Wednesday, April 1, 2015

B: Brave Small Girl (Celebrating the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary)

Because I'm all about praising brave small girls! ("And though she be but little, she is fierce." --Shakespeare)
My 50th birthday tattoo

Me after my first cleft lip
 and palate surgeries
In this case, Brian Doyle finds himself delighted and waxes poetic about the brave small girl who asks him what's wrong with his nose. I found myself drawn to this uncommon prayer, because throughout my life I have often noticed people--both children and adults--staring at me. I had a cleft lip (and palate) at birth, so I have a scar between my nose and upper lip. Most people don't even notice it, but some people are overly observant, like the brave small girl in Brian Doyle's experience.

I've always preferred it when people ask me about my scar instead of just staring at me, but Doyle is far more gracious about the questioning than I have felt. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman and women's value is more starkly judged on appearance than men's. Most days I never even think about my body's imperfection, but when someone stares at me I can go to that deep, dark place of inadequacy.

Parents often train their children not to ask brazen questions like "what is wrong with your nose?" But Doyle is delighted by the untrammeled funny spirit in this brave small girl. May we all have the brazenness to be wild, holy, and openly curious, and may the recipients of our questions be as delighted and welcoming as Doyle.

Prayer for the Brave Small Girl Who Had the Courage to Ask Me What Is Wrong with Your Nose, Mister?

A question she explained helpfully was occasioned by the loud honking droning sound I made at the end of sentences, and by the way it has lumps and bumps in it, sir. 

After I stop laughing and remembering my brothers calling me Beak as a boy I explain that my nose, never petite to begin with, was then amended over the years by brothers, one of whom broke my nose with a large piece of wood, and by basketball opponents, two of whom broke my nose with their elbows, so that my nose, epic from birth, then added ridges of scar tissue and stuff like that, which is probably why I sound like a truck backing up, or a goose with a sinus condition, or a walrus early in the morning before he's had coffee. 

On the way home from the grade school I grin for a while and then I feel a surge of affection for this sweet honest kid, all of eight years old; keep this kid curious and open and unadorned forever, maybe? 

Keep her eager funny spirit untrammeled and unafraid? 

And maybe give us a reminder of how wild and holy that open curiosity is in this life, if we have lost its zest and spice in our latter years?

And so: amen.

Here's more information on why I chose this focus for the A to Z, and you can read all my 2015 A to Z posts here. I hope you enjoy the celebrations of the miracle and muddle of the ordinary! 

You can buy the book at Brian's favorite local bookstore, Broadway Books, at Powell's Books, or on AmazonBrian's work is used with permission of Ave Maria Press.


  1. I really enjoy your writing. I know it can be hard to ask questions. So many people just don't want to answer uncomfortable questions, and so we stop asking as we get old and get beaten down by ugly answers to our uncommon questions. I, myself, having been raised in the South, have had politeness soaked into my very bones, which is why I don't even know why one of my high school friends didn't have a mom around. I was always too scared to ask what happened to her, and she never talked about her. I, myself, also feel like Brian Doyle. I love getting questions, and I will answer anything, honestly and openly. Kid questions are the best questions, even if they can be a little "rude" and brazen in their wording.

    1. Thank you, Debra! I love that even though you were not raised to ask questions like this, yet you appreciate this in others! I agree that kid questions are the best. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hmm, I guess I feel it's all in the way the question is asked. Sometimes, it's just rude. I think Brian Doyle is a greater man than me.