Things Change

Really, they do.

I don’t think I’d properly begun to realize that until this semester, perhaps even this Christmas. You see Christmas used to be this great shining thing set gloriously at the end of the year. School let out, we opened all our presents and drank eggnog, then the next day we were off to my grandparents’ in dear old Brookfield, MO.

It was just us and my Aunt Amy’s family when we were kids. Mary and Peter and Jacob and I sat at the kids table and wreaked havoc. Grandma would proudly set out her little individual salt shakers, and we would spend Christmas dinner salting each other’s milk and making up stories about my brother George’s latest escapades. Even when it wasn’t mealtime we would sit at the card table playing long games of Mille Borne (Creve! Creve!) and Monopoly. Usually Monopoly. Peter was always the banker and he always won, Mary cheerfully came in second, I came third for lack strategy, and Jacob came dolefully last, because Peter always had it in for him. Thus began the illustrious cousin tradition of bending and even, yes, breaking the rules.

As we got older, and my Uncles Bill’s kids also began to descend en masse every Christmas, we played Mafia just to cheat and peek, and generally win unfairly. All part of cousin bonding, you know. There was also an official cousin basketball game, in which I was always the official photographer, a job I was very bad at. Here we are in 2007 after that year’s game.

As I remember, 2007 was a particularly red-letter Christmas. Emily brought her new husband André, and we took joy in initiating him and giving him the official stamp of cousin approval.

Some of these signatures are forged, but who’s telling which?

The other notable thing about Christmas 2007 was Poopsie. Billy and Hannah went into town with Grandpa one day for some inauspicious reason, and came back a couple hours later with a puppy. He (she? I can’t remember…) was very cute, and also entirely unhousebroken (thus the name…) It wasn’t until Christmas night, when Mary and Tina and Joe and I took him for a walk that he did his business outside for the first time and we rejoiced. Then, while star-tripping, Joe fell and got that business all over his jeans, and we rejoiced only slightly less. (“Joe! That was Poopsie’s Greatest Achievement, and you fell in it!”) Wonderful Christmas.

Since then we have had a few family reunions in hotels which have brought us to some truly marvelous locations, like this unique antique mall.

As you can probably see written all over my face there, that was the Christmas that eight of us girls crowded into one hotel room and stuck this sign on the door.

It truly was, my friend. Santa was spotted just down the hall.

Mostly, the thing about Christmas with cousins is that it is a lot of very tall people in a house with very low ceilings sitting on couches together singing carols and giggling.

Three or four days full of lots. Lots of jokes about pantyhose, lots of games of Authors, lots of re-watching of State Fair, lots of racing out to the cold breezeway to grab orange balls, lots of Christmas.

Here we are, last Christmas—grown, haven’t we?

BUT…

This Christmas we couldn’t get there till the 23rd. It was the McLellans’ year off, Uncle Jon (better known as UJ) had done his familial duty at Thanksgiving, and as for Uncle Bill’s—Hannah and Billy had to work and couldn’t come, and Joe had already left for St. Louis. We had a nice evening, sang carols and all, and the next day an attempt was made at a cousin basketball game, which I rather spoiled, and that was it. The rest of them left. We went ahead and did the present opening on Christmas Eve, just to get it out of the way, it seemed. Christmas felt like any other Sunday, except quieter. Even in our unusually small numbers, we more than doubled the attendance at my grandparents’ sadly fading church. Merry Christmas and all that…

The holidays seemed to have matched my semester a little too well—quite lost from what I thought it would be. It all leaves me holding fast to the things that haven’t changed:

When we spent the night in Nashville, and the question of the evening’s entertainment was brought up, Peter Immediately said “We could play Monopoly…” and we all said “NO!”

When asked to pick a carol George made a show of deciding and then grumbled “We Three Kings.” It used to be the only song he’d sing with us, even in the summertime.

There was still a card table in the breezeway piled with cookies and leftovers.

A Christmas Carol was read aloud in the car, and It’s a Wonderful Life lives in that glorious black and white.

There’s something else too, that hasn’t changed. However I feel about the day, whether or not I even remember that it’s Christmas, it’s still the day Christ was born. It’s still the incredible beginning of God’s plan of redemption. It is a day that means even in the dreariest, most disenchanted place A SAVIOR IS BORN. Even when I’m drowning in self,  and dull, adopted hurts, my God sent his Son as a baby, even more vulnerable and prone to tears than I am, that I might know hope. And that will not change.

Tomorrow is new day and a new year in which I get to serve a living God who came to save me. Please remind me when I forget. Please.

