15 May 2013 2 Comments
13 May 2013 Leave a Comment
6am, I’m the only one awake now. Staying at home for the weekend in order to work at the pool, I share a room with the three little ones. Sisters back to back in their big bed, pink blankets and stuffed animals scattered around them. There’s a toddler bed at the end of their bed; blue sheets, Superman blanket. The little guy’s not in there, though.
He slept there last night. Fell asleep with his Elmo milk cup, dark little hands tucked under his soft cheeks. I heard him when I went to sleep, his breath rattling, shaking. He’s got a cold now, and he coughed and sputtered in his sleep; rubbing his itchy nose in his dreams. I fell asleep in the room, listening to his sleeping breath alternate even, resting, with coughing. But he left the room sometime during the night, and it’s quiet now.
I get up, shuffle across the hall to the bathroom. The old, dark, wooden floor creaks, just in one spot. I hit that spot, accidentally. My backpack, overnight bag, is in the bathroom. I find my pants, step over the creaky floorboard to my closet, flip through dresses, skirts, tops, to my purple work shirt. Brush teeth, hair in a pony tail, bathroom light off.
In the kitchen, I stand against the counter, eat a yogurt. There are five different bottles of vitamins in the cabinet, labeled with black Sharpie. N, mine. G+L, the little girls. T, the mother. I eat two of mine, the gummy ones, in the dim light of the kitchen.
The kitchen window faces a brick wall. Across, offset by two feet, someone’s laundry room looks into our kitchen. Between, there are two cement walkways, a thin strip of green plants between them. It’s the middle of May- spring- even though it’s still chilly, and the sun is rising quickly, casting pale white light onto everything in its path. The flimsy plants glow bland green in the growing light.
My ride will be here soon. I find my pens, shrug into my yellow coat. I’ve only brought flip-flops home, but I’ll be barefoot at the pool, anyway. I step into the living room, past the front door, to glance out the front window. The blinds are closed, though; this couch room, play room, school room, living room has been transformed into a bedroom.
The mother sits in the corner, at the very front of the house, rocking the baby boy. It’s hard to breath lying down when you’re sick, and 3am, she woke up with that little boy, and now they’re both sleeping there in the rocking chair. She’s pulled the special grey blanket- her Christmas present to herself- around them both, and his head is slumped, tired, against her. Sitting up against her, he breathes clear, easy.
Later, in a couple of weeks, the little boy will leave; he’ll return to the mother who gave birth to him. But for now, he sleeps on the blue sheets and he eats out of the Cars bowl in the seat at the end of our table. For now, we love him and teach him and feed him and dress him. And the mother, she gets up at 3am to change him, rock him, love him.
02 May 2013 Leave a Comment
It’s hot outside. Classes haven’t started yet but they will soon; another day, maybe two. It’s the middle of August, 2012, and students are slowly trickling back to this downtown campus. I’ve been here since Tuesday, so has The Roommate.
There are other girls here too; carting suitcases and boxes upstairs from waiting minivans, dragging bins out of storage. Moving into a dorm room stripped bare every summer is a long task, but we prop our doors open and the hot Chicago wind blows through the open windows, and there are people arriving, people welcoming, people shouting, downstairs in the Plaza.
The new students have already moved in. Seven of them. August, of course, means new friendships and new faces and new voices in the hall, and it’s funny to think that August has no idea what May will look like. But May looks back and August is hopeful, excited, anticipatory.
The new students are here, and the returning students fill in the empty rooms every day. There are more doors opening and shutting every morning, on the way to and from the shower, meetings, breakfast, New Student Orientation functions. There are more soft, padding steps on the flat hallway carpet. This floor is coming alive.
But not everyone is back. Ellie Rose lives across the hall, three doors down. At the end of last school year, I stayed on campus until the very end, until graduation, and that last night, four of us (Ellie Rose being one), we laid on that dingy hallway carpet, amidst the suitcases and Goodwill and garbage bags. Packing up is a hard thing to do; I don’t understand how everything so expands, grows, accumulates at school. So we laid there at one in the morning, taking a break from all that packing. Then in the morning life began again, and we went to graduation, finished packing, moved out.
