Monday, April 28, 2008

Faces and Places

Episode II

So I know I’m drastically behind. So much aside of DC has happened that is more than blog worthy but I have to finish my DC romp memoirs.

Saturday got started a bit late. The girl’s house that I was staying at was nestled in this lovely neighborhood with perfectly trimmed hedges and lawns and was peppered with breathtaking cherry trees in full bloom. Driving around their's and my cousin’s neighborhoods literally took my breath away. I had forgotten how beautiful that part of the world is. It’s just green green green with trees and trees and trees that are hundreds of years old. The earth is just different there. Everything just feels older and more dignified. Like California would be the cool 16 year old teenage sibling of a family and Virginia is the recent Yale graduate Prada wearing older sister. It was beautiful to the point of distraction. When we were in the car I would trail off mid sentence.

“So I was thinking that it would be fun to … is that a…. wow……………………”

What was more amazing to me than the trees was the fact that I didn’t remember them. I didn't have any shining memories of the trees or them being that beautiful. I was simultaneously amazed at the sight of them but chagrined because I’d forgotten such beauty. I harped about it for a stint and I started thinking “If I can’t even remember these trees what else did I forget?” I thought about it for quite a spell and then I realized something. Chris lives in a very suburby, Anglo, upper middle class part of Arlington. I spent 99% of my time in the densely populated downtown areas of Arlington and our drives to get to them were just as urban. There simply weren’t many trees to remember so it was like getting to know a place you’ve always known all over again.

But back to the Lady-hut… the ladies that I was staying with had an over abundance of foliage in their front yard and had organized home teacher types to come over early and do the yard work thing so all hopes of sleeping in were pretty much non-existent and in the long run I think that was a good thing. Who wants to waste time sleeping when there is so much fun to be had and trees to see and fall in love with?

So I went to this fantastic pancake house place with Christian for breakfast. It’s called the Original Pancake House and for good reason. They were scrumptious pancakes that tasted like they were made by genius Puritan women. My whole time there I was continually amazed that I lived in Arlington for 6 months and it was my business to know the city and where people were and why but little things like trees and breakfast places had totally escaped me. Chris and I talked about lenses and how differently they let us see a place. Here we were, two people, in the same car, going to the same place, from the same DNA pool even, that were simultaneously in two totally different places because of the lens that we were looking through.

After a nap and some lunch, in preparation for the "Olney Decade Dance Party" the boys had slated for that night, all the roommates, Chris, the HLP and I invaded the local Goodwill looking for costume ideas. And let me tell ya, shopping with one guy is fun, thrift store shopping with him is even more fun. Now, multiply that x5 and life is downright hilarious.

All the guys got their stuff and Chris and I ventured into this one Vietnamese strip mall called the Eden Center. It was an old haunt of mine and Chris came with me through the curry scented, jade studded narrow halls of the place with the chatter of karaoke coming from the next hall over. I wanted to see if my pen store was still around but alas it wasn’t. I was very sad, but kind of relieved to see that things had changed, even a little. That progress had taken place. I dunno - its hard to explain.

It was really interesting to watch Christian take in the place. He said that he didn't know that it was there even though its 3 square blocks big and announced with 12' high Chinese dogs and a big red gate almost straight out of Mulan. It goes back to that lens thing. I’m not sure he’d seen anything like it before. Asian shopping centers can be strange to western types. You expect a shop next to a shop and what you see on the outside is what you have on the inside. Discovering the catacombs that the Eden Center is with all their cells of shops dotting the tendrilesque hallways can be another world. Worlds inside worlds as a matter of fact.

We left without encountering anyone from the Korean mafia (that we know of) and landed back at home not soon before we were due at a Gratitude Dinner the Bella Vista Ward was putting on for the Langley Singles. Bella Vista is the Spanish Ward in the McLean Stake and I served there for 6 months. They’re still bit lean on leadership so a lot of the singles help out in the primary etc and they were putting on this dinner as a Thank You. It was a perfect time to go see my old members. I was afraid that there wouldn’t be a soul there that was there when I was. DC has a tendency to be a fairly transient area but there were a few families still there from when I was there. Enough that it took me a good 45 minutes to finish my plate for constantly jumping up and saying “do you remember me?” It’s been 7 years since they would have seen me. One sister spotted me immediately and she was one of my favorites in that branch and it was all hugs and squeals for about 5 minutes. I was pretty much in heaven. The current bishop was in the Stake Presidency when I was there and he was amazing. I’ve never worked with more involved and fantastic leadership. They were constantly around but didn’t stifle or hover. I just felt completely and totally supported and cheered on. Every member of the Stake Presidency knew my name, the name of my investigators, the names of my retention and where each one was. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of serving in DC. The area has a tendency to attract superlatives of whatever given field they happen to be in and that excellence is totally translated into callings. It was wonderful to see him again, he remembered me and went around introducing me as his daughter. Oh how I love that sweet man! It really was like coming home in so many ways.