Colors

My junior year of high school I was in a creative writing class, and in my journal I always told my teacher what color my day had been–a linoleum green, aubergine, festive red, or a warm, linty grey. The bad days, the gag into a corner days, were always tan. I hate tan.

Recently, though I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention, my days have been mostly the same color. Not quite sure what color that is–not tan–(okay, maybe kind of tan…) This is why I haven’t been writing. I actually have a list of possible topics living on my desktop, but it takes at least a tiny bit of Walt Whitman’s “urge, urge, urge” to make myself write, and the urge only lives in color.

But I have been thinking about some nice things today. I picked up a copy of the Quad, because my poem is in it with a whole page to itself (!!!) and then I started thinking about the book review I’m going to write on academic tenure, and that made me very happy, and then I remembered Christmas and cousins, and I watched this video. Then I felt just a little bit like I’d found my feet, and I started writing to you.

And now for some more things which have the potential to make the days change color. Classes are over and finals are coming, and I’m looking forward to them just a tad. I’m good test-taker. I’m comfortable there. At some point Heidi and I are going to go to the library, find a T.S. Eliot anthology, and I’m going to read her “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees,” sitting there in the stacks. I’ll drive to Missouri with my family, and Scrooge and the Grinch will probably come with. Over break I plan on reading The Hunger GamesHuck Finn and John Green’s new novel, if I can get a hold of it, along with some of those tenure books. And Hannah’s getting married–in January. A few sparks of pigment there, don’t you think?

One of my favorite lines of poetry from this semester is in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese  about the “gold and purple of thine heart.” She’s talking about an innate, unfaltering royalty. A nobility that lives behind the plainest faces, and beneath the flattest places–rich and deep and velvet. The color, perhaps, of peace, of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “dearest freshness deep down things.” Fresh, warm, patient, Princely peace.

So here’s to gold and purple days, friend. Happy Christmastime.

Twenty Things About College

1)      You have a roommate. She plays harp and draws you comics and dances around and talks to herself and is generally wonderful. But you’re very different in a lot of ways, and sometimes what with being in a small cinderblock room together for a very long time you yell some. And maybe get a little sarcastic. But then things boil down, and get understood, and you hug and giggle and go to dinner.

2)      Laundry quarters are a commodity.

3)      You have other friends too, and some weeks you are especially thankful for them. For things like being hospitable and patient, or accomplishing wonderful, commendable things, or just displaying a whole lot of goodness. Because those are the sorts of things people do in college, sometimes.

4)      You have school work. This involves professors and classes and pens and papers and computers. People still whine about their work, and you wonder why they came to college in the first place. You read some poetry and write some essays and learn a lot. You spend time contemplating the nature of humanity. Sometimes grades are connected to money, and it makes you angry and scared and sad.

5)      You don’t always get enough sleep and it’s not always your fault.

6)      You save tables with wallets and IDs and learn recognize all your friends’ stuff so you can plop yours down next to it, even if they’ve gone off to get food.

7)      There is no privacy. Because even when you are in a room by yourself you can hear people talking on the other side of the wall, and it’s not like there’s phone reception anyway.

8)      There are couples. I don’t really want to talk about that though. Take Courtship and Marriage and Dr. Thrasher will inform you.

9)     You have many long conversations with friends about your families. Also really good food.

10)   You’re constantly doing that thing where you meet people for the first time, and have to pretend you don’t already know their entire life story because they’re the friend of a friend or just plain famous and you’ve looked them up in the campus directory. It eventually becomes kind of comedic, so you tend to get giggly and awkward when you meet people.

11)   Tea.

12)   You look forward to weekends even more than you did in high school. (You’re worried that this attitude will only escalate throughout life. And you don’t think it’s healthy.)

13)   You still think poop is funny. Somewhere in your soul you will always think poop is funny.

14)   You really like intercampus mail. And sometimes you find an old packet of popcorn and write a random box number on it, drop it in the slot and giggle all day long.

15)   Sometimes you go exploring and this happens. Continue reading

Happy Heart

I missed a week. I’m sorry. In the meantime I have been thinking deeply about blog ideas. I thought about writing about going running, about heartsickness, about boldness and hypocrisy, about summer jobs, about Hopkins and Emerson, and about the letter V. So here’s that blog entry:

I’m bad at going running; heartsickness sucks; I am not bold, but I am often a hypocrite; I need a summer job; Hopkins and Emerson are marvelous to read; and the letter V is very passionate.

But the blog entry I’m going to actually write you today goes something like this:

I have a folder on my desktop called “Happy Heart” and it is full of other folders which are full of pictures.

My dad took this in July when he ought to have been packing up the car so he and Mom could leave Brookfield. I had just been a mechanic and gotten the belt back on the mower. Also, don’t you love the lake? I miss it.

