I have finally had time to think. I finished finals on Monday, missed some people in my good-byes, and left school on Tuesday. The past few days have been full of helping my mom cook, and driving Mary back and forth to Davidson to move her in and out of houses. Next week is for unpacking and repacking, and generally being of use to some favorite high school teachers.
A couple hours after I got home, I went to Caldwell’s spring choir concert, and after about two songs, I wanted nothing more than to sneak out the back door and go home. I stayed because to leave would have greatly perturbed George, my date, and because this was something I had promised my high school self. It wasn’t that the music was hard to listen to. Mama Twigg, you always put on a great show, and the other night was the best I’ve heard. Our choir department is dang good, and I hope they’re getting a heck of a lot more money than they were when I was there. Neither was it loneliness that made me uncomfortable. Lots of faces lit up when they saw me, and I got all the hugs I could reasonably ask for. I think what bothered me most was my own detachment. Last year, I was fine at graduation, but I bawled at the spring concert. Choir was far and away one of my favorite parts of high school. Almost all of my close friends were in it at some point or another, and as one of the few who liked almost every single song we sang (yes, even the Robert Frost cow one) I was possibly its most devoted member. That girl still exists, and I hope she always will, because for the most part, she’s a good kid. But in the last year many layers, some of them rather thick, have stretched over her. I have grown larger, more substantial, more myself. On Tuesday night at the concert I had only just left a heap of dear friends, and there were very few theatrics with which to mark my goodbye. I was not in the mood to watch all these nice kids gush over each other, and the extremely tight bond which was cemented by perfect harmony and pleated black cumberbunds. I wanted to be home on my study couch, writing an entry such as this. Here goes.
It has been, now that I think about it, a wonderful year. A very nice beginning sort of year. I am startlingly, some what of a big girl coming out at the other end of it (dare I say…adult?) When buying lunch I think about food groups. I take myself, and sometimes my friends for long, late-night walks. Sometimes I forget my make up and it’s totally okay. I have a books-to-read list and a movies-to-watch list, and I can identify and mock bad literary criticism when I see it. I am more shy when I am uncomfortable, but I am more honest with those I’m close to. Somehow, by a lovely perverse law of nature, if you get in the habit of always sharing your honest opinions, your opinions honestly become nicer, especially if you make a practice of listening to other people’s first. I’m less theatric, more practical, and in addition to my usual endearments, have picked up some soothing forms of address such as “dude” and “man.” My speech is also sometimes liberally sprinkled with unintentionally pretentious literary references. I am much more dependent on this little computer than I would like to admit. Aside from this blog, I’m addicted to several TV shows on hulu, and I no longer feel the need to handwrite the first draft of every paper. (I’m a little nostalgic about that last one.) Friends have gotten in the habit of giving me their cast-off clothes (sweaters and dresses in particular,) and telling me when I’m getting sassy. I’ve learned to live with snow and boots and wet jean-cuffs and a Jesus who is much more real and active than I’d ever really known. And, dude, I’ve probably given and gotten more hugs in a nine-month period than the rest of the Borough of Grove City combined. (As Jackie would say: like a BOSS!)
Anyhow, a week from this coming Tuesday, I leave for six weeks at my grandparents’ in Missouri. It’s exactly what I did last summer, and it was not the plan this time around, but, you know? It’s gonna be good. I’ll weed some rose gardens, wash some windows, and forge through that book list. Here, for your reading pleasure, is what that good kid under all those layers wrote as she sat in the car last July heading home to Carolina, after a generous dose of Brookfield, MO.
As I left for Missouri I had two basic ideas of what would be happening once I got there. Books and Boys. It was to be a summer to remember, a summer to grow up in. Something adult was going to happen. Yet instead of late nights reading or in town, I found myself sprawled across the bed in the end room till midnight or so, comfortably suffocated in the estrogen-saturated atmosphere, telling stories and discussing isms. Shakespeare, Calvinism, elevators, Jane Austen, Silly Bands and feminism. I grew to love Charity’s questions and the way Faith mocked my figures of speech. Every boy was pronounced a “sweetheart” and chigger bites were documented on film. We cut and dyed our hair just for kicks. Girlhood reigned. One afternoon I ran into town to get something from Walmart for Grandma. While there I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t before. There were hordes of girls, about my age or a little younger, wandering around a little aimlessly, wearing a great deal of eyeliner and a uniform of t-shirts which had been ripped open down the sides, then tied back together to artistically display their sports bras underneath. It dawned on me. Walmart is the one place in town everyone comes. This is the equivalent of clubbing in Brookfield. They were looking for love. I bought my bleach and left with no regrets. I had a cake to make, and later maybe the girls and I would lie out. We would get in the pool, pour bleach on each other’s heads, and then go to the front yard to let it dry in the sunny breeze off the lake which feels like the warm moment between waking and sleeping, like Aslan’s breath.
I have learned many things about myself this past month or two. I have learned that I easily lose patience with those who annoy me, and I have so little self-control that I will consume an entire jar of Nutella in 24 hours. I have learned that I do not appreciate either KFC or Lady Gaga more on better acquaintance, and that there are moments when sixteen-year-old boys could suddenly go extinct and I would totally be okay with it. But mostly, I have learned that I am blessed. As the psalmist says, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.” Places like a camp with tall trees, tall cousins, and ginger cookies. Places like a twilight cemetery on a hill full of cicada song. Places like a long, low house looking over a lake, which smells of bacon first thing in the morning, and only has little country mice. And my family. I have several cousins who like to give presents for every occasion, (mostly I think, because they like to buy them…) but I’m not sure they’ll ever understand that the greatest gift they give me is the way they listen. They listen when I talk like they want to hear. They ask me to read; they ask for stories. I’m someone important. I’m their cousin. Of course, my grandparents are the sort of people you rarely meet if ever. They have done what their Lord has asked of them, and spent their lives being the salt of the earth, preserving and seasoning what is good. I will never find better or more godly examples.
So now I have packed up to go home after seven weeks. I had to sit on my suitcase to zip in all the new clothes I have gotten practically for free and all the letters friends from home have sent. I have learned my way around my grandma’s kitchen, even making a pie of which she approved, though none of my cakes quite made the grade. True, I did not play on any hay bales, but I got to visit the Marceline Business Complex, and drive Highway F with the windows down, so what more could I ask? There were people to hug when I left Brookfield this morning, there will be people to hug tonight in Nashville, and, most excitingly, there will be people to hug when I get home on Friday. Whenever anyone asks my grandfather how he is he answers, “Greatly blessed.” Tell me about it, Grandpa. Tell me about it.
Yeah. I got something to look forward to in a few weeks, don’t I?