While a month ago I had friends heading to New Zealand, Spain, and London, I'd spent the weekends in a row in a different Texas town. They may not sound uber-exciting, but each of them brought opportunities for me to create good memories that I'd like to share.
1. College Station. I've already written some about the purpose of this trip and some of my emotions involved. The first day was exciting and peaceful, but the second day was exhausting and stressful for my mom and I. I know I said some things outloud that I should have just kept in my head, but I apologized eventually. The stress of the day alleviated around 6pm when we decided to stay another night, and drive around and look at the outside of more homes/townhouses/duplexes, and our exhaustion turned into giddy delirium. We spent hours sitting outside of McDonalds in our car to get cheap wifi, driving around, trying to find properties based on the computerized voice of my mom's GPS program. Towards the end of the second day, we recognized how ridiculous it was that we were following around the verbal instructions of a machine, so we named her Clarissa. "Clarissa will guide us, she'll tell us what to do and where to do. Clarissa, where do we turn next?" We spent the weekend chasing properties, realtors, wifi signals, Starbucks, Walmarts, and hotels. We often found our way inside properties accidentally - a painter working inside would let us in, or the rentor would arrive home and let us in just as we were about to leave, or one time my mom shocked me by simply opening a window and climbing inside.
We were driving along one neighborhood toward a house, when we noticed two young men riding a two-seated bicycle. My mom nervously asked, "Are they gay?" "No mom, they're just frat boys." "Are you sure?" "Yes, they're wearing polos shirts. That's just what fratboys do." "Really?" "Yup. There's probably a video camera somewhere." To our surprise, these young men were friend of the rentors of the home we were looking at! They brought us into their home, and apologized for it being completely trashed from their party the night before and warned us not to open the fridge. I noticed a broken window upon entering, and it seemed like every room went into had another hungover guy in it - seriously, there were probably at least 10 guys coming in and out of the place, all in various levels of stupor at 4pm in the afternoon. One of the tenants explained how they would replace the carpet and probably put in some new appliances. He said that the owner had offered to replace the carpet for them, but they told them, "No, we're just going to trash the place, don't bother." I love that. I love people who are so unpretentious, so unapologetically themselves.
2. Abilene. This was a true getaway, and I needed it. Two of my closest high school friends went to ACU and recently graduated. They are both going to continue living in Abilene for a couple of more years, one to wait for her husband to graduate, and another to complete her master's program. We had a great weekend, catching up, celebrating, drinking watered down Walmart margaritas, having meaningful conversations and asking and answering the questions that are somehow only asked by these girls. Not always even deep probing questions, but E asked if me and M were such good friends because we were both only children. We then started talking about all the things that we have in common because we're only children, and the things that we do differently from others who have siblings. I've thought about this a lot before, but this brought new insights into my understanding of my personality and my relationships with others.
Also, I greatly enjoyed going to E's "inner city" church, hearing the honestly of the people there, and praising the Lord with our voices alone. During the service, I had these thoughts that sound depressing but were actually very comforting to me: I could marry the man of my dreams, and he could die or we could get divorced or I could get some terrible chronic illness. I just thought about the reality of that, how all the dreams I have could completely change, and one thing could happen to alter the rest of my life. This thought drove me to think about how the one constant in my life is God. My husband could die or I could get a disease and it could be absolutely awful, but I would be ok. Life would go on and I would be ok, possibly more than ok, with the Lord at my side.
This weekend brought some good insights and revelations, but mostly it brought me peace. If you ever find yourself in Abilene, you must visit a sculpture at ACU called "Jacob's Dream." It's not really just a sculpture, it's a beautiful structure including a sculpture of angels climbing the ladder to heaven, and surround by large stones, grass, and a small pool used for baptisms. The artist (an art professor) continues to work on this since it was created, continuing to carve words from scripture into the stones. The messages on the rocks aren't always obvious, there may only be one or two words on each large stone, but you simply look to the right or below, and the phrase continues. Though we never did find the "Jacob" to end the phrase, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, Issac, and . . ." but perhaps he hasn't completed that one yet. After following the messages in the rocks and taking many pictures, E and I finally just sat quietly for several moments, enjoying the peaceful setting. I prayed, I remembered God's presence, and I remembered these promises that were etched on these stones, from the word of the Lord which stands forever though heaven and earth may fall away.
I also found peace staying in E's home. They recently moved into a beautiful old home that they're renting, with hardwood floors, a moon-shaped window in the front door, and windows everywhere. My times spent eating, reading, watching the end of a movie with one of her roommates, or listening to the rain hit the tin roof that covered their back porch were so blissfully relaxing, I wanted to stay in this house forever. Indeed, after E left for work on Monday and I was about to head home, I was extremely reluctant to leave. I didn't leave right when she left because I was waiting for a CD to finish burning on her computer, but even after it was finished, I lingered. I walked around the house, checking to see if I'd neglected to pack anything, and sure enough, I found a book of mine sitting on top of their piano, but I still managed to leave my umbrella and a pair of shorts. I filled up my water bottle with the pitcher from their fridge, then refilled their pitcher, then refilled their ice trays. I checked the doors to make sure that they were locked. Finally, after loading everything into my car and not being able to think of any other duty that would give me an excuse to stay, I drove away.
3. Atlanta. Not Georgia, but Atlanta, Texas is the small town where both of my parents graduated from high school and the majority of my dad's family still lives there - my grandad, both his brothers, and two of my six cousins and their families, and a third cousin lives about 45 minutes away from there. I enjoyed seeing my family, we had our traditional fish fry, but I also had more fun than I usually do being there. After dinner, my dad, stepmom, aunt, and my cousin's friend from boy scouts, all went bowling. We had heard that the local bowling alley was under new ownership and had been renovated somewhat, so we decided to check it out. Whatever renovations had been done, my aunt said it looked exactly the same as when she had gone there in high school. This place was so great and retro, my cousin's friend commented that it felt like "we're in an episode of That Seventies Show." After bowling, we went to Walmart and bought a movie, and stayed up until 2:30 watching it. Seriously, most of my friends here don't ever stay up that late with me, and I found myself tiring out before my parents and aunt did! I guess I had a little age stereotype that was dispelled that evening. Shortly after finishing the movie, there came a knock on the door. It was my grandfather who had woken in the middle of the night, got up and seen that our car was gone, and thought that someone had shot us and taken our car! Had it not been for his extreme worry, I would have laughed at such a paranoid idea. Shortly after returning to my grandfather's house, I overheard him chastising my dad, "What in the hell?" and my dad explaining why we were out so late. Even at fifty-five, a man can still be responsible to his father.