Sunday, November 12, 2006

Another First

There's nothing like the feeling of a "first". There many firsts in life - the first day of school, first kiss, first new home, the birth of the first child.

Some firsts are not nearly as pleasant - the first breakup, the first major illness, the first visit to a dentist. I've survived my first car accident, my first surgery, my first trip in an ambulance, and my first house fire. Last week I experienced another "first".

Last week I traveled to the bustling metropolis of Wasco, California. I ventured out to this small dot of a town just Northwest of Bakersfield for the very same reason most people "visit" Wasco - to see a loved one who is incarcerated in Wasco State Prison. The first thing you notice as you turn left off of Highway 46 onto the prison property is how very familiar everything looks. Not the same kind of familiarity one has with a place they've been before, but rather it is seeing for the first time something up close and personal that you've only seen in films or television dramas. Yes, prisons really are surrounded by tall fences topped with rolled barbed wire. Yes, there really are tall towers standing in the center and on all four corners of the prison yard from which armed officers keep an eagle eye out for the first hint of trouble.

I had received a list of clothing items I COULD NOT wear onto the prison grounds and I went through three or four outfits at home before feeling confident that I wouldn't be denied a visit because of a clothing infraction. I couldn't wear anything that was made of denim and I couldn't wear any shade of blue. If I wore a skirt it had to be a certain length and could not have a slit. I couldn't wear a bra that contained any form of under wire or any metal at all. Upon entering the prison I could keep with me just two keys, my ID, and $30 in one dollar bills and/or quarters only.

My visit lasted just one hour and just like in the County Jail, there was a piece of glass between me and my son. I sat in the booth that had been assigned me and looked into the handsome young face of my 21-year old son....a felon. From the moment he was born I called my son, "Angel Face" and when I looked into his sad yet courageous blue eyes, I saw my baby.

Another first.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Winter Growth

It's a yearly ritual. Sometime in late October or early November I cut the lawn in both the front and back yards down as low as the blade on the lawn mower will cut. I then aerate the yard with a chunky garden rake and I throw out the rye grass seed and the fertilizer. In no time at all the yard has a fresh carpet of deep green grass and even though I could take a break from yard work if I didn't plant the rye grass, I choose instead to plant.

I performed this yearly ritual two weeks ago and my neighbor wandered out of his home and over into my yard - presumably just to chat. "You aren't planting rye grass, are ya?” he asked. "I sure am!" I responded. "Better you than me" he said shaking his head as if exhausted.

So, why do I plant the rye grass? Is it because I am just vain enough to want my yard to look good all year long? No...that's not it. I've experienced a lot of winters in my life - seasons that have been cold and lonely. In fact, it seems that I've been in a cold and dormant season for a particularly long time. I look for hope, however - small patches of green that tell me even in the winters of life, there can still be growth. The rye grass gives me hope and reminds me that no matter how dark the day is, there is life and there is tomorrow.