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It could have been worse.

I could have been sixteen. I could have not even liked the guy, much less loved him. I could have been alone.

But nevertheless. An unplanned pregnancy could be shocking.

An unplanned pregnancy with your boyfriend could be heart-breaking.

An unplanned pregnancy while leading worship for your college InterVarsity Christian Fellowship club could be devastating.

Needless to say, after hidden sins behind closed doors, we rocked our family and friends to their knees.

I had never even dreamed this would be something I would ever have had to deal with, and I was unprepared.

Those two pink lines showed up. My stomach fluttered. I swore I felt it move. I had one path to follow, but I wasn’t sure if I would have to follow it alone.

“Well…we’re going to keep it.”

My heart grew tenfold.

As long as we were in this together, I knew I could weather the storm.

But in the meantime, I would break my parents’ hearts.

And I did. We did. We were helpless to mend things. So we moved forward, trusting the ability of the human heart to heal itself.

We had weeks to plan a wedding, months together as newlyweds, and a lifetime to prove we made the right decision.

I fought, constantly, with the nagging feeling that an undercurrent of failure preceded us, that we were destined to crumble like so many other young and reckless couples before us.

I struggled, daily, with the fear that my love was tainted. My love for my new husband, my love for this coming baby. I was stained. I was broken. I was angry, almost entirely with myself.

I never admitted it to anyone, scarcely to myself, that I secretly looked forward to the horror stories of labor and delivery, as if the physical pain might ease my arrogant inability to forgive and accept myself, as if my forgiveness was more just than the God we served haphazardly.

But that was before the consequence of our selfishness breathed his first breath.

The consequence of our sin became our reward, despite our wavering faithfulness.

And as I watch my beautiful son grow and learn and amaze me, I know now that we have had front row seats to a divine, daily reminder of the transforming power of our God, a God who specializes in hope and reconciliation, and we can only stand around with our jaws hanging wide with wonder.


“Look at this, Sweets.”

My father points the green rubber hose toward the sky, the stream of water arching across the pavement. In between rinsing off the car and watering the holly bushes, he pauses to show me the magic of catching the sunlight just right within the tiny crystal prisms flowing from somewhere hidden.

A rainbow.

Without a cloud in the sky, but beneath the water’s arch, floating in the mist.

A rainbow.

I catch my breath and try to catch the colors dancing ethereally.

The arc of the rainbow running tangent to the arc of the hose, the faintest red and blue and purple shimmering within the waterfall, the rest of the world falling away to the colorless mundane, a realm of black and white.

I move closer, fingertips tingling, tickling the cold water, desperate to touch a rainbow. My hand breaks the stream, my hand breaks the magic.

“Don’t worry, Sweets.”

I inch away wiser, as he adjusts the hose ever so slightly, summoning the beauty back. The hues hover back into place.

A rainbow.

I stare through the colors transformed from the clear and watch my father’s hands, calling forth the enchantment.

And I realize that it is not the water mingling with the sun that is magic.

I realize that it is he.

[ Note: This piece was written as a part of The Red Dress Club memoir-writing exercise RemembeRED. This week’s promptThis week, we’re giving you a photo to take you back in time. In 700 or fewer words, show us where your memory takes you. Remember that this image is merely inspiration. Your piece needn’t have a hose in your piece but we need to easily see how you were inspired by it. The photo can be seen here. As always, concrit welcome/begged for.]

I breathe deeply. I fill my lungs with as much of it as I can, and I stop to hold it there.

The scent of my childhood.

No, not just my childhood.

But the scent of my culture, my mother’s culture, my father’s culture, a slice of island living in the middle of grits and cornbread and sweet tea.

Rice. With everything.

English mixed with Tagalog, Heinz ketchup over torta.

The aroma of vinegar and soy sauce and garlic simmering for hours.

Banana leaves lending zest, color, and the tiniest bit of tang that tickles the corner of your jaw.

Pillows of steam rising from stock pots holding chicken adobo and crispy pata, sizzling skillets of lumpia, pancit if it’s someone’s birthday.

The flavors of the Philippines mixing with American oxygen, floating down the halls of our house, shimmering against the walls, lingering in my mother’s hair, telling us, with every whiff, every bite, that we are sons and daughters of a culture rich and unique and satisfying.

A culture transplanted from the tropical seasons of a cluster of islands swimming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where everyone is Auntie or Uncle, Tita or Tito, where friends are family gathering around lechon and who’s bringing the halo halo and leche flan?, a land I was born in, a land we left for American living, a land that runs through my blood and skin and memory, linking me to an entire population of tan-toned, black-haired, warm-hearted people insisting, “you eat, eat!”, a bloodline mingled with the blood of Europe in my own children, who love pizza as much as pulvoron, reminding me, over every bowl of fried rice, that we are all a part of this fragrant world.

[ Note: This piece was written as a part of The Red Dress Club memoir-writing exercise RemembeRED. This week’spromptThis week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.  Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing! As always, concrit welcome/begged for. ]

He pressed his pudgy nose against the glass, his unfathomably blue eyes wide with wonder. I tried to ignore the handprints he was leaving behind. Sometime today, an old man, or a grumpy teenager would mop that window with a tired rag, and the traces of him would be erased.

For him, it was magic.

The ones he loved the most, the chocolate ones covered in colorful bright and perky sprinkles, like a birthday party in seven bites, starting out a colorless lump of dough. And before his very eyes, behind the glass where the magic happened, they rolled along, ushered toward perfection, dumped, flipped, sweetened, and rescued, spirited away into boxes folded by deft, practiced hands, presented to the next in line after a swipe of the card.

A line that moved slowly.

The aroma beckoned, a siren’s call to passers-by, as the tiny shop filled with hungry, wanting stomachs.

He watched batch after batch as we made our way forward, inch after inch, and after forever but before satisfaction, we reached the angel behind the counter, a genuine smile on her face, pleased to offer us a slice of heaven.

“What can I getcha?” she said, her lilting voice thick with a southern accent as long as a summer’s day, as cool as sweet iced tea her voice lilting toward the light.

The tears I held captive cried mutiny, revolting, beating their wet fists against my vision, making their presence known. What can I getcha? A simple question with a hundred answers.

A sense of peace. A different diagnosis. A negative result. A positive outlook. A promise that I will live to watch my son outgrow the magic of a doughnut shop. A cure.

He looked hopeful. “Mama? The sprinkly one?” The forbidden one, because each sprinkle packed a day’s worth of sugar. Forbidden, because I found them embedded in the carpet weeks later.

“The sprinkly one,” I tell the lady. The healthy one, I want to add. The one who worries about the bank statement, not the doctor’s statement. The one who worries about the cost of college, not the cost of funerals. The one whose lumps can be transformed into perfection, not into destruction.

But that is not on the menu.

[ Note : This is a piece of fiction written for The Red Dress Club writing exercise, Red Writing Hood. This week’s prompt: Write a piece, fiction or non-fiction, inspired by the delicious shot. Word limit is 600. Constructive criticism welcome; in fact, I beg for it. ]

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© Jessica Buttram and This Buttram Writes, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jessica Buttram and This Buttram Writes with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Don't make me cut you.