Story Time

Each new day in our lives begins on a fresh clean piece of white paper, a new tale waiting to be told.

HOW TO MEET ONE’S NEIGHBORS September 24, 2010

Filed under: Essays — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 1:53 am

RT and I were living in married student housing in Chapel Hill in late summer of 1966, the year we were married. The little settlement of old army barracks from WWII was called Victory Village, and aptly so. Only a few of those old buildings still stand and it’s easy to understand why. They were constructed out of some type of material related to cardboard. Since we lived on the end of the barracks, RT and his friends thought it would be a great idea to nail up a basketball goal on the outside wall of our living room. Sadly to say, the ball goal didn’t last long. Renters all the way from our tiny apartment to the end of the barracks complained that their dishes rattled and their furniture moved every time the guys played ball. Not to mention that it’s hard to study when one’s body is shaking.

Nevertheless, we had a great time that summer. RT and his college buddies attended a class or two and then played golf, basketball or whatever until twilight when RT would come driving up for dinner with at least one friend in tow. After I washed dishes (By the way, did I mention that I worked at  the hospital from 8 am to 5 pm and then cooked supper?) someone usually showed up to make a foursome in bridge. In those days, I could play bridge half the night and still get up bright and early to get to work on time. Sometimes, RT studied but not until he had to. It was a good thing he had a very sharp mind.

Nevertheless, whenever a big test or exam was coming up, RT headed to one of his two favorite study havens: the UNC campus library or the laundry mat which I liked best because he killed the proverbial two birds with one stone. He dumped the dirty laundry in the machine, put in his quarter—yes, a quarter—and then stuck his head under a hair dryer to keep out the noise. For the next couple of hours he focused on his textbook  and notes and was only interrupted when the washer stopped and it was time to load the dryer. But the night on which my story occurred, a couple of days before exams, RT chose the mausoleum-like quietness of the vast university library.  The plan was that I drop him off, buy groceries at our favorite market in Carrboro, rush back to the apartment, clean and vacuum and pick RT up in front of the library at 10 pm. I happily followed the plan.

If you have ever been to Chapel Hill, you may have noticed that the charming university town is very hilly. If you didn’t notice, perhaps you guessed because of its name. Well, Victory Village was no less hilly than the other sections of Chapel Hill’s city limits. In fact, our barracks on Daniel’s Street was situated on a hill with its backside towards Pittsboro Road and its front facing another set of barracks across a narrow street and down a slight hill. There was very little space for parking and so, early on, we had decided that our stick shift Dodge would be safer parked under a fairly large oak tree up the hill beside our house. And that’s right where I parked it on the infamous night of which I speak.

Marking tasks off my list one by one, I had made it to vacuuming our K-Mart rug when I decided to take a quick break. That’s when I heard all the commotion outside. Curious, I looked out the window and was shocked to see at least fifty people milling about in the street. Talking, laughing and gesturing, the crowd grew at an alarming rate as I peeked out the window. At first I wondered if I had missed hearing about some event in the Village, but on second thought I knew that no one would have planned something for a week night during exams. Married students are pretty serious about graduating.

Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I went outside. To this day, I cannot tell you how long it took for the scene before me to sink into my consciousness. Although I am very much a visual person, my audio components clicked in first that night. “Whose car is it?” Dozens of people threw that question around from one end of the swelling crowd to the other. One guy yelled, guffawing with laughter, “This is better than The Fugitive!” I think it was when my next-door neighbor walked over to me and soberly asked, “Where is RT?” that the scales fell off my eyes and I saw clearly that our blue Dodge was sitting in the living room of the barracks down the hill and across the street.

I never told a soul the car was mine.

I nodded affirmatively to my helpful neighbor whose husband was in dental school and really needed his rest. And then, I followed her to her car and stared about me as she eased through the masses and carefully drove me to the library where RT wasn’t waiting on the sidewalk because it was not yet 10 pm. Did I tell you how big the UNC library is? And, one cannot call out for one’s husband because silence is the essence of any library, much less one of such noble stature.

