Even the Bathrooms

April, 2012. Eight months into my undergraduate career and I’m feeling spontaneous, flippant, perhaps vaguely overtired by and underconcerned about the outcome of my semester. Riding the El for hours each week, commuting to and from that beloved poolside job, I stop one night, on the walk from city stop to city school, and step into Walgreens. Ten minutes later, I’m down $11 and carry a bag containing one box of semipermanent hair dye, swinging from my hand all the way up the street, up the elevator, to my room.

Two days later, late on Friday night, after another afternoon spent pacing the pool deck, dodging splashes, cheering on Friday Fun Day relays, Mary dyes my hair in the bathroom down the hall from our adjacent rooms.

We take a selfie first, a kind of Before Picture. Except there is no After, and the flash from my phone goes off, reflecting oddly off the bathroom mirror, and it takes five tries before we’re both looking, both smiling, both content with our expressions.

She dyes my hair, and late that night, I post that selfie on Instagram.

The next morning, Saturday, my homework-in-bed, no-breakfast-early-to-lunch day, there’s a notification on my phone, a comment on last night’s picture from a friend who graduated this very school several years before, when my own dreams of attending Moody were middle school fantasies.

Ah, those bathrooms, she says, I remember them well! I have many treasured memories from my time at Moody! She exclaims.

The comment makes me smile, and I pause for a moment, phone tossed haphazardly onto the bedspread beside me, and imagine the treasured memories that I will make, in the years and months to come. I wonder who my treasured friends will be, I hear the question echo vaguely, not even fully articulated, in the back of my mind. I wonder what we will do, what we will look back on as our own precious memories, the intangible and unrepeatable moments that define our time at college.

I wonder, and it never occurs to me, sitting there in my room, the heavy scent of hair dye still thick around me, that I am living those moment, with those treasured people, right then.

Now, August 2015, I still have red hair, but it’s only the ends and this look cost me 85 cents of Kool-Aid powder and a pot of boiling water. Now, I haven’t lived in a dorm in nearly eight months, and the hours that I spend on public transportation have significantly decreased. Now, I have a Moody Bible Institute diploma in a school-issued cover, and no papers to write, nor reading assignments to check off of my to-do calendar. Now, my neighbors are families, my phone is the primary way in which I communicate with Mary, and no one bangs on the wall of my room when I laugh too loud after 11pm.

And I miss it all.

And I know now, I see now, that those were the treasured memories.

The three times Mary and I dyed each other’s hair, sitting on one of the mismatched chairs we dragged from the kitchen down the hall, old towel around shoulders, looking up intermittently as the door swished open and closed.

Showering in those shadowy showers, risking scalding with every clink of the pipes, every near-unnoticed change in water pressure potentially signaling the impending loss of valuable skin cells. Yes, it burned, yes, I stormed out of the bathroom more than once when my preferred shower had been taken, but even that room, with the odd rock-patterned floor, the green tinted tile bricks, the ever-running toilets- even that bathroom holds a wealth of moments, all its own.

Running in on my way to class, backpack dumped on the flat carpet outside the door, just to check my outfit in the full length mirror next to the sink.

Getting ready in the early morning light in front of that same mirror- when the hour was just too early to justify bumping and shuffling around the room with a roommate mere feet away.

Early morning, late night, and everything in between, that bathroom down the hall is a part of the vast array of moments, places and memories that fold, that weave, that meld together to create the Moody that I treasure, the years that I cherish, the relationships that I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude to have.

~Natalia

This is Summer: Season Four {#2}



This sweet Jenny girl 

And her family so kind; 

So worth the road trip. 

~Natalia 

The Jen, Again

Some of you know the story. The tale of a sweet friend, new student at Moody for mere months, and adventures had even as we both sunk deeper into the realization that it would be a long, long time until we lived remotely close to each other again. 

Jenny moved back to Texas two years ago, after a year at Moody, and time together over the past 24 months has been sparse, carefully planned, and savored. 

But a wonderful thing about the Jen is that she’s one of many- surrounded by siblings, family as kind, encouraging, inclusive as she herself is.

Two years ago, I rode a megabus with Jen and an older sister, spent a weekend at another sister’s graduation from New Tribes. I loved it. I still talk to that sister. 

And now, on Friday, another sister is getting married, and tomorrow morning, I’m driving to Ohio for the wedding. 

For a wedding, yes, but what I’m looking forward to, counting down to, is the time with the Jen, with her siblings, with these people who are welcoming, entertaining, and kind enough to tolerate my repeated crashing of their events. 

And let me just say: I’m so excited to see the Jen again. 

