By RHONDA SCHROCK
I never saw it coming. Not as a girl growing up on the Kansas plains. Not as a bride relocating to the North. Not as the young mother of a string of boys spaced like an octogenarian’s teeth.
Big life changes, I’ve learned, often come unannounced. You live your life one day, one laundry load at a time, and a door opens. One thing leads to another, and suddenly you find yourself on the phone with a Mr. James Kroemer, then-publisher of The Goshen News. Who asks the question that terrifies you the most, “Can you sustain it?” Now, five years later, we both know the answer.
It was on Nov. 5, 2007, that the first column appeared on page three, Monday edition. To this day, I find it surreal, seeing words scratched longhand in a girlish notebook at the coffee shop appearing in newsprint. There, they open a window into the life of one ordinary mother and her ordinary family.
What a trip it’s been, and how wonderful you’ve been to share it with me. When we first began, our sons were nearly 18, 14, 9 and 17 months. Now, they’re nearly 23, 19, 14 and 6. They were in high school, middle school, elementary school and diapers. One was driving and working, and collectively the four of them worked to drive their mom to the brink. Or so it seemed on certain days when the coffee ran low.
One of the greatest joys of writing has been hearing from readers. Men and women, young and old, married and single, you’ve let me know that you’re reading. “We laugh and we cry, but mostly we laugh.” That’s what you’ve said.
Me, too. Me first, in fact, for countless times I’ve found myself doing those very things as the ballpoint pen moved across the page.
Perhaps there’s consolation in knowing you’re not alone. In hearing from a girl who doesn’t have it all together.
In reading the stories of one family who isn’t always Sunday sharp. Who doesn’t always get it right. Who often gets it wrong, but who loves each other and trusts the Lord in spite of everything. Perhaps knowing that you’re normal is a gift.
If there’s anything we are, we six, it’s normal. Here, kids fight, dirty dishes pile up, teens take driver’s ed and parents pray. Then I write about it, and you on your couches, you nod your heads, “Yes, that’s how it is,” and you feel understood. Me, too.
When a small Picasso used white walls as his canvas and I was forever washing down limbs decorated in green marker. When that infernal butterfly stamp keep appearing, again on the walls, you understood.
When I told how floors trembled when the natives got restless. How they’d run the Indy 500 right around the dining room table. How they’d wallow and pound and their dad, sometimes he was the worst, you understood that, too.
Then came potty training, and I spilled it out. How I was afraid it wouldn’t happen. Afraid he’d get to college. Scared he’d join the work force, all without learning this skill. And then it happened.
“Houston, we have a tinkle!” I shouted in that week’s column. And you — bless you — you cheered, too. Thank you for that.
When I took a great, big risk and confessed my not-love for football, I was ready. When I analyzed the sport and said, “Looks like Keep Away, Tag and Kick the Can to me,” I was poised to jump straight into Witness Protection. But instead of stoning, you laughed, and I canceled the call. Thank you for that, too.
You were gracious (you were) when I ran for president in 2008. “I think a mother of boys could straighten out this mess,” I said, and I laid out my platform.
To the seven of you who promised your votes, deepest gratitude. It wasn’t my year, I know that now. But thank you anyway.
From the ups and downs of marriage to big family milestones, you’ve ridden along. When we dropped College Kid off at school — and drove away — it was hard. We cried. Then I shared it, and you did, too.
The week that one son lost his beagle beloved, it touched your hearts, and one of you emailed, “I know of a beagle…” How kind.
You were there, too, through a scary diagnosis and a trip to Riley. You prayed (oh, thank you) and rejoiced with us at the “all is well.”
When two neighbors passed unexpectedly, I wrote about being ready to die. You mourned with us. And took that piece into factories and offices, and the gospel of Christ was advanced. Bless you.
Into prison. Into churches. To British Columbia and other states. To your neighbors and family members, you’ve sent the words of a girl who didn’t know she was a writer. Who flies by the seat of her pants. Who relies on grace and grace alone to do the work.
Thank you, Mr. Kroemer, for taking the chance. Thank you, Goshen News, for keeping me here. Thank you, lovely readers, for following along.
Rhonda Schrock’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.