I tiptoed along the corridors of the grand edifice and peeked into each room, floor by floor by floor. My silent search took quite a while but at last I found RT with his head in a book, oblivious to the fact that his prized Carolina Blue Dodge had crashed through our unknown neighbors’ apartment wall.

I whispered in response to RT’s surprised expression. “You have to go home.”

All through the maze of wide corridors and long hallways, I struggled to explain what had happened. Understandably, grasping the fact that one’s vehicle is resting in another person’s living room while one is studying in a quiet, peaceful library and one’s wife is vacuuming the floor is quite a feat. RT tried but until we turned onto Daniel’s Street, my story just didn’t make sense.

By that time, the audience was massive. Hundreds, the Chapel Hill paper read the following day. RT edged his way through the cheerful throng and up to the car where all the Chapel Hill and Carrboro policemen had now congregated. Bless RT’s heart, he was the one who had to fess up that his car was the culprit, although he had no idea how or why it had happened considering he was studying in the library the entire evening. He had a good alibi. His wife—moi—however, did not. I was the last person to drive the car and park it under the tree. Therefore, I was quickly placed in the number one spot on the suspect list.

I will have to admit that I had experienced some pretty anxious moments driving that Dodge. As noted, Chapel Hill is very hilly and for some unknown reason, most traffic lights just happen to be at the top of a hill. You haven’t had much fun until you’ve clutched and braked a 1965 Dodge at a red light on top of a hill and then tried to balance your left foot and right foot so as not to roll back down the hill and into the vehicle behind you before you get going in a forward motion. However, I had been driving the Dodge a couple of months and thought I did everything just right when I parked it under the oak tree.

Evidently, I did not…do everything right, that is. Whatever I did, the Dodge backed down the hill all by itself, made a slight turn so as not to hit a tree and ended up in our new neighbors’ house. To top it all off, the neighbors—whom we had never met—had subleased their apartment for the summer to two little old ladies who were going back to school for their nth degrees and, thank God, were not sitting on the couch when the Dodge came through the wall.

All in all, a good portion of the citizenry of Chapel Hill had an exciting night, even the little old ladies. The following day, we met our new neighbors who thought the entire debacle was hilarious. I still feel a little guilty, but then I think of the friendship that was sealed that summer and has lasted for 44 years and I don’t feel guilty a bit. Jan still phones us every Super Sunday and all through the year.  It was worth it all.

Our beautiful friend after 44 years

 

 

INTERGALACTIC LIBRARY September 4, 2010

Filed under: Essays — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 11:14 am

Einstein–although neither a Christian nor a religious Jew–believed in the God he saw as the creator of all things and the one who keeps it all in order. When many of his contemporaries were getting into all sorts of “we’re here by accident” theories, he stood adamantly on his belief that God did not play dice. There were no accidents. There was a plan and the plan was kept in place by the Creator. Einstein had the amazing mental gift (I almost used the word “uncanny” but it was not that; it was a gift) of merely looking around at natural happenings and suddenly “knowing” a previously unknown scientific principle. He “knew” that if man could somehow get to the speed of Light, we would know the secrets of the universe. Einstein, as well as Stephen Hawkings and Lee Baumann in a later generation, put Light and God together in a way we Christians need to grasp. In the words of J. B. Phillips, our God is too small.  

One day we will better understand how a little Jew with wild hair named Albert Einstein and another strange-looking man in a wheel chair named Stephen Hawkings were a part of God’s story. Each one of us is at some point in our own chapter of the story…the story God is writing about the establishment of the Kingdom of God (LOVE) on planet Earth. Imagine how wonderful and exciting it will be when the book is finished and perhaps eons later, the book is read in some other universe. And there we are in God’s book! The book might be found on a shelf in the Library of Heaven (I do hope there is one!). It might be called, “Life on Earth,” or “The Establishment of the Kingdom on Planet Earth.” Wow! It places us simultaneously in a very exalted, but humble position. How merciful, how gracious, how faithful He is to include us in His Story when we’re such a minute part and He has worlds unknown and multitudes of angelic beings and legions of other mysterious creatures to write about. Who knows the expanse, the never-ending far reaches of His Kingdom and the creatures that populate it? Light Beings as we will be…..

