Empty water bottles and overdue library books roll backward, then forward on the floor of the passenger seat as I pull up to my parents’ eclectic, dated abode and shift into park.
After grabbing my stuff from the back seat, I climb out of my SUV that has duct tape holding together the side view mirror. There on the other side of the car, as always, perched next to the big tree that shades their driveway, is the little ceramic deer with an old bandage wrapped around one of its shoddy ears.
I gently kick the truck door shut with my foot, holding a casserole for my parents in one hand and my usual bag of cleaning supplies in another. Then I walk around the car, stop and say, as I often do, “Hello Deer with the Broken Ear.”
I assure you I don’t make a habit of talking to lawn ornaments (or of referring to others by their physical attributes). But I like to think Deer with the Broken Ear and I have a certain rapport.
My dad, not big on discarding things, rescued the kind-eyed figurine twenty years ago from a neighbor’s garbage can.
In my dad’s defense, typically he doesn’t go around digging in other people’s trash. But he does have a habit of making a home for that which needs a little tender loving care.
So for those of us who know him well, it came as no surprise that he reached in and scooped out that forsaken deer and that my Mom fetched a bandage to swathe the most tender of its two chipped ears.
I’m proud to know the two people who brought me into this world saw as much virtue and lovableness in that fragmented deer, if not more, as collectibles that are perceived as perfectly whole.
The four-legged champ has been enduring the Minnesota snowdrifts by the big tree without complaint ever since, watching steadfastly it’s adoptive parents, the adult children, the grand kids, the UPS guys, come and go.
Oh the stories that deer could tell! Stories of the man and woman who live inside who’ve shared a lifetime of love and loss together. Stories in the faces of the family members who take time from complex, imperfect lives to pull up this driveway and help mend brokenness along the way.
The Deer with the Broken Ear wasn’t the first nor the last of the wounded warriors taken in by my dad and lovingly tolerated by my mom. Nearby is also a headless turtle, a paint-chipped country boy, and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in a tattered tunic and no shoes (not to mention the myriad of handcrafted misfits inside the house).
I’ll admit, I have on occasion indulged in the fantastical thought of that humbled pack of porcelain coming to life to watch over my parents—in need of a little tender loving care now, too, their hair turned white as the snowdrifts—when my siblings or I can’t be there to do so ourselves.
I suspect they would, if they could, do anything to safeguard the two people who gave them a home—that charitable, apt tall guy in paint-stained blue jeans never short on enterprising ideas and his smart, luminous wife of sixty years who comes and goes now in a chair on wheels and whose legendary laugh is known to erupt from her like fizzy pop.
But let’s face it. Even a day-dreamin’, right-brained girl like me realizes Deer with the Broken Ear and his porcelain pals are just a bunch of lawn ornaments. So, I whisper up frequent prayers for safekeeping instead.
“Goodbye Deer with the Broken Ear,” I say, as I often do when it’s time for me to go home and tend to my own set of yearlings, already two teens and a tween.
Again, I do not make a habit of talking to lawn ornaments. But to me, Deer with the Broken Ear is more than a slab of molded enamel. It’s an emblem. A symbol. A representation. A reminder. Not only of the lovable family legacy from which I came, but also of the brokenness in which true beauty and hope are found.
We’ve all got some brokenness going on in our lives in some form or another. Not one of us gets out of this life unscathed. But when we look closely inside the crushed heart, the shredded dream, the splintered hope, we’ll discover that’s where a lot of the magnificent details are. It’s where the real work of the Sculptor is taking place.
The beauty isn’t necessarily found in the fragmented pieces themselves. Rather, it’s found in the humbled rising up and pouring out from them. For there’s no greater glimpse of hope and what’s yet to come, at least from where I stand, than those reaching out of their own brokenness to reach into the brokenness of another.
Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, editor, and mom of two teens and a tween. This blog, Carvings on a Desk, is where she reconnects with her own voice as she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.
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