Short Words.

In Michigan.

Four days.

One Family.

Cousins.

Grands.

Aunt.

Uncle.

Eating.

Shopping.

Games.

Movies.

Football.

Jokes.

Laughing.

So much laughing.

Thankful.

So very thankful.

~Natalia

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Things I Still Don’t Know

She asked me what it was I love about her; Said everything and things I still don’t know. ~Excerpt from Who Would’ve Known, by Lee Dewyze

It’s a love song, of course. A sweet, simple, rather romantic love song. I missed this line the first time I heard it. The first several times, probably. But then I heard it, paused, looked up the lyrics to verify what I had heard. Now it’s my favorite line; sending the song to Mary, Livi on Spotify, I typed the words out in my message, along with the song link.

I wanted them to hear those sweet words: Everything and things I still don’t know. There is hope and promise and joy and contentment in those words. There is a story of the past, a taste of the present, a nod, quietly expectant, towards the future. There is love now, and it is all-encompassing, it is knowing, it is enough. But later, as lives unfold and stories lengthen, and hearts grow, the knowledge will be more and the love will be yet more. There are still things to know and things to learn and things to uncover and that is what makes love such a captivating mystery.

Thankfulness is like that, too.

Because look up, it’s Thanksgiving- a day to say thank you, today. And so we do. And those thanks are genuine and rich and deep. We thank family, we thank friends, we thank strangers. Tracing the lines of blessing back to the source, we thank God for everything we have, everything we see, everything we can think of.

And for things we still don’t know.

Because God is like that. He’s unending, of course; that’s what eternal means. But He’s not a line of static, an unending strip of dull divinity who doesn’t get out much, and who receives our thanks passively, tossing compliments haphazardly into a pile with all the other nice things people have said to Him, about him.

Nope. Not at all.

God is a dynamic, personal, interactive wonder, and He’s showing Himself, making Himself known, to you and I and all those who choose to follow Him piece by piece, little by little. So the picture we have of Him, the communication and the interaction and the challenge and the blessing and the growing? That’s God. It’s all from Him and it’s all true to who He is, and for all of it, we are so thankful.

But later, more, coming, we’ll know more. He will show us more, teach us more, enable us to see just a little bit more. And all those things we still don’t know? We’ll be so thankful for them. In fact, we already are thankful, because we know they are coming; because we trust Him.

He knows everything, sees everything, understands everything. But human eyes, human hearts, are small and weak and for what we see now what we know, we give thanks. And for what we still don’t know, for that also we give thanks.

~Natalia

A Day Away, A Month Away

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Photo taken Christmas Day, 2012.

One day from today- tomorrow- I’ll be home in the evening
for hugs and kisses on the cheek and the beginning of my Thanksgiving break.

One month from now- Christmas- there will be family and home and food and neighbors and laughing and playing and maybe even snow.

A day away, a month away; I’m excited for them both.

~Nat

A Light Parade Tradition

There’s a risk that you run with traditions. Keep doing something, over and over again, but nothing is new under the sun and yet nothing is the same, exactly. School had barely started when I wrote Light Parade in red, green markers on November 23rd. And you can go back and read about that parade in 2011, weaving like a human snake through crowds that stood still, pressed in. And 2012, downtown Saturday with Kat, we stood on the sidewalk, cheered as Mickey and Minnie passed, and my heart caught on the child voices around us, warbling Spanish, dropping English words where they fit best.

Then it’s parade morning, 2013, and I’m in my room all day long, but I look out the window frequently, and early, lunch time, the people are already moving towards the lake, towards Michigan Avenue. And I can hear cars honking and the faint whistle of the yellow-vested traffic director standing in the intersection, and 5:30 feels far away and so very close. I’m so excited that I skip, hop, to the bathroom, but last year was so good, and the year before; doubt lurks in the back of my mind. Maybe this year will bring expectation crashing down to a cold reality… maybe I should skip.

But then it’s 5pm and we’re walking east, towards lake, towards the Hancock, towards Michigan Avenue, and there’s no backing out now. I can see the search lights in the sky, tracing wide loops over buildings, sliding through, over, darkened sky scraper windows. We hit Michigan and turn right, south. It was cold last night, 2 in the morning, walking home from our Hunger Games movie adventure. Now, on this parade day, the cold is fresh, deep, frozen hard into the air, the ground; everything.

Twenty minutes, maybe fifteen, until parade time and still we move south, slowly. Halfway between Oak Street Beach- starting point- and the River- final destination- Crate & Barrel is five stories of warmth, buzzing with people. They peruse the displays, sit on the couches, finger the linens, the pillows, the curtains. We ride the escalators, around and around, climbing up to the fourth floor, then an elevator, full, to the fifth floor: bathroom.

Later, we’re back on the street, yet further down. And the parade starts and there are ten rows of people, packed tights, shoulder to shoulder swaying together, in front of us. But I can see the lights, the tops of the bright floats, and that’s alright. Later, we cross the river and there’s a Corner Bakery, I know, and inside, there’s barely standing room, and we step aside, squeeze past. Families, children with jackets colorful, puffy. Little ones with ear flaps on their hats, one drinks a milk bottle from the comfort of his stroller, there in the packed cafe.

