The Ages of Faith

My friend Debra on a visit to the farm 2014

A fragrant night when crabapple trees bloomed outside the Detroit Public Library, a young woman named Debra walked to the podium in the Fine Arts room. My husband and I sat in the audience beside the Loggia’s seven arches.
A new member of Detroit Women Writers, their Annual Spring Readings was the first DWW event I attended. Preoccupied with excitement, I overlooked the Pewabic tiles of the Loggia, unaware the seven arches portrayed Shakespeare’s seven ages of man.
Debra’s voice was like a lullaby. With each turn of phrase and description of her Jewish grandmother, she expressed my affection for my Holiness Pentecostal granny. As Debra heard her grandmother say, “Well, I’ll be!” in approval of her ├ęclairs, so I heard Granny say, “Don’t skin my cake!” when we grandkids scooped up a finger of frosting.
Never had I felt such kinship with a perfect stranger. Debra’s was the only reading I remember of the five winners that spring evening.
I felt honored and unworthy to sit amongst such accomplished women. Yet, Debra’s reflections inspired faith to believe I could also write beautiful words about my granny. With practice and study, perhaps I would have courage and merit to stand before my colleagues and read a memoir.
The ensuing seventeen years, Debra and I have read our stories and poems within critique groups. I’ve studied her writer’s voice, learned from her command of the English language. We’ve shared family histories and sharpened each other’s spirit and will.
We’ve aged gracefully in our empty nests. I’ve read my winning poems and feature stories to guests of the Annual Spring Readings. Debra and her husband have combined their art forms and produced “Picture a Conversation” to stimulate dialogue and goodwill within groups. Her vision is crisp and viable, necessary in a culture obsessed with non-verbal communication.
This week, Debra drove out for the day.  She brought baked apples to top off my quiche and spinach salad. We sat at the kitchen table five luxurious hours, our hearts open to one another. Ever her wise self, she spoke of learning from hardship, of its purpose. We spoke the same language of loss and gain within generations.
In nonchalance she said, “Eliot and Elizabeth are going to have a baby.”
           I jumped from my seat and hugged her. “You’re going to be a grandmother! How could you hold such great news?”
           “I’m practicing self-control. I’ll need it when the baby comes. They live only seven miles away.” She waved a hand in mock dismissal. “Who wants a mewling infant, anyway?”
           I smiled. “You sound like Shakespeare.”
           “It’s intentional, but I left out the puking.”
           “I appreciate that.”
           Dear Reader, I recalled where we first met in the Fine Arts room, the Loggia to our side. My writer’s mind and heart were young and tender, hungry for someone like Debra to befriend.
           In our fifth age, we face uncertainty with courage. As she emailed the next day—“The more years I spend on this earth, faith is the only answer.”