The First Day of the Rest of My Life
By Liz Hoyt Eberle
"Equinox" was not a good name, especially for my grandmother; so I am glad her parents named her "Spring."
She was born on the first day of spring and it was easy for her to live up to the name. She was happy, joyful, and loved newness of life, especially springtime. So when the weather began to warm up, look out! She made cakes in the shape of lambs, covering them in coconut icing and was just itching for the dirt to warm up so she could dig in the garden. She planted zinnias and geraniums and she and Granddad had as much fun getting the garden ready as two little kids in a candy store.
Of course, I was born on the first day of spring so Grannie loved having two Springs in the family. There were always two birthday cakes and Grannie made a new dress for me every spring. We loved our birthdays.
Things changed when Pearl Harbor was bombed and my daddy joined the Marines. Mama always said, "Charlie just had to do the right thing."
I was only five when he died somewhere in the Pacific at the end of the war, so I had to be strong, the big sister, the example. Joy seemed to evaporate and I got very strong.
In high school, the other kids teased, "Well, lookie here; Spring arrived in December this year."
When I had my first date for the Spring Formal, I was late, so my escort grinned at my step-dad, Paul, "Spring is late this year!"
Everyone had a laugh – even Grannie Spring, so I decided there would be no more dances. Grannie approved of that, being a Baptist and all.
Grannie and I had lots of special talks, but she always got to the Jesus part. I would pat her arm and say, "Yeah, but Grannie, there’s lots of time for that." I learned to tune out her lectures – when to smile, when to nod, when to pretend to look at the old Bible she always had by her chair, and I promised to think about it.
My name was never fun, but life stomped on me. I didn’t know why Daddy had to die or why Mama nearly collapsed to get a silly college degree. I didn’t know how she could marry Paul or love his boys if she loved Susie and me. Our world was upside down, but I smiled and was nice on the outside; it was the inside pain that got me.
I left college my freshman year, three weeks before Mama knew I was gone. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Failing biology wasn’t all that bad, but English was boring and the boys were jerks, so I caught a bus to Los Angeles, found a job at a café not far from a cheap apartment and set out to live!
My room-mate was fun, but Mary Bell was a Christian. I didn’t know then about Grannie’s prayers.
I made good tips, paid my rent and learned to smoke, drink, dance, flirt and ignore Mary Bell’s lessons on eternal life, like I ignored Grannie Spring’s. I didn’t write home but always sent Grannie Spring a birthday card.
Then the letter came telling me that my beloved half-brother, Paul Jr., was killed in Vietnam. Paul Jr. was funny, intelligent and he always took up for me when kids teased. I loved Paul Jr., but I didn’t go home – even when Paul’s brother Michael came to get me. Instead I got mad.
Grannie Spring and Mary Bell claimed their God was loving, but He took my own daddy, my precious brother and sat by as the world and my life fell apart. My own little brother – 6’4" in bare feet – was gone forever, never to return, never to laugh again, never to pick up our mom and twirl her around the living room, making our Grannie Spring laugh until her gray braids fell to her shoulders. I had loved him with my whole heart. Now he was dead. So alcohol became my world.
I lost my job. Mary Bell got married, but I could make good money selling flowers on street corners. Being seven months pregnant, people felt sorry for me … and I flaunted it!
The best corner to sell my flowers was a few doors from a Salvation Army place. They let me come in to rest and were nice to me, but they had to tell me about Jesus. I decided it was smart to act interested instead of telling them I had grown up on all the Bible stories and did not believe a single one.
I didn’t drink or smoke as much while I was pregnant, mostly because the Salvation Army wouldn’t let me sleep inside if I smoked. One of the ladies who wore those silly bonnets looked out for me and one day she said, "Spring, it’s getting close to your time. Do you know who the father of your baby is?"
I had been at the bottom of the barrel, but I knew the father of my child. He could do nothing and I had made sure he did not know. So I looked at the floor and whispered, "No, of course not."
"Have you decided what you are going to do about your baby."
"Well, I thought I made a good decision when I didn’t kill it. People told me to get rid of it and I had the money then, but something inside wouldn’t let me. That’s about as far as I’ve thought."
The lady talked to me a long time, and found a clinic where I could give birth and be helped to find a family to adopt my baby.
The weather began to get warm and for the first time I listened when she talked about Jesus. I even made Him Lord of my life and knew He loved me –
even if I was giving away the blood of my blood, my own, tiny, beautiful, baby girl. She was born on the first day of spring, and I wanted to go home.
My body got strong pretty quick and I went back to work. I knew there would always be a hole in my heart, but now I had Someone to help carry my load. So with the last ounce of nerve I had, I headed home.
There was no fatted calf, beautiful ring or party when I arrived. I never told my family about my little Spring … but somehow Grannie knew, because we always had three cakes on the first day of spring.
Weaving stories about everyday people – both real and illusions from her heart – is the "banana pudding" of Liz’s life. Liz knows that special people see their deeds from the inside out and often do not understand that God is using their struggles, joys, failures, heartaches and victories to help other ordinary people walk through life. God nurtures her soul through those people and their stories, so that she can do the "salads and veggies" of her own everydayness with more grace. If you would like to write to Liz, you can do so via the Letters page of this magazine.
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