after catching a single glimpse of her features. The silences and distance, and hollow chests that followed weren’t even a price to pay… they were bad but they never made her question her affections.
What Sam cares about is that after 45 years she could go over and grab a table in a nice, quiet restaurant to celebrate 45 years of knowing each other. 45 years of laughter, of love, of carefully tucking careless limbs against soft bodies in the morning.
What Sam cares about is that she could sit down on a table and hold her wife’s hand. 45 years ago she was still afraid of what it meant to even touch her accidentally when they met to study. And now, now she could go over to talk to her friends and tell them about the wonderful things her wife had done. She could smile at her students when they asked about the ring on her finger or the background on her phone and say, “oh, that’s my wife Elma.”
She lives for the small moments when one of her students lights up and tells her about her own Elma, her best friend who means so much more than simply that.
Elma smiles when she hears about it.
She understands the importance of what’s happened. She knows how beautiful and impossible their lives are.
She knows how lucky she’s been.
As she sits on a table on a quiet restaurant, looking into the eyes of the woman that showed her that true love was a thing, and that the heart truly grows fonder with the years, she knows that she would never change a thing about their lives.
The past was hard, the present is not always easy. But she would live this life ten times over if it meant she’d get to keep even a third of the happiness Sam and her have had through the years.
She looks up at you as the thought enters her head, and she smiles. She recognizes on your hands the same hesitance she once felt when she was younger. She wishes you knew that things get better, that the heart heals and loves and breaks and beats and never, ever stays the same.
But you’re you, and you’re worried about something else.
Your hands are shaking… and for some reason you think about that girl from your high school days and what happened to her.
What did happen to her? You don’t remember.
You don’t remember much.
Sam and Elma don’t remember much, but they remember the important parts. They remember the things that hurt and the ones that made happy. They remember the feeling of warms arms encasing shaking bodies, and numb fingers walking slow paths across sweaty bodies.
You will once remember good things too.
Life is not all about bad things.
Just look at the women to your left, look at the way their fingers twine and breaths echo each other. Just think about a past, a recent past when even that single point of contact was dangerous, difficult. Think of your own careful breaths and the way your mouth formed a smile when you picked up Elma’s flowers.
Think of Daisy and Mr. Fluffkins III.
Life is not all about bad stories, but you must live it in order to think back on it.
So breathe, and remember to look, even at the wrong side of the street, you never know what will happen in the next 45 years that now seems impossible.