But that was last May and now it’s August and Ellie is back. She’s brought Spider Boy with her, after hosting his highness all summer long, and working to unpack in my room, I can hear her voice, hear her music, hear her calling for me (she calls me Nataline) just down the hall.
Mar is back. She’s moved from next door to the end of the hall, just one more door down, and once again, May looks back at August and how could I know that I’d spend so much time in that end cap room? A year spent as neighbors, Mar and I have created memories, and her water-blue eyes and gentle smile feel like coming home.
The Neighbor’s not back, though. The Neighbor, whose real name is Krista. The Neighbor with that blonde hair, long down her back, and blue eyes. We get along, we always say, because we’re the only ones who laugh at each other’s jokes. But I think she’s hilarious, and she builds my self-esteem right up; people roll their eyes sometimes, because they can’t see just how funny we really are.
And she laughs at my humor, sends grinning emoticons on the group message that circulates our phone, but she’s not here yet. We’re not quite whole yet.
She came later. Not the very last one to return, but close. With her arrival, she completed our floor. We were waiting for her, counting down the hours until we knew she’d return. She texted in the morning, at the gate, before take-off, after landing, on the train; we asked her for updates constantly. When will you be here?
I didn’t realize she had arrived. There were loud voices, exclamations, in the bathroom, Mar’s, Ellie’s voices ringing loud off the tiled walls. Elevator dinged up and I stepped off, tucking my keys in my pocket. I could hear the noise from the hallway. Three voices, I recognized them instantly: Ellie. Mar. Krista.
I ran the last two steps to the bathroom, pushed through the swinging door. Two rows of stalls, a sink and the showers at the back, the girls are in the middle, in the center of the room. The Neighbor had her back to me, that white-blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail that brushed her back with every swing of her head. I said her name, must have, because she turned around and then those bathroom walls shook with echo because we were screaming and hugging and the other two were yelling, and we were all talking at once, and suddenly, everyone was back.
Everything was just right.
The summer will change things, of course. The upcoming months will grow relationships, stretch them, change us all. And there will be new hearts on the floor this August, new friends, new family. And there will be old friends, too. Returning students, hearts I know, stories I’m familiar with, faces I love. And we’ll count down the hours until everyone’s back, and we’ll yell in the hallways, laughing, talking all at once when another sister steps off the elevator, makes her way down the hall. Things will be different, but they’ll be the same, too. Because these friends are family and these friends are sisters, and everything will be all right.
03 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
31 Mar 2013 1 Comment
I don’t mind, really, when people come over.
WHich is good, because that happens rather much.
It’s almost all right, almost great,
when all those people and kids
are coming over all that time,
because they see my family
and that I don’t mind,
because I’m rather proud of it.
You see these people? These are my people.
And I like them.
30 Mar 2013 1 Comment
• I’m home for the weekend; arrived yesterday afternoon, and I’ll return to school tomorrow evening. I could probably tally up several past posts which I have begun with the exact phrase seen above. I’m rather repetitive sometimes.
• Actually, I’ve been told that before. I wrote a paper last year, and exercised much the same writing techniques that appear in my blog posts, and someone read that paper and told me that I was repetitive. I think about that quite frequently, actually. Think about it frequently, and do almost nothing to alter my writing style.
• So I’m still repetitive.
• I took the two young sisters to the movie theater this evening. We saw The Croods. We’ve built a kind of tradition wherein I take it upon myself to accompany them to the theater once a year. The first time we did this, Larissa was three and Glendy was five, and we saw Despicable Me with Jo and her boys. The fire alarm in the theater went off partway through and I very nearly gave up the whole adventure, but they turned it off midway through our required evacuation and we were permitted back to our seats. Since the girls weren’t too deeply scarred by the whole experience, we did it again the next year.
• My father and I took the girls to see Winnie the Pooh two summers ago. I’ve already told you multiples times before how much I love that movie, and I’ll say it again because I have high standards friends, and that film is witty, creative, humorous, gentle, and quite endearing. So really, I encourage all to obtain and enjoy that great film.
