Five Monuments

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[Stones have been scattered and gathered in my mosaic life of many pieces. The following are five anecdotes from a newlywed who is newly graduated.]

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

We drove on Saturday in the heat of a Kansas City afternoon, in our car with the wonky air conditioner. Its settings somehow are either all or nothing, but the full blast of cold air was what felt best on our ride down the interstate, back to our apartment in the suburbs.

It was the conclusion of our prescribed monthly getaway, or in this case, stay-cation. And it was so good to be together, to spend the day together. After many weeknights spent in weary post-workday malaise, my husband and I basked in the perfect May weather, footing it across our favorite parks and museums downtown with a whole day to kill and not a care in the world. We snapped pictures of ourselves on the Nelson-Atkins lawn and on the top of the World War I Museum (which feels like the top of the world), making our own monuments to the care of our love and life together.

We were quiet in the car, spent for the day. Spent but happy. My skinny jeans were sticky with sweat. On the radio played KPR tunes, going back in time today to the Doo-Wop era of the fifties and sixties. “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…” played along with other barbershop classics. “Ba-ba-ba, Ba-barbara Ann…” I closed my eyes.

HEARTBREAK AT THE DINER

I was seven years old and my mom took me out for lunch, just the two of us. Something special. We went to my favorite restaurant, Don & Millie’s, a 50’s-style diner specializing in all things American and/or fried. Familiar blue and pink neon lights welcomed us in and I ordered my usual cheese frenchie (a fried grilled cheese sandwich that really ought to be more illegal than macaroni and cheese ought to be). Reflecting back on how many orders of cheese frenchies I downed as a young child makes me extra thankful for successfully losing my baby fat later on and not developing a serious heart condition, though I do now suffer from mild lactose intolerance.

We sat down and began to eat. I loved my mom and was happy to be with her here. We were sitting at the high tables against a wall with a long mirror running across it. I could see my reflection past my mom’s shoulder as I chewed each bite.

Not long into our date together, my mom broke the news to me. This was why we were having a special lunch together. Mom and Dad were getting a divorce, and she had to tell me somehow.

The cheese frenchie in my mouth became utterly tasteless, just a fat blob of matter sitting on my tongue. Not here, not right now, I don’t want to think about this. I just want to eat my lunch. I remember watching my face in the mirror turn red, and then blur as I started to cry.

“Barbara Ann… take my hand…” The happy music refused to quit.

NEW HOUSE

My dad moved out of our blue house and into a tiny one-bedroom rental home his realtor friend loaned to him. I spent a couple of every-other-weekends there, sleeping on something soft I can’t remember adjacent to my dad’s new twin bed, falling asleep to his breathing and snores. He would soon move into an apartment, and then a real house. After that he would lose his job and have to give the real house back to the bank, leaving him the only option of moving in with his girlfriend and her daughter. All of my new rooms with him were only mine temporarily, to be given up completely along with their contents when our visitations ceased suddenly.

Moving was never something I enjoyed.

A TIME TO LAUGH

My aunt and mom drove me back down for College, Part II, on a rainy day in August. This was the year I would begin dating my now-husband. Every temporal belonging of mine was in the back of my aunt’s red mini-van, whisked along at 75 miles per hour. It was plastic totes and cardboard boxes galore, crammed with things I’d hastily packed, having avoided the moving procedures for as long as possible before heading out.

With each consecutive year back at college, I moved more of my stuff with me and out of my parents’ house. I hoped to move out of the dorm senior year and have everything I needed for my permanent home. By the time graduation came, I had so many things crammed into every nook and cranny of my dorm that it was embarrassing when my family came to help move me out.

I would move a total of 12 times during my four and a half years in college, every one necessary and also agonizing.

You wouldn’t think carrying loads of moving boxes through the rain and then up a flight of dormitory stairs would be very much fun, but I remember having a great time with my mom and aunt that night before sophomore year begun. We unpacked my things, making comments about how I’d use each item, where they should go, and creative ways I could organize my room. My mom booked us a hotel room for the night and we walked in with our hair, faces, shirts, everything absolutely drenched and soaking in water, and unable to control our laughter after seeing our reflection in the grand lobby mirror.

HOME

We’re putting up pictures now in our apartment. Pretty soon we’ll have the wedding ones printed, and they’ll go up on the walls too. But there are flowers, paintings, and framed photos up and about in our rooms, monuments of our love and life together. We have our desks and our kitchen table, our bedspread and nightstands, the Clavinova and a record player. Beyond these things, we have our city and our church and our network of friends and family, all tied together in a square knot. They all feel like worldly extensions of us, like puzzle pieces we are putting together like the pieces of our hearts. We are making a home together, a home that reaches into the depths of us. Though each chapter of life is bound for change, these things between us anchor me in a measure of certainty. More than ever, I feel home now.

Richard Rohr says

When Christianity loses its material/physical/earthly interests, it has very little to say about how God actually loves the world into wholeness.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

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