IMG_0234Goodnight everybody. I love you.
No one is here. I'm in my house alone
but the psychologist says you're inside me and I know
you're with me because you were in my thoughts today
and in my own way I was trying to love you.
Goodnight God. You are here. You're the one that keeps me 
trying to love, so I love You even though I've never seen You.
Goodnight husband and mother and father. 
Your love has overwhelmed me. I'd be ungrateful not to show 
at least some semblance of patient, faithful love.
Goodnight Aunt. You have loved without demands and I love you
for bearing the burdens you have and living the life you do.
Goodnight friends at church. You have the potential of being
a great support and for this vision I love you
though the tie that binds stretches thin across miles and days.
Goodnight everyone in the world who has a sad life, 
lacking food, being in war zones, lonely, needy.
Although we share this planet we have not learned to share.
My love goes reaching out toward you but doesn't reach you.
Tomorrow I will try to love you again.
Goodnight my daughter. You are my adopted child, 
bright, beautiful, black, precious little growing girl 
who needs so much love. I'm with you. I'm your mother.
I pray for strength to keep your home full of happiness and love.
Goodnight my son. You were born from me. I'm so proud of your 
creative energy, your strong sports-loving body and quick mind.
I'm with you in your emotional vulnerability. I'm your mother.
I pray for strength to keep your home stable and secure.
Goodnight everybody, see you tomorrow.

This was the prayer I wrote after a period of death-wish
depression and before my second pregnancy.


At my first and only corporate job interview 
the boss asked if I knew the company's purpose.
Uh... collecting information to improve the railroad system?
No, our purpose is to make money, he said.
Once in Michigan I'd worked a month of night shifts
inserting U-bolts on an assembly line and vowed
never to work only or even primarily for money again.
But now we needed money so I was relieved to get this
data entry job with Price Williams in Silver Spring.
Accurate coding was a mind game, dependable as regular paychecks.
Lunch hours, evenings, weekends, holidays real life played out
with family and friends on picnics and camping trips,
at parties in homes, yards, parks, schools and churches.


What an adolescent I was! 
Still had pimples, mood swings, even crushes. 
Envied Nancy's carefree dating life and kindergarten teaching;
envied Aunt Ruth's Oxford life and college teaching;
searched want ads for better paying work for Ted or me;
didn't savor the joys of conversation with children.
Today, reading Etty's diary of her 28th year, I realize
writing was what I was missing, especially writing to You
which I do now in her words:
I now realise, God, how much You have given me. 
So much that was beautiful and so much that was hard to bear.
Yet whenever I showed myself ready to bear it, 
the hard was directly transformed into the beautiful.
And the beautiful was sometimes much harder to bear,
so overpowering did it seem. 
To think that one small human heart can experience so much,
oh God, so much suffering and so much love, 
I am so grateful to You, God, for having chosen my heart,
in these times, to experience all the things it has experienced.


Who was I then?
Part-time art teacher at Barrie Day School,
Duffy's carpool driver to Washington Christian School,
Rhonda's co-op parent at Luther Rice Nursery School;
church member, mother, wife, sister, daughter;
dabbler in wallpapering and gardening;
decoupager of glass bottles and jars;
big fan of Big Bird.


It was the perfect part-time job for me that year:
driving throughout the D.C. metropolitan area
finding households I'd been assigned to interview; 
treating each person with respect, gaining confidence, 
building rapport, asking questions, checking boxes, 
all by hand, face to face, no computers.
We were on a roll New Year's Day in mild weather
biking around the national mall with our kids
in yellow plastic seats behind us.
There were hard times like when I sold my high school 
and college rings to supplement grocery money.
But we were carefree every Sunday, appreciating and being 
appreciated by our growing and diverse church family.
Grateful for Ted's teaching job at Barrie Day School,
we bought a big old Hyattsville house.
Duffy started kindergarten at Washington Christian School
with my sister Nancy as his teacher.


We spent one more year in the big house
by the small school in rural New York.
But our hearts sought home and work elsewhere.
We helped Aunt Ruth with her Pocono house;
Uncle John Roorda met us there in July.
We'd applied and been accepted for VISTA.
I was eager to be in DC before training started,
hoping for a choice in placement (NYC?),
restless, impulsive, adventuresome.
Leaving Rhonda with her adoring great aunt,
uncle and dad, I took Duffy, caught a bus,
found a room in DC. . . and called Ted.
The VISTA bubble burst: "nothing for a family of four."
We camped at Greenbelt National Park,
found an apartment in District Heights
and various part-time jobs wherever.
DC Christian Reformed Church welcomed us warmly;
we grew roots among other interracial families.


Education continued as we spent June in Friesland
basking in Ted's relatives' hospitality,
my first and only time outside North America.

Branching out from art to teaching reading and writing
I commuted weekly to SUNY Oswego,
tutored and subbed at East Palmyra Christian.

We were eager to grow our family by adoption;
the social worker mentioned hard-to-place children.
What? Who? Why? Handicapped, black or biracial
and/or those more than a year old.

On Rhonda's second birthday we brought her home,
my life's best and most divinely directed decision.


Back in Michigan once more Marjorie taught art
at Jenison Public schools while Ted finished college.
Maryland student Chris worked two jobs and
made Profession of Faith at D.C. Christian Reformed Church.
Calvin grad Rhonda lived with Mom and Jean while
working at Christian College Coalition.
Maryland grad Jean and son Judah traveled to
Oregon and California, settled in Hawaii.
Marj drew, wrote, made home in East Palmyra NY
next to the school where Ted taught and was principal.


At summer's end we moved to Ontario
where Ted taught at Jarvis Christian School.
A motel cabin was home for seven last weeks
of pregnancy. I nurtured nesting instincts;
braided a rug, painted a rocking chair.
Craving sweet corn, took ears from an unfenced field;
boiled, buttered, salted but tasteless. Oh, field corn!
Finally our top floor Simcoe apartment was ready.
After the long moving day we slept until
labor pains started at 3 a.m. October 20.
Twelve hours later our son was born;
took him home on my 22nd birthday.
I was reborn with Christopher (Dopher, Baby Duff),
nursing, napping, singing, talking,
hanging clean diapers to dry in balcony sun,
discovering Lake Erie Sand Hills Park.
It was a year of kairos time and space for
forming a new satellite family, a nucleus 
sprung from roving Ribbens-Roorda transplants.


Impulsive, flighty, hardly an adult
though intrigued with independence 
I lived with five girlfriends in an old house
near the one where Ted lived with guy friends.
Babysat young cousins sometimes;
felt at home like in Harlem at Madison Square 
where Ted taught Sunday School.
Admired his cheerful, hard-working immigrant mother
and was awed by his cab-driving job.
We applied for Peace Corps, were accepted, assigned!
But had to give it up: I was pregnant.
Wow, must have gone all the way--when?!
Hormones had run rampant; I was blind,
confusing passion with compassion,
in love with love. And Love saw me through
student teaching High School Art;
graduation at Knollcrest, marriage in Franklin Chapel
where Mom and Dad were married and where we'd met;
camping trip to Canada, Maine, Cape Cod;
summer in Ruth's Manhattan apartment 
while she was in Europe, Ted working at Altman's.
I may have had twenty loves by then
but none as real as baby Christopher 
stirring in my body's vibrant chrysalis.