The Garden of Hope

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(Pictured: Carrie – taken at the De Young Museum, San Francisco, May 2014).

I’ll go back. To 6 months ago. I’m dressed as a flapper, donning a black Chloe dress and fake Chanel pearls. A glass of rancid Cabernet Sauvignon in one hand (I was at a bar that refused to believe in wine – who are these people?) and my phone in the other, taking an Instagram pic of a bunch of boys who’ve decided to be my new protectors. To be my family. Italian in heritage, probably with some distant connection to the real mafia in their family tree – I was taller than all of them, but what I was in 5’9” height, they made up in muscle width and alpha male testosterone. Had Rocky wished to make a move that night, I was as secure as the QE’s crown jewels and her corgis put together.

The family’s eldest brother was Gian, my trusted friend and reliable bombshell of hilarity. I always admired him as an acquaintance – whether it was the projects he tactfully applied his musical craftsmanship to in my community, or he was in the distance, always surrounded by a bunch of people waiting to see what he would do next. He carried himself like a Disney cartoon character. Kids adored him, adults couldn’t take him seriously and women never really considered him boyfriend material as he had spent much of the last year attempting to touch his own naval with his ever-lengthening beard. His profile picture on Facebook looked like that of a serial killer. The cool collected kind – the kind that probably had the bowels of squirrels in glass jars stationed his underground secret laboratory. You know, that sort of profile picture. Handsome guy, but refused to acknowledge it socially.

Nonetheless – everyone loved Gian. As did everyone on Prohibition night – the Ale House, Northern California.

I walked outside for a breather while Gian was close to ripping another pair of trousers attempting the splits, quite successfully I might add, to Michael Jackson’s ‘Burn This Disco Out’. Now a month from my (very minor) break up, I’ve shared a little with Gian, but not much. This was the first night I’d spent with the boys since it had happened but I never needed to say much with Gian; he could just stand and admire the scenery without me sharing a word. But still he’d know what I was thinking.

A comfortable silence fell as people walked in and out of the garden.

‘You need brothers’ he whispers.

‘I’ve heard this before darling’

‘I know’ he replied. ‘But not from me. Have I ever said anything I don’t mean?’

‘We’ve hung out twice.’

‘Well then you’ll learn.’

‘I need nothing hidden, too many-‘

‘I know. Too many have played the ‘brother card’ before’.

‘Yeah.’

‘I say you need brothers because I saw how those men in that bar looked at you. They don’t see you like we – my family, see you.’

I pretend to yawn.

‘Alright baby girl – here’s how it is.’ He continues in his Philidephian accent, ‘We’re Rhinos you and me. We have great spark and enough chemistry to make Einstein blush. But we’re Rhinos. We need….what’s the opposite of a Rhino?’

‘A Koala?’

‘No no. Hedgehog. Hedgehog. We need hedgehogs. To balance out our big personalities. To keep us serene.’

‘Speak for yourself Gian. I’ve worked hard to saw off my tusk. I’m closer to a koala than – ‘

‘Hedgehog. You mean hedgehog’

‘Besides you’re 3 inches shorter and 7 years younger [he’s 26]. It’ll never happen.’

A unanimous ‘phew’ proceeded – and he continues to tell me about this girl he’s thinking about dating. I’m talking about my trip to New York and how delighted I am to be single for the season, how much mystery I had to unfold. I longed for some time to be single after this recent year.

As I walk back in, he calls out:

‘Hey Carrie? …… I will tell you if it changes’

‘If what changes?’

‘If I need to be taken out of the brother bracket – with you. But you’re safe until I say otherwise.’

I chuckle.

‘I appreciate that – I really do. You’re a good man Gian. Short. But a good man’

‘OH GO —–’ I retired back into the bar before he could finish his sentence.

There was something in that moment, that reminded me of men who trusted in God more than their own feelings, their desires. That there is a bigger picture than what we might want for ourselves. Was it brothers who were going to show me what Mr. Steadfast looked like instead of Mr. Charmer?

And what was Gian? Steadfast or Charmer? Because he had the accountability and conversational dialogue each day with God enough to make me think he was steadfast and had guts that matched those of King David – but he grabbed the entire Ale House’s attention just like Mr. Charmer.

I spent Christmas in New York, and found a community garden off 2nd Street. ‘Hope Garden’ said the sign. It was closed for winter.

‘Typical’ I said to myself.

You will have hope in spring. Until then, keep your eyes on me.

I looked to the sky and said inwardly: ‘You got it pops’.

What is hope? Is it the desire to achieve what you want to happen in your life? I decided my serenity was sprouting from a belief that I would just always be okay. I needed for no attention from men, no affirmation from external desire. I was simply happy, restful being covered by this new awareness of fatherly love in my faith, and lifting of the need to protect myself. New brothers helped. But I somehow had a new hope, that whatever happened, everything was going to be okay, because my relationship with my creator, with the essence of love – in my friends, my family and myself was stronger, than ever before.

You ask me what hope is? It’s the presence of love, of excitement, of joy – of falling in love with mystery again.

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