There are only two kinds of people in the world that really count. One kind’s wheat and the other kind’s emerald.
~ Edna Ferber
“My, would you look at all those rows of purple!” she exclaims, eyes shining, reminding me of a grown Anne Shirley, bumping along in a rickety wagon beside a disgruntled driver. Seeing beauty…naturally as breath… in the ordinary.
“Humph!” he sniffs barely glancing up. Rolling his eyes with a shrug that silently says… crazy woman. “Them’s just cabbages,” he grunts, dismissing.
“Oh, but they’re emerald,” she breathes, undaunted. “I never thought before of what they looked like, actually growing in the ground…”
Tetched, is what he’s thinking. And her, the new schoolteacher.
I’m watching a scene in a 1953 movie gem called, So Big…and Selina, played by Jane Wyman… a young girl who has just lost her beloved father to sudden death and financial ruin. Now reduced from 1890’s opulent Chicago mansion to the rented loft of a rural family’s Little House type home, Selina reflects on words her father painted on her heart as a child… Cherished words that set her winging beyond her circumstances, enable her to truly let the monetary stuff sift away like gold dust, without regret – exchanged now for jeweled hope: Selina, there are two kinds of people in this world…
I see her live and impart these wondrous words over and over again in her hardworking life, like blessing bestowed or crown honor be-knighting… First upon the young boy Roelf, son of the one who thought her…mmm… tetched. One who dreams of books and music but feels trapped in the farm fields of his home. Sees no way out from under his dominating dad.
The world needs both “emeralds” and “wheat,” she explains. Emeralds being those people, like Roelf, who appreciate and create beauty. And wheat, those who work the land, providing the necessities of life.
“You… you are emerald,” she breathes into him… setting the impetus to his becoming a world-renown pianist. “And I am wheat… “
Yet…oh…beneath the care-worn visage of a woman who becomes a young widow purposing to sell her produce, earn and build a wonderful life for her small son, I see… emerald.
Perhaps, each of us is a bit of both… I ponder. My heart yearns for emerald. Always has. Yet, I’ve spent much of life being wheat, working at what would earn my living but not necessarily bring beauty…
Still… I’m happiest when I’m creating…
“So Big,” as Selina dubs her son, “life is full of mystery and beauty,” she says. It’s also grueling in many ways, for she fights a 1900 world where men don’t give women the time of day in the marketplace.
Yet, whether sleeping under a worn tapestry blanket in a farm wagon to assure their place in the Chicago Haymarket morning lineup, or traveling in that beat-up old wagon to sell her produce alongside magnificent homes where she once resided – she relates it all as adventure to this boy of such promise. Seizes the moment to inspire her son, asking how he might redesign the often forbidding, dark and dungeon-looking homes around them. Builds in him an eye to dream.
“I think I’d open them up with lots of windows, bring in the light,” he muses.
Life is adventure.
Baghdad, she calls it. Finding Aladdin’s lamp, he grins.
While I watch and listen, I think of those who bring emerald and wheat around us. Like in the child’s traveling game of rock, paper, scissors, I count them off in my mind…
“Your dad shows his love to us everyday by being such a wonderful provider,” my mom’s long ago words echo back to me now. Ripples on water across my memory. I think too, of all those long hours he spent working weekends on our yard… tired and dusty and spent.
I remember other words she said, too… “He was a child prodigy at the piano,” she amazes me, for I’ve never seen or heard him play. “So much so, that a wealthy woman once proposed adopting him to sponsor his music.” My dad?
I think of my mother’s mom… creating her own needlepoint patterns. Intricate leaves and flowers stitched in jewel tone colors across cushions on those mahogany chairs with the graceful carved arms and legs. Or making Old World pastry delicacies into works of art.
Of mom, whose love of music soared into my own heart… and of all the wardrobes she sewed, the coziness and daily cleaning she gave each room in the house, the way she decorated for parties on limited funds, all to give us loveliness.
Of my favorite teacher who made poetry and writing shine deeper inside me. And of friends who have that Martha Stewart touch I love… Still others who put jete in my heart as they dance en pointe…
Wonder falls on my spirit then, like a whisper, and as I listen and hear…
I see another image, living in my mind… of our Lord… walking miles and miles of dusty roads. Fishing from a boat. Carpentering with his earthly father…
And of the One who placed a STAR shining over His cradle in Bethlehem. Still sends angels to sing His peace and glory upon us. Teaches glory and light and life and healing. Turns water into wine. Multiplies loaves and fishes. Ever encourages us to look up…know our Father’s heart…move in miracles even as He…
I see Him stealing away to rest in the beauty of a garden… find moments of peace on a boat floating on shimmering diamond waves… enjoy the perfume poured out from a woman’s grateful heart…spend time alone with His Father. Urging us to recognize and be with the Bridegroom while we have Him… to live in the joy of His strength, give Him our burdens and know His lightness of heart… look forward to the wedding feast of the Lamb… receive His Holy Spirit…take heart in the beauty all around…
As this poignant movie comes to a close, So Big grows up into Dirk – the much-ambitious architect. For a bit of time, he forgets these shining truths…nearly succumbs to what’s false in this world… At the bidding of an artist woman friend he loves and Roelf – the now world renown musician – he reluctantly takes them to see Selina in her humble but lovely home. Dirk sees only a working farm. But the others see…emerald.
“A place of warmth and simple beauty,” says Roelf lovingly, as he enters her door. “Just like Selina.” Out in the lush farm fields they spot her. She shields her eyes from the sun, trying to see who has come… recognizes them…comes running.
Later, alone…Selina encourages Dirk once more. He is losing the woman he loves because of his over ambition, abandoned dreams. She reminds him of emerald. “I’m wheat,” she says, “and I’m happy. But you… you won’t be happy until you return to your heart.” In a sudden epiphany, he sweeps her into a waltz, remembering.
“Baghdad, Mom!” he sings out… “Baghdad!”
With a lump in my throat, I muse on Selina calling herself wheat when she is so much more... And on the color streams of life …
We can be green with envy.
Emerald with joy.
Golden like wheat.
Or sometimes… a mix of all.
I like to think, He’s smoothing out the rough parts…making me emerald…with a touch of glimmering wheat. And that I hear his affirming whisper…yes, beloved... over me.
How do you see yourself?
© Pam Depoyan
Linked this post to Sharing His Beauty Linkup with Joan at The Beauty in His Grip