When I was a little girl, patience was a virtue. Nobody told me that, but so much of my life centered around waiting, working and staying the course. Both my mother and father had a knack for getting kids to work and wait with great patience, and they were experts at making it all seem like a game.
Lots of times us kids waited in the car for Mom or Dad to come out of someplace that they went to do adult business. Sometimes Dad drove us over one of his friend’s house on the way somewhere else. “It’ll just take a minute,” he said. Most farmers borrowed tools and implements, ’cause those things are super-expensive, and nobody can have everything, so borrowing was part of what farmers did. Dad could never just drop off something, he had to talk, and most times his visiting made him forget all about a carload of kids waiting for him. Mom got us going on contests, like sharpening sticks of candy into a fine point like a pencil. Mom declared the winner, the holder of the sharpest point. It was hard to do, ’cause lots of times. just when I thought I had it made in the shade, the tip broke off in my mouth and I had to start over. That was a sweet game.
Dad played a game kinda like that with red-hot jawbreakers; only with jawbreakers, it was a contest to suck down to the center without biting and to show all the different colored layers. I bet most kids would be surprised to find out that about a dozen different colors get layered one on top of the other on a jawbreaker. I had to take it slow, and pop that jawbreaker in and out looking it over for a new color. Of course if I bit it in half, voilà, there is a rainbow of color; but then I’d lose the game. There’s no starting over with a jawbreaker. I wondered about the patience it took to make those jawbreakers: dipping and coating and drying layer after layer. That would be at least as hard as cleaning off those old bricks Dad got for Mom’s new fireplace. Now that was a job that took patience, ’cause just as I got all the mortor off, a piece of the brick crumbled off in my hands and I had to start over. That was tough.
The hardest game of all was “1-2-3 Quiet as a Mouse.” Dad might be driving us over to Uncle Merle’s or to Grandma Z’s or maybe even way up North to our camping trip when he shouted out, “1-2-3 Quiet as a Mouse,” and us kids zipped our lips and didn’t let out a peep for miles. I liked to talk, that’s for sure, but I liked to win even more. Anyone who talked was “out.” I had even more trouble keeping quiet once somebody else was free to talk, ’cause my insides just begged to join in the conversation. I could feel words just bubbling around inside my lungs, and sometimes right behind that hangy-down thing at the back of my throat. I swear sometimes I could feel words vibrating inside me begging to be heard.
Dad told me fishing took a lot of patience, ’cause those fish were swimming down there under water, nosing up to the bait, looking it over, trying to decide if it was a trap or for real. I had to sit still as a statue and feel for the line to move. I could sit like that a long time, imagining fish nudging each other, daring to take a nibble, then backing up, and trying again. Sometimes Dad was ready to give up, and I’d think, maybe one more minute and that fish would have his nerve up enough to chomp down hard. I knew how to fish, ’cause I knew how to wait. Well, to be honest, I knew how to see success in my mind’s eye, too, that helped a lot with the waiting part.
Patient perseverance seems to be a lost art. There’s so much to do; fast-paced is much more the norm. Yet, stilling myself and believing that everything that must be done will be done, fills me with peace. Then things start to bubble up inside me again, and I want to rush to the other side of my goal. Of course I could miss the rainbow of sweetness that’s waiting to be revealed in the quietness of patience. And there might just be a big fish nibbling around, just out of sight, if I just give it time.