"My horoscope tells me I am going to have a really really great year"
Not knowing how to respond to that type of a statement I ask
"Oh, what kind of sign are you?"
Not that I know anything about zodiac signs.
"Well I'm a scorpio, but I like the Libra's horoscopes better, so I tend to read those"
Irene was named, yes after the song. She asked her mother why she named her after that stupid song and the mother responded "well I was named Bertha and my friends always called me Bert, so Irene is a step up"
I've never met Irene, until yesterday when she was walking across the safeway parking lot and my collegue screamed "IRENE!!!!!" and ran out to give her a hug.
She came into the store and introduced herself to me and told me the story above. At 70 +, she had the dark leather skin of someone who had spent way to much time in their youth in the sun. She was wearing a light pink, cotton stretch mini-skirt that made her legs stand out like step ladders arched (sorry if that metaphore doesn't work - it's really the most appropriate one I could think of). Wearing hiking boots too big for her feet, she had tissue papers stuffed around the sides of her ankles to make it more comfortable for walking. Her neon pink jacket with bright yellow accents went appropriately with the pink scarf, eyeshadow, and lipstick.
Hope and Miracles.
Obama already has patents on the phrase, but the audacity of hope is alive and well. We are clammouring, clinging, begging for hope - from chosing which horoscope to believe in, to leaning a little closer in when we hear someone say "once upon a time, a boy liked a girl, but they weren't married. Being the upright Jewish folk they were, the didn't have sex; but, this girl was impregnated by God.." And we cling to this, like Irene clings to this year being a year that she wont spend completely alone.
It's far easier to find hope for others, than in our own life. We are afraid, we are afraid of the crushing reality that hope often sinks us.
"She struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he'd been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it."
"The problem with Irene is she's just too needy" says Bruce - the Freedom 55 Financial salesman, who drives the caddy and parks it infront of our place every bloody morning. Yes, she is needy. People who have hope, often are.
When Linda (the collegue who went screaming out of the store) invited Irene for Christmas dinner (as I was sitting, swearing under my breath at a dated computer system) Irene looks at me and says "Can you believe the miracle?", stunned I look up, and she's bawling - the tears causing the different shades of pink to run into what resembles a a bright neon pallet. "All this time I was thinking to myself that I would be spending Christmas alone - and trying to say how I would be fine with that; that I wouldn't do something stupid like cry..."
"He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something abot the mystery that was to come upon her. "You mustn't be afraid, Mary," he said."
"Well, Irene" says Linda, "God loves you too much to be alone on Christmas"; "That's what my Horoscope was saying" responds Irene. "And now, I have somewhere to go on Christmas, and I'm making a mess of myself crying."
Irene's shopping cart is now starting to roll outside the store and is comming awefully close to hitting caddy; but I chose not to say anything.
"As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn't notice that beneath the great golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl."
The audacity of hope, to me is about being able to be a walking contradiction. It's to be completely needy because you've just put yourself out there so many times - and kick yourself for it. But you have to do it again, because, well, we don't really have a choice. Fear fights against hope - Irene I think represented that for me yesterday. We (I) are afraid of a lot of things; and more than most, I am afraid to have hope.
And yet waking up this morning, with the lines of a Carolyn Arends song, that I've only heard once, repeating in my head - I think that this season it's hope that is ringing through me.
"do not be afraid, do not be afraid. The light has found it's way to you, so do not be afraid."