When I was a child, I went with my mother to visit a friend of hers who had moved into a brand new house. As Miss Julia was showing us the main room, she pulled on a string hanging from the ceiling to reveal a set of stairs that led to the attic.
I was amazed at this feature – truly astonished that these stairs had appeared out of nowhere and were now in the middle of the room. I had never seen anything like it. Not only that, Miss Julia permitted me to walk up the stairs to her attic. This was so cool.
On the next visit, just a regular visit, I asked Miss Julia (quite impertinently) if I could see the attic again. My mother dismissed the request out of hand. In polite society, it seems, you just don’t go around asking if you can see people’s attics. But Miss Julia said, “I tell you what, Minnie. You come here some day without your mother, and I’ll let you see the attic.”
I agreed to the terms. Which I actually thought were terms. Apparently, adults sometimes say things just to say things, then find out kids actually believe them.
Later, I was playing with a friend at her house, which was on the same street as Miss Julia’s, when I suddenly remembered the terms by which I could see the attic again. Clearly my mother was not with me, and this would be a good opportunity to take advantage of the offer.
This was the late 1960s, and young kids could wander neighborhoods during those days, so I suggested to my playmate, “Let’s go to Miss Julia’s house and ask if we can see her attic.” I assume my little friend thought this was a great idea because, next thing you know, we were on the street headed that way.
I rang the bell, and Miss Julia came to the door. Whereupon I said with the full confidence of a young child, “My mother isn’t with me now. Can we see your attic?”
I can only imagine her surprise and – potentially – amusement. Miss Julia graciously welcomed us in, pulled down the stairs, and after our tour of the attic, gave us each a bottle of Coke.
In that moment, my life was filled with good intentions, the freedom to wander, short journeys to a happy destination, gracious response, and the refreshment of a bottled Coke. Truly, it was only my ignorance of doubt that made these experiences possible. For if I had been old enough – or cognizant enough – to question the sincerity of the offer, I would have missed that sweet experience and fond memory. And Miss Julia would have too.
Belief seems to be easier for children. No wonder Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (NIV) You get a little older and knocked around by life, and it’s more like, “Are you serious? You can’t be serious.”
In Life with Strings Attached, my narrator says in the introduction, “I was trying to remember what it was that I knew before I began to doubt.” As she goes on to tell a nostalgic tale from her neighborhood and community, she does so from a 7-year-old’s perspective. The reason that is so is because, when I thought of who this character would be, I wanted to capture her at a time when everything was still possible, before she was aware of any limits, when she still believes she can do anything – and carries the faith of a child that life offers promises to be pursued.
I never heard anything else about my visit. I don’t know if Miss Julia told my mother. My mother didn’t mention it. In hindsight, I do think I left her with a good story that day. For the price of two bottled Cokes and a little bit of her time, I think it was probably worth it.
Is there something you’re having a hard time believing today? Can you find your way back – at least for a moment – to an impertinent faith? One that asks, seeks, knocks as if promises are actually true?
Enjoy your magnificent journey.
– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 25