birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Love, the Antidote to War?

“I knew it!”

This “gorp” was not specially made for me, not specially chosen for me. It was a Trader Joe’s staple—and a cheap one at that! And, it was two weeks late—not even making it to me by Twelfth Night! And, I don’t even like trail mix—well, I didn’t back then.

Why did he have to pretend like that? Sure, I knitted him a scarf for Christmas, but if that obligated him, didn’t it obligate him to a better present than GORP!?

Besides, I don’t want him to feel obligated. I want him to like me—the way I like him. I want him to want me. And, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t—not the way I want him.

That was the story of my life back then. If I liked someone, he probably wouldn’t like me back. If I didn’t like someone, he probably was madly, passionately in love with me.

Diagnosis? Love-lost? Lonely? Lacking Luster?

I’d been back from Cambodia about a year. I had started seminary to answer the age-old question, “Why does God allow evil?” It was a really bad case of reverse culture shock—and probably Post Traumatic Stress, but we didn’t have that label for it yet.

And, no one would have thought of calling what I had “shell-shock”—that’s what weak-willed soldiers got to keep from having to get back into life [really harsh, right?], and I wasn’t a soldier. I was just a churchy lab technician who had gotten to “see the world” while building lab support for a medical team that was saving Cambodian orphans from the scourges of war, famine and disease.

So, diagnosis? PTSD? Weak-will? Heartbreak of another sort?

Why had all those children, and other innocents, died? Why was I alive?

I really had no idea. What I did know, or thought I knew—and had been told by many different people—was that I just wanted (and deserved) to find someone to love.

I had planned to bring a Cambodian orphan back with me. Sokea was so cute and clever, a real fighter and lover; she had survived so many things. Her mother wanted me to take her “to US, lady. She have good life there. Not like here—she die.”

But there was red tape, and purple tape too. The red was the complexity of rules and regulations about adoption of the countries involved. The purple [my designation] was the cultural complexity of the 1970s world, religious and not, that made it difficult for a single woman of 24 years to adopt and care for a child alone, without a man. Maybe that is why I was so eager to fall in love.

It wouldn’t help Sokea—who cried as I boarded the plane without her while gunfire sounded all around us. I cried too—off and on for days, weeks, months. She was probably dead within a few weeks of my departure, killed by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. But there were other orphans who needed homes and love and care.

But I was a cultural coward then, and I believed that a child should have a father as well as a mother. When my own mother fretted about wanting grandchildren, I told her, “I can get you the children—several ways. It’s the husband-father I'm having trouble with!”

So, you see “gorp” was a really, really lousy gift. I threw it in the trash. It took me longer, but I threw the guy out too.

Stop Sniffing! (sniff)