That night after the dinner was The Party. Christian and his roommates throw a Spring event every year and they decided to correlate my visit and the shindig and I will be eternally grateful. I’ve never been to a Mormon house party like this one. Like ever. They turned their entire basement into a dance hall complete with black lights, disco balls and glow sticks. The glowy things were everywhere actually. You know those glowing spaghetti things you buy at Disneyland at night that are cold and you can loop them around your wrists or put them together for necklaces or what not? Yeah – literally everywhere and it was awesome. The Mountain Dew flowed, the base boomed, the volleyball ensued and all was pure awesome in Arlington that night. The boys were hilarious. One dressed up like J.J. from Good Times, one was an 80’s Michael Jackson, Chris was a homage to Kurt Cobain complete with flannel and ripped jeans, the HLP was Rick Astley, and the last one was someone from Balls of Fury or something like that. I couldn’t place him how much I tried.

I downed a few Dews and took a shot or two of the Redline Chris was good enough to get me in hopes I could get my energy up to party level but I was just tapped. That and I was almost completely lost in my head with all the mission revisits and people.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I desperately love the people I served in DC. I did everything I could to be the best version of myself for them and for the Lord and coming back to it all and seeing them and still being the amazingly flawed person I am was difficult for me. The thought of facing them back at LAX almost landed me in tears more than once. I think that’s why I’ve put off a mission trip for so long. I wanted to be perfectly educated and perfectly married and perfectly healthy so I could come back all shiney and they could be proud of me. I feel the same way about my family, I know they love me and don’t expect perfection from me (or anyone for that matter) and if anyone is aware of how imperfect I am, it would be them. But because I think so highly of them and they all seem to be a lot closer to the mark than I am I find myself seeing those imperfections with much more clarity when I'm around them. So the more aware of how off I am the less inclined I tend to be about coming out. But I refuse to be held hostage by my fears and insecurities and often idealism is just a fancy name tag for insecurities so I decided to just go and be the best version of myself that I could muster, despite how fearful I am of being judged and in spite of the internal din of my own self-judgment. It was a lot to balance in the midst of this extravagant party with all the amazing and fun people that Christian knows. I hope I didn’t look like a distracted dope. That and jet laggy exhaustion didn’t help. Word to the wise: Do not ever take red eyes cross country and not give yourself a day to recuperate because it practically killed me.

I crashed, once again, far too late than I should have and was up earlier than I should have been, packed my bags, headed to church, dodged what part of the deluge that was the weather that day, and found myself back on a plane coming home to a place that felt a little bit less like home. I sat next to a very nice girl from PA who was going out to Hollywood to make a go of an acting career and a guy who was an engineer for MySpace. It was a fantastic ride home. All five and a half hours of it. They even played a Gerard Butler movie. I invited my new friend to church with me. Time was so tight that I went directly from church to a dinner to the airport still in my church clothes and there wasn’t time to change so I boarded the flight heals, skirt, pearls and all so she asked me where I was coming from and I said “church” and that spawned a whole conversation. It was awesome and very fitting coming home from my mission, again. It was all very sobering. I'm glad I had Gerry along for the ride.

I couldn’t help but imagine the floor of the plane being a running picture of all of the land and space that I was putting between me and the Potomac. I saw the Ozarks and the Mississippi, fields and fields of grain, The Rockies, the Grand Canyon all pass underneath me, putting me farther and farther from things I love but also getting me close to other things I love. I have a feeling that that flight is always going to be rough. Going from some place that feels like home to the place you call home will always be strange. It’s like you’re never going to stop saying goodbye to something you desperately love. Ever.

But thats what you sign up for when you do decide love something right? The reality that it can and probably will go away or you will have to go away but the hope that you or it can always come back .

And if there is one thing that cherry blossoms in the spring can whisper it's hope.


Me: said...

C.S. Lewis says that love is being vulnerable. I'm so proud of you for not putting a wall up between you and the things you love, just because you *think* you're not where you should be in life.

I know exactly what you mean about lenses - when we moved back here there was so much that I didn't remember. Good things... how did I not see them, or remember them from before? Lenses. Blinders.

And I'm glad you had so much fun, even if you were jet-lagged.

Liz W. said...

I loved hearing about the rest of your trip! And I'm glad that you didn't let your insecurities hold you back.

We do that so often (me especially) and miss out on so much just because it, or we, won't be perfect. What a shame!

Thanks for reminding me of that!!!!!!