• So The Croods. Having taken it upon my shoulders to bring the small ones to the theater, I of course feel responsible for the type of entertainment I was exposing them to. This explains why I actually read a review for The Croods, something I generally avoid doing. The review (from a Christian website, nonetheless) was surprisingly positive, and I approached this afternoon’s entertainment with eager curiosity. But oh, man, the movie was phenomenal. Deeply interesting from the opening credits, The Croods maintained my rapt attention throughout the film, and even made me cry in the emotional climax in the middle. I cried in a movie theater, friends.
• My father informed the kitchen today that I am becoming more emotive. What this means is that I had the emotional variety of a koala bear as a teenager, and have now grown such that not only do I allow tears to come out of my eyes, but I permit such eye leakage to occur in a movie theater.
• The Roommate is at school right now, while I am at home, and I’m experiencing the phenomenon wherein I feel very removed from what is happening in the realm of school because we work cooperatively to keep each other informed.
• So we Facebook chatted, which is a big deal because I haven’t been “online” on Facebook chat since the first week of January, due to the fact that when you are online, people talk to you, which I generally try to avoid in all areas of my life.
• But The Roommate. I found an image online featuring a zombie drawn in black and white, smiling creepily, captioned, “Running back to your room from the bathroom? I love a good race.” I posted said image on The Roommate’s Facebook wall because I am constantly being teased for the fact that I run so fast from the bathroom, back to our room, that the toilet is still flushing when I burst into the room. I posted the image on her wall and reminded her that this is real life: I must run, and I must run very quickly.
• But I’m home now, of course, and there are no zombies in these hallways. This is probably because there are 2.7 feet between the bathroom and my bedroom door, and that just isn’t enough space for a zombie.
• In closing, I’ve taken to calling the small sisters food items, as a term of endearment. I kissed them an hour ago, after having read them two chapters of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and said goodnight to Taco Sauce and Cheesecake. With that in mind, good night dear French Fries, and we’ll probably talk again rather soon.
29 Mar 2013 1 Comment
I’ve written before about my dorm floor at school. I’ve told you about my dorm. I’ve written about The Neighbor and The Roommate and Nelle and Jen and Mar and Ellie Rose, and the collection of other lovelies that live up and down that carpeted hall. I’ve told you how I want to remember these times, these conversations, these friends.
I’ve told you all that and it’s all been true: I love the school I attend, the floor that I live on, the ladies I live with. But recently, these past weeks, a shift that’s been creeping up quiet came slowly into focus, and I realized that my floor really is a home; these girls really are sisters.
It sounds a little bit redundant, probably, or maybe simplistic and obvious. Of course it’s home- I’ve lived there for almost two school years. Of course they’re sisters- aren’t we all family in Christ anyway?
And yes, I have lived on the floor rather a while (and I have every intention of returning to the same room this fall), and yes, we are all children of God, but these past days, I’ve settled into that floor, that home, like never before. God dropped me onto the floor, pushed me right along with That Roommate, 18 months ago, and I can only believe that He’s the One who’s making it home, making us family, now.
It’s a funny feeling, almost. Funny because I didn’t even think about it, didn’t realize it until later, because it all felt so natural, so settled, so peaceful, so right.
Felt like that when Jenny and I dumped backpacks in rooms, and grabbed jackets and purses for a Tuesday afternoon outing to Target. Maybe you remember that my love for Target is deep and wide, and it’s a long and lengthening list of floor sisters who I’ve accompanied on errands to that wonderful red and white store.
Jen and I rode the train, just a short trip deep under the busy Chicago streets, and it felt even shorter because there’s a bond of mutuality from living, studying, being together on that floor, and we talked about everything. We got to the big Target, the Roosevelt one, and pushed the cart up and down Easter aisles, past the school supplies, upstairs to look at mattress pads, and to survey the cute baby clothes, because we had a little time. Walking back down the hill is easier, and I bought a snack, we took turns dipping miniature crackers into the accompanying frosting all the way back to the underground train.
