Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Plastic Jewelry, Water Pistols and The Power of Prayer

My grandmother’s family emigrated to the United States when she was a very small child. Her family was among the first settlers in Mason County and the old homestead is still in the family. Some of the best memories of my early childhood are of times spent with my older sister, wandering the farm, picking gigantic raspberries from the garden, playing hide and seek in the old farmhouse and burying ourselves in the hayloft. In that old house, my grandmother used to give Julie and me a penny for every daddy long leg nest we destroyed and a nickel for every daddy long leg…not per leg, per spider. Even though she didn’t get any extra money for it, Julie sometimes plucked off all but one of the spiders’ legs and watched the poor creatures “walk” in endless circles. I know. It’s pretty mean, but don’t worry folks. Spiders were the only animals Julie ever tortured. And she grew up to be relatively normal. (*grin*)

Anyway, there were a lot of spiders in that old house and we’d wander around that gigantic old farm house gathering up a small fortune...it was a fortune when you are five years old in the seventies, or if you were a grandmother who was born 1898. My family was almost entirely self-sufficient, so money for us kids was only for candy, plastic jewelry and water pistols (…or the college fund, of course.)

I loved water pistols. Today I would really like a small one that fits in a holster on my hips (without leaking and making me look like I should have worn a diaper.) I love to squirt things. It brings me so much satisfaction to squirt my cats when they are naughty…if I can find the silly bottle. That’s why I need the little pistol in a holster…so I can be quick on the draw. PSSSHHHHHHT! Take THAT! It’s a favorite game for me. All my kitties like to go places they are not supposed to go and do things that aren’t fitting for a cat…at least not a proper, well-mannered cat. That’s when I have my fun and someone gets drenched. Hahahaha. And still they do it again and again…over and over…always thinking that I’m not looking. But usually I know what they are doing without looking. I can feel it, like a naughtiness ESP. I just know. It is a psychic gift driven by my intense need to squirt something...and then PSSSSHHHHHHT! HAHA!

I remember one time my cousin, Tara and I prayed and prayed and prayed that my dad would come home from his outing with water pistols for us. That just sounded like the funnest thing there could EVER possibly be to do in the entire universe on a warm day…to squirt each other with water guns. We had an idea. We prayed and prayed and prayed, wandering around the yard barefoot in the cool glistening green grass. The grass in my memory was such a bright green that it was practically glowing and all the grass I’ve seen ever since appears brown in comparison. It was beautiful and sunny that day…the perfect day…green and fresh…and did I mention GREEN?…and we were walking from the shade of one tree arm in arm, to the shade of another tree, praying in earnest for these insignificant water pistols.

Finally we heard my dad’s car coming down the hill a quarter of a mile away and turning onto our road. We ran to meet him and as he sped towards the driveway we chased his car back up the driveway to the house. He never said a word as he got out of the car and we followed him into the house where he pulled out a brown paper bag, and unbelievably he had brought us each a water pistol. Tara’s gun was neon pink and mine was fluorescent nuclear green and shaped like a blimp. A water-loaded neon green blimp. In the years to come I squirted a lot of things and people with that gun…even though half of the water leaked out the bottom before you could squirt anybody with it…and it was no match for the garden hose of course…but it was well loved…and it probably cost under a dollar.

I kept that thing long after it broke. It was in the top drawer of my dresser when I went away to college. My mom unwittingly threw it out, not knowing that I had saved it because it was a symbol to me of something very important…something that I forgot about for a while when I became and adult…when I no longer had these symbols around me to remind me…when life’s worries kept me distracted…when it was MY responsibility to take care of all my needs. When she threw out the pistol it was as if my faith followed behind and it took years for me to find it again.

Recently I remembered that green day on a sunny day when the grass outside was looking spectacularly bright. I felt so silly when I remembered that naive little girl praying so hard to God for something as trivial as a water pistol, but then I remember why Tara and I had done it. It was an experiment. We wanted to see if when we prayed together with all of our might, as hard and as long as we possibly could without giving up or stopping, if our prayers would be answered.

Now, I had asked my father a few times for a water pistol. I asked him for a lot of things…that was nothing new. The answer was almost always "no." We were anti-materialists. The theory was: if you give in to a child or give them "things" that they ask for and do not need without a special occasion to warrant it, then you will spoil them. That was my dad’s way of thinking. Saying, "No." was like saying, "I love you." And I really appreciate him for that. But for some reason on that particular day the answer was, "Yes." It was so unlike my dad to pander to our childish whims, so this was a major reinforcement of our faiths. Today I realize that maybe the reason God answered that silly little prayer was so that on a day like today, and yesterday, and tomorrow I will remember the power of prayer…on a day when my needs are far greater than a water pistol…but yet another day that prayer has provided me with what I have asked for.

By Jennifer Shipley

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