Blue Birds Fly
Aunt Millie was a hard pill to swallow for some people. I recall the looks of disdain and disapproving mumbles given by some after she shared her mind. She didn't speak just to hear herself speak. When she spoke, you knew there would be wisdom in her words, even if they convicted you about your own poor choices. She wasn't disparaging, just a straight shooter, whose words were supported by endless love and generosity. She didn't just let you know the truth, she was also willing to walk alongside of you and pull you up; she never gave up on people.
One year for my tenth birthday, she handed me a white box and said not to open it until I got home, or I would break it. The contents were delicate. Okay, Aunt Millie...challenge accepted! Against her direction, I sat in the backseat of the car and peeled back the tape, opened the box, and pushed aside the tissue paper. Inside was a feminine snow globe with a beautiful blue bird perched on a branch. It played Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz. It was delicate and meaningful. The song, one I had heard her sing with a vibrato worthy of the opera, was beautiful.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me, oh
Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Oh why, oh why can't I?
The song transported me to a place where dreams really do come true. A place where I wasn't a scared little girl, but a confident, joyful girl who was bold enough to dream and seize those dreams. I could hear Aunt Millie singing the words, and believing her. Her confident steady voice speaking truth into my malleable soul.
Then as I stepped out of the car, carefully holding my new treasure, I dropped it. The delicate glass globe shattered into a million pieces along with my heart, and I felt foolish for not having listened. When Aunt Millie found out what happened, she simply said that she thought that might happen, and then went on with things. She didn't shame me for my mistake, I was ashamed enough as it was. She didn't linger on it, clearly I still hold the mistake decades later, without her aid. But I don't woefully remember the broken gift, other than wishing I still heard it's sweet melody; I remember a woman who loved big and loved consistently, and the lessons she left me with.
One does not meet someone like Aunt Millie and expect to stay in their comfort zone. When you tell the likes of her that something cannot be done, she will ask why not? To help one of the migrant workers that worked the orchards down the road from us, Aunt Millie went toe to toe with the Jamaican bureaucracy. We'd discovered that having a fishing boat would be helpful to the McCogg family we had grown to love. Steve McCogg would show up every harvest season, having left his family in Jamaica to earn what we would consider an insulting wage, but to him was immense. With a boat, they could catch fish to eat, but also to sell. Aunt Millie would head the hunt for the boat, and jump through hoops with every reason why the Jamaican government would not allow a boat to be delivered to the McCogg family. Aunt Millie never gave up on people. Love is like that, when faced with an obstacle, it asks "why not?"
I don't anticipate sprouting wings and flying over rainbows any day soon, although if it happened, I would seize the opportunity! Sometimes the impossible doesn't look like a rainbow in the sky type of dream, but lingering fear, insecurities, past trauma, an impossible to love person, or external factors that hinder progress. Aunt Millie is with Jesus these days, but I know if you could sit down with her and tell her your pains, she would reveal your dreams, and ask you "why not?" She would take your hand, and show you the way to the rainbow and as your hands turn to wings and catch the breeze, she would quietly stand behind with a big grin cheering you on. Fly blue bird, fly higher than you ever dreamed possible!