I love this person.

This is my backyard–mostly my mom’s garden. It was my desktop for a while.

This is my French professor from last fall and my current Symbolic Logic professor. They’re married to each other, and I’m sure they have no idea I’m in possession of this picture.

This is cool.

These are some of my cousins and me on my grandpa’s eighty-sixth birthday. We ate pie and I like them. This was my desktop for a while too.

I love this person too.

This is my dad and my grammy. I like their faces.

We have Storytime tonight. In Heidi’s room. And it’s gonna be  Just. Like. This.

Sometimes

I’ve had one of those weeks. Not the awful, overwhelming kind, or the traumatic kind, or the inexplicably sad kind, but the kind that I can’t remember. The kind where someone asks me how my week has been and I look at them blankly, because I can’t remember a single thing that happened. I know that I went to class and did some reading and wrote an essay and slept and ate and talked, but as far as anything worth latching onto and remarking upon… nothing, apparently. It’s one of those days where the last notable thing I remember happening to me is the time I played Vengeance in my high school gym. Right now my parents and George are in Scotland, and Abby’s at a wedding, and it’s Laura’s nineteenth birthday. I remember these things, and I think, “Someday I will go to Scotland. Someday I will go to a wedding. Maybe even have one myself. Someday I’ll have another birthday. ” And that’s true, but, of course, right now I’m just sitting here writing a paper about the tragedy of inaction in Dickens’ Bleak House. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but really? The tragedy of inaction? MUST WE RUB IT IN?

I’ve always believed, or said I believed, that real, vibrant, spirit-fueled life is made up of lots of tiny little puzzle pieces of  sharing blankets and having wet hair in the morning and giving hugs and having sandals that sometimes rub and saying “it’s you an’ me till three o’clock” to my paper. We were meant for these little things too. And yet, I am apparent ly not content to find that God lives in quiet lives, such as mine is right now. I want mountains and hurdles and heartbreak and rebirth. Yet here I am feeling dull and remarkably unspectacular. But perhaps I am, as Deut. 33:12 would have it, “dwelling between his shoulders,” and I’m just failing to notice or appreciate. It’s been known to happen, Lord.

In Other News

I haven’t written in a long time. Sorry about that. There hasn’t been a lack of material, just more of a lack in interest in said material. But I’m gonna muster up some interest, okay? Here goes.

– I got into the Raleigh airport at eleven p.m. and three of my very best friends picked me up and we went to Waffle House, acted obnoxious, and gave the nice waitress a large tip consisting mostly of change.

-My family had a staycation (Hooray, Mom!) which included a visit to Blandwood  Mansion (which I didn’t know existed), a trip to the art museum in Raleigh (where the Rodin was lovely), a voyage to Staunton to see the ASC (The Tempest was wonderful-wonderful), and a drive up to Hanging Rock (where I discovered that sometime in the last ten years I have become a very bad hiker. Awful, actually.)

-I have gone on four runs,  and now own my first-ever sports bra and real running shoes. I have yet to make it a half mile without stopping to die and walk.

-I am addicted to Hulu. Arrested Development, The Glee Project, How I Met Your Mother, Merlin, Project Runway… It really needs to end.

-Last week I had a little Tres Amigas reunion at the lake with Kinsley and Ruth. We watched some weird movies, ate pizza from the grill, and had a mysterious (but casualty-free) accident while tubing. Just like old times.

Downton Abbey is lovely. Go watch it.

-Mary and I (and Karen [not Hannah]) painted our bedroom, which desparately needed it. I had been subjecting the walls to duct tape for years. It is now ballerina pink and looks like a hotel room. I kind of love it…

-I found out the names of my freshman little sisters, sent them an exuberant email, friended them on facebook, and burnt my fingers making them the best welcome posters ever.

-Everybody got engaged. (And by everybody I mean Beth and Tim, Hannah and Nathan, and Alyssa and John. ) Weddings! Huzzah! In other life-changing news, Emily and Casey will very soon have their new boys home from Ethiopia. Huzzah again!

-Additional highlights of being home have included finally seeing Harry Potter with Abby, making very oily Ravioli with Karen, buying an excellent leather skirt from Goodwill with Hannah, and discovering a diary of a long ago trip to Grandma’s with Mary. Also, that night Hannah, Karen, Patrick and I went to Walmart and put name tags on everything. That was good, too.

On Friday I go back to school. Between now and then I will snap out of myself. I will go see The Help with Annie, I will visit Mrs. Liebmann, I will look up fall fashion and get excited,  I will pack, I will plan, I will smile, I will get of bed the moment I wake up. In a week, I will be hugging so many people so much. It’s gonna feel good.