 Incredibly, each of us is a part of the story, beloved so much that this infinite Creator God, PERFECT LOVE, would sacrifice His only Son that we might become and remain a significant part of His story forever. Even though my book and yours might be the thinnest volumes in God’s library (who knows?), we have been and are, His Beloved. Each of us is a part of the story, as significant and valuable as Einstein and Hawkings. As beloved as Peter and John.

 It is truly amazing.

PS: I wonder if Heaven’s Library uses the Dewey Decimal System? Just think, whatever cross-reference program the Angelic Librarian uses, I will be able to find you in my book index and me in yours! That’s what it’s all about. Your name will be on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of little index cards of those on whom your Light has shined. I can’t wait to read your story!

 

A Little Child Shall Lead Them (Part Two) August 26, 2010

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 1:40 pm

A delicious KFC picnic by a flowing mountain river in Cherokee was the grand finale of our week-long adventure in the Smokey Mountains. It was there on a big rock in the riverbed that Abigail announced, “I’ll just have to endure the humiliation ‘cause I’m goin’ swimming in my panties!” After that, she talked throughout the entire ride back to the coastlands of Carolina.

Much later that night, after she had nearly talked me to sleep, our youngest jumped off the bed and said, “I’m sleeping with my mama.” Jodi told us the rest of the story the next day. Abigail’s bedtime prayer said it all. “Dear God, thank you for our vacation. Thank you for letting our family have such a good time and thank you for letting Gaddy (Ricky) go, but you could have let him stay one more day.”

And so, in this post and the previous one, we have two examples of what it means to become childlike in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Please ponder and add your comments for us to ponder as well. Oh, I just have to add one more. 😮

On the trip up, we made it all the way to Greensboro before visiting a Wal-Mart. Abigail and I made a quick dash through the DVD’s and the toothbrushes and scurried up to the less than 20 items checkout counter. Wouldn’t you believe it? Everyone in Greensboro was buying less than 20 items that day so we rushed over to the self-checkout counters where Abigail started scanning our three items. The machine neither beeped nor chinged. She tried again. Not working. We quickly worked our way through about six self-checkout counters and none of them worked.

Abigail huffed a deep sigh of exasperation and pulled my hand. “Come on, Meem,” she said seriously, “let’s go to where the people are. These machines are too smart for us!”

In each instance, my 7-year-old granddaughter’s childlike faith reigned supreme. She knew what she knew and what she didn’t know was of no use to her. Even in her prayer, she expressed faith and honesty in telling God just what she thought. There was no fear of lightening striking. God loved her and He would certainly appreciate her opinion as well as her thanks for the wonderful vacation. 😮

May our Father help us to turn loose of all that squashes the child in each of us and set us free to believe…to really believe.

 

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 1:39 pm

The Culprit

There is nothing like spending a week’s vacation with one’s grandchildren to gather pondering material on the subject of childlikeness in the Kingdom of God. Our week was a miracle to begin with, a trip we had planned for years which finally came together in the Dog Days of August, 2010. All together, we were ten family members at diverse ages and personalities and temperaments. Ten in one cabin for seven days. Quite a story in itself. However, Abigail, the littlest child at seven, just happened to be the one who gave me the most to ponder and share with you. I will share this story in two posts because, as my sisters will tell you, I cannot seem to “cut it short.”:o

It was the last night of our vacation and Jodi, Luke, Abigail and I had just returned from a full evening of shows in Pigeon Forge. The Comedy Barn was hilarious but the one that impressed the kids most was The Magic Show. I’ll have to admit that it impressed me as well, especially when the magician made a 500 pound white tiger appear out of nowhere and then assured the kids that only God can do miracles. But our wonderful evening was missing one element—food! By the time we got back to the cabin, our stomachs were growling.