I study and I work, and my calendar is full of little boxes delineating just what there is to be done, but sometimes those things can be done alongside others; I took my computer into Nelle’s room the next day, to study and socialize. But she wasn’t there, even though she said she’d be, and the opportunity couldn’t be passed up. So I slipped right into that space between the wall and the bed, and knees curled to my chest, that’s where I did homework. And soon enough, the door clicked and swung open, and I waited a moment before raising my head, peeking my eyes over the side of the bed, and what a stroke of luck. Nelle was looking my way, and the silent surprise of a head appearing on the side of the bed made her eyes spread wide and her eyebrows shoot high, and in the moment before she could raise her voice against my creeping, we were already laughing.
We do Target and creeping and homework and laughing, but she comes into my room on Monday night, because the door was open, and I’m on the bed, surrounded by homework, doing not a thing. So she sits on my desk chair and I was right there on the bed, we talked about God and boys and sovereignty and fear, and the verse that she put on my wall.
And really, when you think about it, there’s so much that could go wrong, so much that could get off, that when 24 girls come together to make home, it really can only be the work of God.
27 Mar 2013 Leave a Comment
I’ve written, told you about our wonderful day at Magic Kingdom, but I thought it was time to show you some photos of our Disney Day, too.
Early morning with cousin Catherine and Cinderella’s castle!
25 Mar 2013 Leave a Comment
It was perfect, really. Absolutely perfect and I’m torn between satisfaction for having witnessed it, and disappointment that no one else saw, no one else held their breath in that split-second instant. But I saw, and the whole scene was perfect.
I could see because I was in the middle seat, in the back row. Shoulders tucked between sisters perched on matching pink booster seats, I saw through our blue-tinted windshield, right to you. In the seats in front of me, the aunt and the mother sat talking; they probably sat like that when they were little, too. In the very front, just behind you, my grandfather drove, grandmother his copilot. They’re all occupied with this driving, this talking, and really, I was, too. But I took a breath and I looked around, and just straight ahead, I saw it.
You are driving. You’re driving and your hair looks dark- maybe like mine- through the rearview window. He’s sitting next to you in that front seat, busy with something else. Is he reading a map? Planning the route? Sending a text? I can only see the back of his short cropped hair, and I really don’t know. But you know, and that’s all that matters, I suppose. After all, you’re the one driving him with. You’re the one who’s his.
We’re all driving, this whole line of cars is headed just the same way. The ocean is on our left, yours and mine, and his and that of my mom and aunt and sisters, grandparents, too. The deep blue stretch, rolling brilliant with long white caps glistening diamond on the crest of every gentle wave. The waves roll splashing up the heavy, wet sand, collide with the chocolate-red rocks, sending white spray everywhere. It’s a beautiful California coast on our left.
The right side is the city side. It’s a funny mix of quaint and modern in this seaside town. We’ve passed old town shops and a wooden sign indicating the wharf. We’re rolling now past apartments, office buildings, a vast park with an intricate playground and paddle boats, too. And soon we’ll roll right down the street and onto the coastline highway. But we’re at a stoplight now.
We’re all right here now, and I can see where you are, and it happens so fast, I almost miss it. But I don’t and I’m glad I don’t. He’s sitting there in the passenger seat, distracted. And we’re at this stoplight; you’ve got just a tick of time before red goes green and we’re moving forward once again. But there’s a pause here, now and you look over, look city side, look at that passenger there.
He’s oblivious for a moment and I see your lips move, but it’s the blink of an eye and you’ve moved on before I can guess what words you spoke. A name- his? Hey? Look at me? I don’t know what you said. But it worked and in the space of a breath, in the click of a light from yellow, red, green, he’s looking up and you’re leaning forward in this pause of a second. We’ve slowed to a stop in the setting sun, and the side of your profile shows sunglasses on you, on him. You’re black outlines against the sinking yellow sun, and he kisses you just a moment, then the light turns and the road bends and someone manuevers between our car and yours. I can’t see you anymore.
But in that evening second, in that snapshot of a life, I watched captivated from the backseat of a minivan. And your stoplight kiss, sandwiched between an ocean of earth shattering blue, and a setting sun city scape, was totally, completely perfect.