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A Missionary in a Turquoise Polyester Dress

March 9, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a repeat, and I'd heard it before, but -- like looking, really looking, at my face in a mirror -- time has passed and I'm older and there are things I hadn't noticed, or had noticed but forgotten. It's all familiar, and when something's familiar you don't have to think so hard.

The part of the show I hadn't noticed the first time around (though I may have been in the bathroom or shoveling the walk, or maybe I had one of those mini-comas that take you out and bring you back before anyone notices) was the song by Suzy Bogguss. I think it was called "Letting Go" -- a song about her daughter moving out of the house. Of course, I thought about the kids and got a bit misty, but that's a long way off and there are times I wish for that day, believe me. No, I was thinking about letting go in general and how easy it can be when you're trout fishing or having a growth removed. It gets more difficult when pets are involved, or red tricycles, or vacation plans.

And then there are people, whom you don't really let go. Not the ones you learn from. They return to you. Some like a mark of punctuation, some like a season, and some like the top 100 hits of the 1960's. I could give several dozen examples, but the one that comes to mind is how every time I hear "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," there's my old great grandmother Della, who was a missionary for 25 years in Malaysia, sitting in the chair across from me in a turquoise polyester dress, listing all the places she's been and shaking her finger at me, saying, "You only have one life, and if nothing else you must travel the world over and see all there is to see." Now how could I let go of her, or, for that matter, any of the people whose words have made me long for fresh fruit, dance in my kitchen, and buy maps for cities I've yet to see?

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