While Jodi rummaged the kitchen for kids’ food, I made myself half a ham sandwich, grabbed my book and headed toward the bedroom, my hideout. Carefully placing my paper towel-wrapped sandwich on the bed table, I proceeded to make my last trip to the bathroom before climbing into the unusually high bed with my book and sandwich.

When I returned, breathing sighs of peace and contentment, I had one foot on the bed railing and one on the floor when I noticed that my half ham sandwich had disappeared. I think I forgot to tell you that there were really eleven of us. Tucker, Jodi’s family shih poo, was having a ball running around the roomy cabin and finding crumbs here and there and everywhere. Alas for me, he was now in heaven for on my bed table, in clear view and easy grasp, was the biggest crumb he had ever found. Now, there was nothing but a paper towel.

I screamed, “Tucker! Bring back my ham sandwich!”

Of course, that tickled the children pink and led into all sorts of discussions about what Meeme would do if the dog actually brought the sandwich back. While this was going on and Tucker was licking his chops, I proceeded back to the kitchen to make myself another half ham sandwich. This time I naively wrapped it in a paper towel and for a woman of fairly average intelligence, I then did a very stupid thing. Again, I placed the tightly wrapped sandwich on the bed table and trekked off to the bathroom. I just wasn’t thinking straight, you see. An entire week of fun was taking its toll on grandma.

And so, I strolled back to the bed table and reached for my sandwich which, of course, was long gone. But this time, I saw two white furry feet scoot under the bed like the white rabbit in Wonderland. This time, I was so tired and hungry that I screamed a four-letter word that starts with a “d” just as loud as I could. While the children sat in stunned silence (the first silence in a week), Jodi crawled under one side of the bed and I crawled under the other side hoping we might actually rescue the sandwich in time. Not so. The menacing look on Tucker’s face and the growl that came from his throat couldn’t have been less frightening than the white tiger’s in the magic show. He had discovered the taste of real food and he wasn’t about to cut his dinner short for anybody.

Slowly, I walked back into the kitchen where lots of still shocked little eyes followed my every move. Interestingly enough, Abigail’s face didn’t look shocked at all. It looked rather, ah…ponderous. As I passed her chair, my conscience in torment because I had not only said, but screamed a “bad” word in front of my grandchildren, Abigail moved her little mouth to the side of her cheek and out came the following words of wisdom.

“Meem, this is a sign. You’re just not supposed to eat a ham sandwich tonight.” Her facial expression and tone added up to “And that’s the end of it.”

I looked into her very serious big blue eyes and replied, “Oh, okay.”

“What are you eating?” I asked.

“Chocolate chip cookies,” she happily replied.

“Could I have one?”

“Sure.”

 

The Scent of Autumn August 25, 2010

Filed under: Author Comments — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 11:46 am

The scent of Autumn is in the air. Have you caught a whiff yet? You may have to close your eyes and wipe the sweat off your brow, but if you concentrate, you will smell it.  Every year it brings an excitement that stirs my sleepy spirit and makes me feel as if something wonderful is going to happen, even though the world is in a state of chaos as it is now. For me, this late summer epiphany says one thing: God is good.

This is a gift God gave specifically to children. I know many former kids, myself included, who depended on this gift to keep them going when times were rough. When we embrace an excitement for the future, we can pull our feet out of the quagmire and move forward. When we can’t sniff the “Scent of Autumn” our inner selves stay forever stuck in the mire though our bodies grow to adulthood. For me, the Scent of Autumn brings hope.

Go out on the porch this evening, my friends, lift your face towards the sky and take in a deep breath. Close your eyes for a few minutes and allow each part of your body to rest. Thank God for the anticipation of childhood. Then, take out a good book or magazine and read to your heart’s content. You will feel better. I promise.

 

Ride, Clyde! August 21, 2010

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 12:49 pm
The day following our traumatic bed adventure, we rose bright and early to explore the hidden city of the ancient Nabateans and later, the Romans. One might be interested to know how one might access a hidden city. I certainly was. There seemed to be no way in but through a very narrow corridor in the rock called, “The Siq.” I don’t know which awed me more, The Siq or the city itself. I could really run off on a million rabbit trails at this point, but I’ll try to stay on track which would ordinarily mean climbing on my camel to “ride, Clyde!” But not quite yet.

