This Flag’s For You

Ma’s pastor, a woman I’ve wanted to be about that much more progressive than she actually is, did me a favor and blessed the Tibetan prayer flags I had draped around the teapot on the ceremonial, but really plain, stand next to the altar. She laid hands on me, and them, and called us both out by name. I felt her hands, and the hands that had touched her, and the hands that had touched those, and the hands that had touched them, until all of our hands were touching, all the way back to the first comforting touch, which I imagined took place in totally different circumstances than Ma’s pastor regularly envisions.

I believe this is called grace.

During the memorial, we had each of us stood up and remembered things aloud. Each memory heartwarming and familiar, and the place bobbed with knowing nods. That was my Ma.

My remembrance was a gold tablecloth that came to me in the mail. I showed it to the gathered and read the post-it note that had come attached to it. Ma knew how to create opportunities for everyday objects, and I read off the dozen or more suggested uses for a gold tablecloth, none of them involving covering a table. I heard everyone dissolve in laughter, then choke up as I wrapped the tablecloth around the teapot and considered the effect.

It set the blue off nicely.

I kept the tablecloth and the flags in my kit and wrapped my head in the former while stringing up the latter on the guywire to the Chime. Many compliments on both. And the wind, always there, began to immediately unravel the flags and carry the blessings they contained into the world. It’s a very simple way of seeding the world with your compassionate intention, if you’re at all metaphysical about it.

Ma wasn’t.

I think she wanted to be, and she met the idea of the prayer flags with great enthusiasm on aesthetic grounds alone. But while I toiled with the knots, the memory came to me of her noticing the grayness of a Payless clerk, engaging her in small talk over the course of routine shopping, coming to find out about the clerk’s struggle with single motherhood, and appearing one day at the end of her register with a bag of groceries, toys, and clothes she thought the clerk might be able to use. Back in January I sent a change of address card to the clerk, who had gone on to remarry and build a successful family and career. She sent Ma holiday and birthday greetings years after all of this had ever taken place.

Payless Clerk. Tibetan Prayer Flags.
Which blows blessings further?

MZ reminded me to wrap the blessed flags separately from the rest we had flown, so I would know which ones had been supercharged by Ma’s pastor, and which ones we could pass out to the donors who invested in our Chime. No need, I said, smiling. Perhaps he thinks I had taken care of it already. But I had mixed them up on purpose to increase the chances of our friends getting their hands on the ones that meant so much to me.

Who knows what will become of them?

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