Outside, the fireworks will start soon. We brace ourselves, spin through the revolving door, back into the frigid air. Santa is passing, here at the end of the parade, and we press towards the crowd. Because that is where the sights are, and that is where the warmth is, too. Santa Claus, waving, smiling, up there on his sleigh, means the end of the parade, and we wait only a minute or two before there is a boom, echoing across the river, against building after building. The sky, there above the night-black river, flashes purple, for just a moment, and the fireworks glow; loud, bright, fast.

Later, I’m still not sure why I so love the Light Parade. Not just for the parade, I’m sure. Not even for the fireworks, although there was a time when I counted the excitement of my life in the number of fireworks shows that I saw in a year. Rather, I’m coming to believe that it’s the people. There’s a thrill, an adventure, a joy, in being so surrounded with people, all together to enjoy, celebrate, partake in, the very same thing.

The group of Spanish preteens balancing on the edge of a planter, jabbering to each other as each float glided past. The pink-jacketed toddler on her father’s shoulders besides me. Windblown cheeks pink, blue eyes watching intently as I smiled up at her. The couples, hats set neatly on heads, knit gloves pristine, following one another through Crate & Barrel; I like this headboard, What do you think of two love seats, We need to get a round table like this. The three guys behind us as we huddled together, stamping feet, breathing white puffs of air, waiting for the fireworks. Children on shoulders, trotting besides parents. Families. Grandparents. Middle-aged couples. Friends.

All kinds of people, so very many interesting, unique, wonderfully-made people, and we’re all talking there, walking there, waiting there, breathing ice crystals into the night air, until the fireworks begin and we all stand and we all watch, and we’re all together there in that cold, Christmas city.

~Natalia

Life Right Now {#49}

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It started with red ribbon,
white light strands,
around the campus light poles.
Last week.
Then trees here and there through the city,
twinkling.
Now, this weekend, the Michigan Avenue light parade,
and the city green are brilliant,
stores red, green, cheery windows.
And here at school, there’s a Christmas tree window,
like a welcome home banner,
and it’s turning into Christmas everywhere,
here in the city.

~Natalia

Chicken Strips

I should have known it would be a good day when Mary texted me at 9:33am, informing me that the lunch entree was chicken strips.

I should have known it would be a good day when I accomplished (a fair part of) my to-do list before schedule.

I should have known it would be a good day when I rode the train to meet Kat at the Art Institute of Chicago and we went in because, well, membership, but we didn’t really look at the art, we just sat on the bench and talked so long, so fast, so much, that 1:45pm sitting down turned into 5pm and they are telling is the museum is closing soon.

I should have known it would be a good day when 9pm, we were 20 strong on the bus to the movie theater, and Diana already had the tickets, we stood in that Hunger Games theater line. And we sat at the top; snacks, friends, comfortable, and then 1am the movie ended, we would have stayed and watched all over again, if we could.

I should have known it would be a good day when we walked back to school in the cold Chicago streets, up Michigan Avenue, around the corner. And we laughed and we yelled and we talked as the wind blew our ears chilly.

And I knew it was a good day when I came back to my room, tonight.

Now it’s 2 in the morning and I’m still wearing coat, scarf, lying on my bed, blogging in the dark. And in minutes I’ll be sleeping and tomorrow will be another good day, and the joy of these Chicago school days, weekends, are so wonderfully unique.

~Natalia

Dear Monkey

Beads clicking, swinging in all those intricate braids, all around your little head.

Dimples, deep and adorable in your butter-soft baby cheeks.

Tiny white teeth, perfect squares with just a little space between each.

Baby hands, baby energy, baby heart.

You wear Disney Pull-Ups and refer to Aunty as “My Aunty” and Papi as “My Papi” and you say my name like so many other little ones have.

You hold your baby- the one Aunty bought you last week, the one you call CeCe- like a real baby. Your two-year-old hip out, one arm around the doll.

Aunty showed you how to rock the doll, holding its cloth body against your chest, bouncing your knees gently. You thought it was hilarious, laughed as she cradled your baby doll. Then you reached up and took the doll, rocked her just the same, held her close.

The littlest sweet one to ever live with us, you amaze us with your size; a baby in so many ways. In the way you cling to my hip, 30 pounds of little wonder. In the way you sleep sideways in your toddler bed, blanket over your head, little bottom in the air.

In the way you hold to Glendy, legs wrapped around her waist, head on her shoulder, when she picks you up. She’s so small, it’s funny to see her carry you like that. But you’re small, too.

I’ve never seen her dote on another child like that before, but I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me. You invite love, tenderness, care.

You are sweet and innocent and have fit into our family seamlessly since the day you arrived.

You’re leaving soon, little monkey. You don’t know the signs, but there’s a new backpack in the hallway and Aunty’s begun washing, organizing your clothes. I kissed your cheeks twice tonight, again once more, because I’m not sure if I will again.

You astound us with your memory, tiny princess. Recalling seemingly insignificant tidbits long after they occurred, you notice details and remember them, storing them up.

So I think you’ll remember these weeks. These weeks of being the littlest sister. These weeks of following your Aunty around and wearing handmedown dresses and playing dolls and dress-ups and kitchen. These weeks of singing Jesus Loves Me and Father, I Adore You and talking, talking, talking at the dining table while we all passed dishes and you licked the peanut butter out of a sandwich.

I think you’ll remember it all.

And so will we.

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~Natalia

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