Once upon a time, in the kitchen, there was a girl named Abigail Rose, who had to wash the dishes.
This Abi Rose was a teenager, still she didn’t mind doing the dishes, at least not on T-days after supper. However, she worked too meticulously, which drove Mom berserk, quietly so.
“Abigail,” Mom would say, “it’s your job and I will leave you to it, but couldn’t you work any faster?”
Then Abi would answer, “I don’t want to break a dish” or “I like my fingers pruney” or “…”
Then Mom would ask, “So how was school?”
This was The Question and Abi preferred not to answer, so she would answer in such a way so as to generate No More Questions. Mothers are usually not to be put off, but Mom just let it go and prayed more. Abi could have avoided a Hard Lesson by being more candid.
One night, Abi quite blazed through the dishes because she had an Exciting Book to read. She toweled her hands and skipped up the stairs into her Own Private Room (her sister was out that night). She probably had Expectations. Expectations of adventure and misery, leading to romance and euphoria, leading to a happily-ever-after-bow-nicely-tied ending. While I don’t know for sure exactly specifically what Abi expected, I DO know that she did NOT expect what DID happen.
As Abi Rose rummaged in her backpack for the exciting book, she felt something like air, like being outside. No, the window was closed. Fishing again, her fingers found the book and grasped the much-repaired binding. At that moment, she experienced, of all things, an Undertow. She was dragged, sucked, head-first, well hand-first, into her backpack and she landed with a not-too-distressing bump on a pile of loose change and candy wrappers.
Abi could see a crescent of textured ceiling above, and figured she must be rather smaller than she had been seconds ago. Then she looked down and noticed a passage at her feet. She thought she might plummet headlong once, but gravity seemed to change in her favor and she walked sure of foot (if not confidently) into the dark below, emerging into a Wonderfully Bright Place. (Abi Rose was vague, in stunning detail, about this Place…How to record it?) After standing transfixed for a time, she slunk forward a few feet and suddenly met Mom.
“Mom! We are in my backpack together!” Abi blushed. Einstein wouldn’t have said that.
Mom laughed, “Yes we are. Finally, I’ll find out how your day went.” The Bright Place morphed around them. Then, sadly, they were in Mr. Traylord’s classroom.
“Abigail, what’s the first element on the periodic table?”
Abi glanced at the periodic table, or where it usually hung, but there was only a rectangle of slightly less drab, yellow wall.
“I don’t care. Umm.” That wasn’t what she meant to say. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that crowd. Sniggering.
“Abigail, you knew the answer.” Mom asked.
“I remembered after he sent me out of class.”
Abi Rose started. Mom’s shirt, normally some sort of plaid button-up, was shining and smooth like glass. As Abi looked, she saw her face reflected over her mother’s heart. Perhaps through a trick of light, but Abi’s skin appeared pale and washed out.
It was the worst of times, it was lunch hour. Abi sat next to Christy; Mom sat opposite, where Jake usually sat.
“Mom, this is Christy.”
“If Christy is your friend that you are eating lunch with, then why are you looking over there?”
There was where that crowd sat. Abi caught a glimpse of herself again in her mother’s shirt. She hadn’t imagined it, her skin was pale, even translucent and her hair and eyebrows looked like old dishwater.
“Mom, am I sick?” Then Abi noticed for the first time (perhaps ever) that Mom was beautiful, in fact, she grew more beautiful as Abi looked. Her features were clear and her hair rich and somehow she was glowing.
“Mom, are you going to have a baby? You are so…glowy.”
Mom laughed, “I just look like what I’m looking at. Or rather Who I’m looking at.”
Then they walked home from school. Even with Mom along, Abi was soon troubled by the high schooler boys walking behind them. She wanted to run, but couldn’t; it wouldn’t be cool. They were talking about crazy, alarming stuff. Her heart raced.
“Abigail, why are you so afraid?”
Her reflection again showed. Abi’s skin appeared frosty almost invisible, her eyes scared and grey. She shrunk from herself and, consequently, from her Mother.
“Mom, I’m too ugly!” Abi Rose sobbed into her hands. When she looked up, the school was gone, “We’re in the bright room again!”
“You were preoccupied; we’ve always been here.”
Mom was Radiant.
“So, do I look like what I look at?”
“We all do.”
“If I look at you, will I look like you?” That was what she wanted.
“Less like me than I do. Wouldn’t you rather look at Who I’m looking at? Then you will look more like me, in that you will look more like you…it’s hard to describe.”
“Who are you looking at?”
Her mother stepped aside and Abi realized that there was a more concentrated place of light, the Light Source. It strained her eyes, not like looking at the sun, more like squinting in the dark, except the opposite.
Somehow they were back in Abi’s bedroom. The backpack was zippered, the book on her bed.
“Honey, the more you look at God, the more you will look like Him.”
“But I didn’t see anyone. Just light.”
“You keep looking. You will see more and more.”
And that’s what Abigail did and she does indeed see more and more. I’m not at all sure that this story is true, but…Well, she sure was convincing.