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A Lady Named Marla Burns

June 24, 2014

This past Saturday, I attended the class of ’94’s 20th year high school reunion.  I was a bundle of nerves when I arrived, a soaking wet bundle of nerves.  I had driven about an hour and a half, on a hot’n’humid Texas summer afternoon, with no air conditioner and a driver’s side window that would not roll down.  Me, a girl with hot-flash issues and past heat strokes, a typical American glutton for punishment.  When I arrived at the chosen venue, also with no air conditioner, my face had decided to start taking an eternal-leak and I had already begun shaking like a leaf in a high-grade Texas-style hurricane.  Oh goody, I thought, I am meeting these old comrades for the first time in 20 years and I can’t even collect myself if I tried.  I hadn’t shaken like that since I first took the stage in the 8th grade talent show; where I forgot the lines and I’m pretty sure you could hear the heels of my shoes nervously, and unstoppably tapping the wooden stage, over my feebly escaping vocals. 

But it was some of those very classmates that lifted my spirits after that big fail, that I would be seeing in just a matter of footsteps at this point in the early evening hours.  What started off a an awkwardly bumpy evening, and I’ll spare you the details of my embarrassments on that fumble-lina, ended up being a laughter-ringing night to remember.  After shaking off the shakes and gaining an amazing amount of confidence, all in a matter of seconds, I was suddenly hangin’ with the guys again.

Yes, I chit-chatted with all the guys and gals, but I tended to feel the same pulls I felt as a tomboy, and wound up in longer conversations with those of the opposite sex.  I’m not the perfect picture of a female.  I have never enjoyed the rituals of nail-painting, tanning, shopping, or any of the other practices people expect in a true woman (domestication is a fine example, though I really try as hard as I can).  No, I’m clumsy, a little loud and rough around the edges, and I am not one you’ll find behind a desk…ever.  I prefer the outdoors, and I was blessed with a lovely assortment of outdoor adventures throughout that period of time, two plus decades ago.

That’s also when I met a lady named Marla Burns.  I first moved to that town in the summer before 8th grade.  Mama took us to what would become our official church home, and pushed me a little, into getting involved with their youth group.  She introduced me to this charismatic woman, unlike anyone I’d ever met in my rather sheltered, short life.  She welcomed me into her dynamic youth group with open arms, but this isn’t as much about our relationship as student and teacher, but more about my observations of the way she carried on a little differently than our average example of a female.  You know, the ones who seem, by appearance and attitude, and gracefulness, to have it all together.  That beautiful mirage?  Marla had a childlike spirit and seemed more at ease on the court with the boys, playing basketball, than sitting Indian-style, in a tight circle, giggling and gossiping.  She was much more herself inn wind shorts, t-shirts and bandanas, than Sunday dresses. 

In reconciling myself over the past few years, and accepting that I am okay as I am, and as who and what God sees fit to mold me into, I have often found comfort in my memories of Marla’s outlandish approach to being a woman.  There is no being a woman, there is just being.  Being the soul that was born into the body, and being that soul when you leave, no matter what the world has shaped perception to be.  Not that I don’t have the raging, swinging emotions of a woman or the attractions of a woman; I just don’t always have the ability to carry myself in the expected way.  I’m different.  We all are.  We all should be.

At the reunion, I felt so much more comfortable in my skin, well, after that rough start.  It was great to catch up with all the lovely ladies, but it was those guys, the ones who showed immense kindness during high school, that I ended up spending the most time in conversation with.  Of course, time, always the issue, did not allow for me the opportunity of moments with everyone.  There were a few I did not even recognize, but I recognized my old buddies right away.  I realized I didn’t spent an absorbent amount of time with any of those classmates outside of school and church, because just like Saturday evening, I had always flitted from group to group, just finding somewhere to fit in.

I don’t fit in.  I’m a round peg in this square hole existence.  And I’m growing to accept that just because I don’t act like a woman or even feel like a woman, I am woman, none the less.  And I have a place in this world, even if I have to create it, myself.

I never saw Marla as anything other than an amazingly, extraordinary woman of great spirit.  A woman I admired greatly.  One who’s impact is obvious in the lives of all my fellow friends of that period of our youth that had the opportunity to bask in her Sonlight.   I am beginning to perceive myself in the same way, and can only hope to leave such a mark on this tired old world.  I mean, it’s kind of like school, isn’t it.  Some people’s strengths are in expression, while others are best at analyzing and still other gather data.  But we were all students. 

Some women rather drive trucks than work in an office and some women would rather die than get their nails dirty.   Some women are blessed to be meek and mild, serene and dainty, and others are just as blessed to be the complete opposite.  I just hope they can see how blessed they are, a lot sooner than I have.  Bless and be blessed. ❤



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