As we explored the incredible rose-red buildings which had been carved into the rock from time immemorial, a few Bedoin children followed us around like little puppies…talking puppies, trying to sell their wares! One little girl attached herself to Crystal and Beverlie like a shadow. All day long, she begged them to buy her jewelry and, of course, they did. Whether it was my friends’ shining blonde hair or just my “she doesn’t wear jewelry” look, I don’t know, but the fiesty little girl ignored me, leaving me to the attention of the cutest little fellow. He must have been no more than seven years old. I looked at him early on and asked his name. “Hassan,” he said, “my name Hassan.” From that moment on, Hassan was my shadow, rolling out about four English words like a stuck tape recorder.

“Madam, ride my donkey. Ride my donkey, Madam.”

Most of that very warm day in the dry desert heat, Hassan trailed behind me repeating his line, “Madam, ride my donkey.” Over and over again, I replied, “Hassan, I cannot ride your donkey.” But Hassan had evidently been sent to America to be trained by Donald Trump or perhaps, Zig Ziglar, because he did not give up on his sale. Finally, I decided there was no other recourse than to come right out with it and give Hassan my real reason for not riding his donkey.

“Hassan,” I began, “I cannot ride your donkey because I am too fat and I would hurt your donkey.” There! The truth was out. I figured he would take one “real” look at me and another at his donkey and walk off in search of another client less weighty. Or, even better, he would say something Southern like, “You are not fat, Madam. Donkey be fine.” Neither phrase came out of his little mouth.

Madam,” Hassan assured me soberly, “my donkey strong! You ride my donkey!”

That was not what I wanted to hear. I’ll let you think about it.

As Hassan had assured me, the donkey was very strong.

PS: The little beast of burden faithfully carried me eastward through the winding city streets and into the prefecture of of Hassan’s cousin, Nabal, the camel driver who spoke more languages than I can name. Gene Brooks was waiting astride his trusty ship of the desert while learning about the removal of the Bedouins from Petra only twelve years earlier.

Rudene Kennedy, Crystal Odom, Beverlie Brewer and I mounted our own rather interesting beasts and Nabal led us through the Portal of Teman (Door of Hope) to the more outstretched portions of the city. My dear camel only stopped once and that was to drink a coke. Not me, the camel.

By the way, camels are very strong, too.

 

BUILD A BED? August 18, 2010

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 12:41 pm

(Sadly, RT was not on this trip. His presence always makes things more interesting and, of course, more enjoyable for me, but this story just had to be included in our traveling aventures. Hope you enjoy!)

 
 

 

Inside the Lost City

Being the leader of twenty people on a journey to Israel is no small task. By the end of the week, I was exhausted. Nevertheless, our days in Israel had been everything we had dreamed and more, and now, nine of us repacked our bags for a three-day jaunt over into Jordan to visit the ancient lost city of Petra, the rose-red city “half as old as time.” We could hardly wait. Touring Petra would be the icing on the cake.

 

 Eight had signed up for the trip but the morning we were to take a shiroot (Israeli taxi) to the Allenby Bridge to cross over into Jordan, our phlegmatic little friend, Crystal, made a last minute decision to climb aboard. We were happy to have her along as she always makes any adventure more adventurous. The problem, however, was that Crystal had no visa which was required to enter the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, particularly from Israel. We soon discovered that one could not obtain a visa at the Allenby Bridge border crossing, only at the crossing up in the Galilee, a two-hour drive from Jerusalem and another two hours drive back down to Amman before we could even begin our journey down to Petra. I quickly did my math and found that before we even got in a vehicle, we were already four hours behind schedule. But we couldn’t leave dear Crystal in Jerusalem all by herself, so we called another shiroot and pulled our luggage out to the curb.

