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Longing for Grace

March 14, 2009



Grace, in all its forms, is a complicated thing.

For instance, the little prayer before tucking into food. We never said it, but I know some people who do. My grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Cousins, too. We were heathens at Sunday dinner, my brother and I tilting our barely lowered heads to pull faces across the basket of sliced bread. Mom kicking us under the table to quash our giggles. I don’t know why grace made us nervous–we never took something without “please”, never darted off before “thank you”. Maybe it felt silly, bowing heads to someone we didn’t believe was watching.

Grace felt weird–like testing out swears behind the shed, certain the moment a really rough one passed my lips, a grown-up would materialise, shouting, “Ah-ha! Mouth! Soap! Now!”

Saying grace felt like that. The other kind of grace makes me nervous, too.

Grace can be a way of gliding through space; simple, sweet, lovely. A body moving without snaring itself on something unseen in the air. Riding a current not everyone can locate. Effortless. Grace can’t be cultivated; it’s a born with it thing. Grace is the opposite of an ache.

Grace and manners are different creatures. I lack the former but like to think I know how to conduct myself well. What, then, of my habit of punctuating stories with fuck or damn?

For instance, this, recently, at a slightly nice restaurant:

Jean jacket, frites crumbs, spots of dribbled white wine. Table linen, water goblet, elbows squarely planted. Talking around a full and chewing mouth, but knowing where to place my napkin when I excused myself to the ladies room. Dainty salad, duck breast, and a story ending with, “and if he’s going to be that sort of asshole, he can go fuck himself!”

And my dinner date: hair rumpled, shirt collar askew, using an outdoor voice indoors while discussing delicate issues. But then, her way of tipping her wrist just so, her hands a bit older than mine, edging her chair toward her meal without making a sound, knowing how long to hold the waiter’s gaze.

That, strangely, was grace. A complicated thing.

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