Saturday, July 19, 2008

a baby

my little sister had her first baby today.

it's one of those things that only happens once, ever, in a lifetime... and now it's gone. i missed it.

i will first see whatever-his-name-will-be when he's 6 weeks old and devoid of that new-newborn charm: the blank eyes that can't see 6 inches past his nose, the tounge that doesn't know it's part of his physiology yet, the grasping fingers, the pure unadulterated innocence... just moments from heaven.

it's occurring to me, as i sit here on this ugly blue couch, halfway around the world, that when you say "yes" to something, you also say "no" to everything else. and sometimes 'everything else' is more important, more substantial, more enjoyable, more life-giving (etc.) than the thing you CHOSE to do.

i could say here "BUT..." or "However..." or "Nonetheless,..."

but there's no "but" or "however" or "nonetheless" tonight. i just wanna go home and see my sister and her new little baby boy.

that's all.


Friday, July 11, 2008

15 Specific things I miss about home… in no particular order:

(this reflection was prompted by Rebecca Bea Blumhagen... bless her heart)

1. Summer night trips to dairy joy. Sitting on the back porch after closing on those cement, circular benches, eating a Reeses and Oreo “arctic swirl” with Alan and Murm and Kathy or Thomas, Anthony, Bunny, John, Noah, Brigit and, if we’re lucky, Molly Mom and Dad. Conversation pauses when the trains go by and dad goes to check on the penny he left on the track. Hopefully, the cops don’t see him.

2. Jonathan Roth driving by in “Old Merc” He asks if I want to go for a bike ride on the prairie path, or come see him play at Borders, or he comes in and stays for 5 hours, ending the evening with a few glasses of wine and some freshly written songs—and goodbye my love sung at the top of our lungs when he leaves.

3. The porch at (formerly) Elizabeth’s pool house. Candlelight. Oatmeal cookies and dad’s coffee, French pressed on the table. Crickets. Long conversation about marriage, Catholicism or the nature of God. Kids come in, shivering from the pool and sit on our laps in oversized towels.
(Why am I in Africa again?)

4. Sitting on the left end of the 6th row, center aisle, at Church of the Resurrection. Feeling free to stand, cry, talk, pray or fall asleep. I listen to the musicians. I glance over at John Fawcett, whose frail figure cannot help but lift itself to the heavenlies. I think of how much John taught me about humility and not-taking-oneself-too-seriously.

5. The way Kathy and I laugh at Mary when we’re all together in a bed and Mary pretends she wants to sleep in the middle but we both know she’ll slither out sometime in the middle of the night and sleep on the floor and then leave butt-crack-early in the morning before we’ve had the chance to bring her Starbucks.

6. Rain. Midwest rains, I’m convinced, smell sweeter and more like the earth than any other rains in the world. Sitting the wicker rocker on the porch at the farm house as the rain pours down is one of the more beautiful things in life. And when the electricity goes out, that’s even better.

7. The 11pm hour at the Ritchie household. Mom is at the table looking at magazines. I am baking cookies. Dad is falling asleep watching t-vo recordings of Chris Matthews. I have a friend or two over and we are sitting around the island counter in the middle of the kitchen, doubtlessly discussing the misfortunes of my high school acting career or the latest marriage that no one approves of.

8. Women’s prayer. Lying out on the carpet with 6 pairs of loving hands on my back, my neck, my little finger and the small part of my ankle. Words of insight, sentences of revelation, tears of love and longing. Everyone holding on… as if I might slip away… As I have.

9. Going to Chipotle and ordering the usual: burrito bowl with pepper, onions, extra chicken and light rice. Black beans, mild salsa, corn and cheese. (Sour cream and guac on the side). We order 6 soft-shell tortillas on the side and Kathy, Murm and I split the glorious Americanized-“Mexican” concoction . Oh, and I forgot about the coke with at least 3 lemons squeezed in.

9 (b) Oberwies chocolate malt, easy on the chocolate, with an extra cookie straw for dessert.

10. Late nights at crossroads. Age 11-13. Before I went to school. Playing basketball on the parking lot that doubles as a basketball court. We have a construction light rigged up with an extra long extension cord that winds through the meeting room window and bathes the court in light. I wear my Dennis Rodman jersey and pride myself in getting the most re-bounds. My hair is pulled back in a tight pony-tail. Everyone is soaked in sweat but no one wants to stop. We break at 11pm for frozen pizza and mountain dew. A car drives by on route 30 and revs his engine and screeches his tires or gives a friendly honk. Those nights seemed to go on forever… I must have thought they would.

11. Honey Rock camp through the years… Always a summer staple. As a child: camping trips, falling in love with Jesus, Zulu Warrior competitions, mountain bike masters… or grown up: Driving those long curvy roads at dangerous speeds. Christy Braaten. McGriddle Wednesdays. The smell of the lake. The sound of the lake, lapping against the doc. Camping trips. Smelling like smoke. Smelling like sweat. Showering after a trip. Kathy over the kitchen counter. Ben stock brining me icecream on my camping trip.

Emily: It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another...
Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? --
every, every minute?"

Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Emily: I’m ready to go back.

(From Our Town, by Thorntan Wilder)

12. High school days when Noah would come home having completed the day’s mischief and my sleepover club (which met on a daily basis) would hear the stories and giggle. Kellen Scott and Adam Baluch lived upstairs and we would go out for late-night mini-ice-cream-cones at McDonalds.

13. Frost lake days. Sitting on the old dark-wood porch (Can’t believe that thing is still standing and hasn’t sogged under so many years of Frosts sitting and telling stories) Grandma and Grandpa sit like a king and queen in the plastic lawn chairs as their progeny bustles around them. In the screen door, out the screen door, Oops, forgot my drink, in the screen door, out the screen door again. “Close it all the way! Don’t let the bugs in!” Sitting at the picnic table. Swatting flies. “Grown-up boat ride! Who’s coming?”. Quickly, the younger generation organizes our own speedboat ride and when we pass the “grown-ups” put-putting along in the old pontoon boat. We yell and wave and brace ourselves for the next bump.

14. Shanes Deli. Sam makes my high-maintenance sandwich with sprouts, pesto and honey mustard and I devour it along with Mrs. Vinnies Salt and Vinegar chips and a small Coke. Yum!

15. Being around people who know me. Who know my stories. Who were there for Mr. Mabie, Hamlet and Junior Miss… people who don’t need things to be explained. I’m tired of explaining. Oh, to be seen like everyone else on the streets. Not being pointed and laughed at when I try one of my few full sentences in Kinyarwandan. Not being asked for money. Not being proposed to. Not being treated like an object of wealth and opportunity. Being seen as everyone else. Or better yet, Being seen as Maggie.