Because we loved Crystal and wanted her along, I thought nothing of the four-hour detour. It was only when the shiroot drove up that I sensed the first clue that the journey might not be a breeze. The driver introduced himself as “Jihad.” Can you imagine a mother naming her son, “Holy War?” Well, the information was a bit unnerving, but Jihad turned out to be a nice guy and so I put my worries to rest.

About two hours later, Jihad delivered us to a border crossing that was right out of the movies. Our panoramic view consisted of a wide, wide desert of sand with a tiny block building set in its midst. I could just see people running hither and thither while machine guns exploded all around. Nevertheless, we said goodbye to Jihad, pulled our luggage  across the hot desert sands and entered the little building safely.

All I recall at this point is filling out papers standing in a little cubbyhole that looked something like a voting booth. I do remember, quite well, being taken into an office in which a very friendly man smiled at me and offered me a seat. And, I do remember that about an hour later, I suddenly realized that he was telling me we had a problem with our visa. Not Crystal’s visa; she was fine. Since I had obtained our visa back in the States from the Jordanian Embassy, I naturally assumed it was perfect and in order. Not so, but not for any reason one might expect. Strangely enough, our group was traveling with a diplomatic visa. One might also assume that a diplomatic visa would make traveling easier and possibly more comfortable. Not so again.

The smiling checkpoint guy had an issue with the reason we were carrying a diplomatic visa. He wanted to know exactly who we were and why we were in Jordan. One does not, he inferred, need a diplomatic visa to visit Petra. Considering the fact that I did not know I was carrying a diplomatic visa, I could supply our interrogator with no answers other than we were just eight American tourists who couldn’t wait to see the city that had been lost for a thousand years. However, since we were believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, amongst ourselves we agreed that our special visa was due to our royalty in the Kingdom of God. We kept that to ourselves, of course.

Throughout the afternoon, the little office began to fill up with various members of our group. Karen offered to telephone her friends in Aqaba who would certainly vouch for our good characters and lack of any manner of plans to harm the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. No spies among us, no terrorists, not even a politician.

In the meantime, my greatest concern was that the vehicle rental agency rep waiting on the Jordanian side of the sandy desert—who turned out to be none other than Mohammed—would leave us, thinking we had changed our minds. But Gene Brooks, the one very handy man in our group, somehow managed to send word to Mohammed that we were alive and well and would join him on the Jordanian side as soon as possible.

While Mohammed patiently waited, we spent another hour in the friendly but persistent border guard’s office and then, out of the clear blue, he said, “Welcome to Jordan! I hope you have a nice stay.” Before we could say, Salaam (peace), Mohammed opened the doors to the 9-passenger vehicle and we crammed ourselves inside. He made ten.

I’ll have to say that the two-hour ride back down to Amman where Gene and Beverlie eventually signed papers for the vehicle and left Mohammed, were quite enjoyable. We were in the ancient tribal territory of Gad who was one of Jacob’s twelve sons and rather coincidentally, the name my grandchildren call my husband. Gad to them is a shortened version of Granddaddy.

We soon discovered that Mohammed (like my friend, Peggy Guthrie) had multitudes of cousins, one of which offered the only lunch menu on the two hour journey down to Amman. With a huge smile, Mohammed explained the culinary delights of his cousins’ restaurant, and while our mouths watered, we nodded in agreement to whatever his plan was. Soon, we were ushered into a vividly colorful restaurant and seated around a table with a gorgeous view of the hills of Gad. Within minutes, our table was filled with all the odoriferous dishes Mohammed had described and we were oohing and ahhing over everything. Famished females must be an interesting sight in the Middle East. We were watched quite closely.

After filling our empty stomachs quite nicely, Mohammed came over to our table rolling a gigantic hookah, offering it to all of us with his friendliest smile. In case you don’t know what a hookah is, I’ll explain. It’s the thing that the caterpillar was smoking in Alice and Wonderland. Remember? I’ve never been quite sure what one might be smoking if one puffed on a hookah but evidently it wasn’t too strong because Mohammed continued to drive us to Amman with no upsets nor accidents.

However, just before we departed—after congratulating the staff on a wonderful meal—the eight women in our group waited turns for the restroom, the door to which was hidden behind a colorfully beaded curtain. I can’t recall which of us entered the restroom first, but from then on, we were eight silly women, laughing and giggling all the way out to the van. There was no commode, just a hole in the floor over which one must straddle or else get no relief. I came home having learned that going to the restroom is sometimes an art one has to learn and that short-legged people have a much harder time learning. On to Amman.

Leaving Mohammed on the street with lots of genuine smiles and thank yous, Gene crawled into the driver’s seat and I rode shotgun with the map in my hand. The plan—my long-studied plan—had been to drive down the King’s Highway to Petra, arriving there in the afternoon while still light. But that was before the four-hour detour plus our detainment at the border crossing. You know, I forgot to take pictures at the border. I will always regret that.

Gene had only driven a few minutes when we came to a decision-making fork in the road. We had three choices. We could take the King’s Highway down through the mountains of Esau to Petra—the idea of which Mohammed thought was rather stupid because darkness would fall early and we wouldn’t be able to see wild animals and such on the small, curvy, isolated mountain road. We could take the Desert Highway which ended up in the same place but traversed the desert rather than the dangerous mountains. There might be a few wild beasts but not to worry. Our third choice was to turn in at the sign that read “Mt. Nebo” and get Moses’s perspective of the Promised Land and then travel the Desert Highway down to Petra, arriving late but with better spiritual insight. Number three won. Experiencing Mt. Nebo was well worth the time.

The Desert Highway presented us with no particularly wild animals but we did cross paths with a few donkeys, dead and alive. And if the King’s Highway was any darker, we would have had to stop the van and wait until morning to travel.

We finally arrived in the lost city (we clearly understood how it got lost) around 10:00 p.m. Our first order of business was to check in the hotel and the second was to get in bed. The day seemed to have expanded like unto the day that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still so the battle could be won. Our battle, however, was not yet won.

The desk clerk greeted us cordially. My good friend, Michelle, who had been living in Israel for about a year and spoke five languages fluently, stood beside me to help with translation if needed. But language wasn’t the problem. The nice desk clerk handed me the keys to three rooms and off we went with our eyes half closed. We opened the doors to our rooms and bid one another good night. What happened next reminds me of that phrase from “The Night Before Christmas,” the one that goes, “When what to my wondering eyes should appear….” We had been given three rooms with one double bed in each room.

 After trudging back down the long hallway and reminding the clerk that I had reserved three rooms with two double beds in each room and another single room for Gene, he informed me quite nicely that I had done no such thing. I had asked for three rooms with a double bed in each room. Much later, I came to the conclusion that the word “double” was the culprit. But at the time, the word wasn’t the issue. Sleep was the issue.

The very gracious argument went on quite a while with me continually explaining that our group consisted of eight women and one man and there was no way we could all sleep in three double beds. That particular problem didn’t seem to concern him at all. Over and over, I asked if the hotel had rollaway beds. No, they had no rollaways. Michelle was at a loss. Her five languages were not helping.

There is no telling how long this “discussion” went on with the members of our group left sitting on the floor in the hallway near the rooms. I don’t know if it was the length of the argument or the problem itself that caused quite a few hotel staff members to gather near the counter and listen. I really hadn’t noticed them until one of them, a rather elderly man, looked at me and said in very broken English, “I bild you bed.” He looked like one big smiley face. Michelle and I looked confused, I’m sure. We must have said something like, “Huh?”

It was obvious that all the staff (the desk clerk ignored this aside conversation) agreed with the smiling fellow. Their countenances were filled with happy affirmation and as he led us back down the long hallway, chattering away about “bild you bed,” Michelle and I nodded, agreeing with whatever the great idea was. Anything would have been great at that point.

Literally, within minutes, the guy and his cohorts built enough beds for all of us to sleep in. To this day, I am not sure, but I think “build a bed” takes the place of rollaways in Jordan, perhaps the entire Middle East. Anyway, if you end up over there with no place to sleep, ask someone to build you a bed.

More to come on our Petra adventure…..