~ Natalia 



{Photo taken at the Maggie Daley Ribbon in February, 2015}

A Boat with a View

I have a picture of the exact scene. The shot slightly blurry, the Chicago skyline is highlighted against the backdrop of dark night sky. The faint lightening- some call it light pollution- of so many buildings stretching so high into the sky can be seen behind the black towers. Small, seeming oddly insignificant, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel sits at the foot of the long line of buildings, the invisible waves of Lake Michigan lapping at its base.

I have the picture, but it’s the moment, the hours, behind the picture that I’d rather keep frozen, snapped on a camera roll of scenes and laughter, preparation and one hundred snippets of conversation.

Behind that picture, we’re three, then four, packed on wicker outdoor furniture. We’re on the top deck, the highest of two open-air areas, ornate all-weather furniture, heavily cushioned, strewn across both decks. Lower still, two indoor decks are lined with tables, their white table clothes long-since cleared of our buffet dishes, non-alcoholic bar drinks. There are two dance floors, one live band, and those two indoor decks are alive with the beat of the music, the hum and pitch of conversation, singing, laughing; voices rolling over and across one another, clashing and rising, and then falling to a hum once more.

Up on the top deck, the noise is different. The music can still be heard, but now it’s muted, vague through the textured steel below our feet. Instead, it’s the wind that we hear most up here. Whipping, blowing. It carries our voices the wrong way, words drifting away, immediately begging to be repeated. The conversations themselves are different up here, too. The chill and the blowing wind seem to bring about extremes; for some, it invokes yelling, loud exclamations punctuating the night air. Around us, small groups of people jump, spin, yell into the darkness, their voices disseminating quickly over the rolling waves.

For others, though, the vast openness of the lake and the cloud-filled sky incites a sense of closeness, of intimacy there in the wide open. Pairs, small pockets of threes, fours, scatter across the deck. Leaning against the waist-high railing, tucked into the canvas crevices of the couches. Their voices carry in the wind, but they are softened, morphed by the blowing breeze, and the sound that reaches us is unintelligible, gently undecipherable.

And we’re there on the couch, in the middle of the deck. The city before us, distant, seems tame from afar, but the glowing lights, the clean-cut skyline, hide millions of lives, stories, chaotic crossings of heart and souls. We’re four on the couch, isolated from the noise, from the city, from the world around us. I’m in the middle, shielded on both sides from the night chill. Two girls side by side, we’ve a suit coat tucked over our legs, generously offered by the guys sitting beside.

Tucked together, cushions over laps, shoulders curled together to guard against the wind, we sink into each other, exchanging words in conversations that we began months, years ago, and have picked up once more. I’ve not seen her in four months, after spending time together nearly every day for three years. She teaches and I teach and we learned how to teach side by side, practiced on one another, and now we’re arm to arm in the warmth of a couch on Lake Michigan, and the quiet conversation dips serious. She talks about her months teaching in New York, and she is honest and she is humble and I feel my heart taking in her words, her story, and I drink in her honesty, gulping down the assurance that this teaching and this learning and this following the Lord is something we all do, we all need grace in.

On the other side of me, the guys talk quietly, tossing words back and forth casually, kindly; their friendship stretches even longer than mine and hers, and they’re comfortable together.

And then someone, maybe one of the guys, stands, suggests a return below deck, to warmth and music and all the color-lit action of a cruise on Lake Michigan. And we go, standing huddled by our table, snacking on leftover desserts, sipping down pink lemonade that’s gone just a little bit flat.

And soon, when the boat docks and we all step off, we take an hour to wander through Navy Pier. We stop to take pictures, stop to chat, stop to rest heel-clad feet. And later still, after a too-long Uber ride back to school, we sit in the lounge in our sweats, suits discarded, fancy curled hair long since fallen down in the wind, and we play SPOONS with plastic silverware from the kitchen, and we’re laughing and calling out, right there at 1am.

And there are games and studying, laughing and snacking all around us in that late night campus lounge, but we’re in the middle of it all, relishing the last hours of a wonderful night on the lake, on a boat with a view.

~Natalia

Life Right Now {#64}

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Another weekend of action and moving. Another two days that make the five-day workweek seem restful.
Another 48-hour agenda of going and seeing, talking and experiencing, meeting up and visiting.

And I do not complain.

Especially when this weekend featured two days with The Jen and Mar; late night movie and breakfast tacos, lakeshore iceskating, and donuts in the back of a packed Stan’s.

And now, I set the alarm for 6:01am, and the countdown begins for another day, another week, another weekend.

But really, each day is unique and rah day is a gift, and I’ll take every one, just as they come.

~Natalia

Sunday Afternoon Ice

We’re going to Naf Naf, I tell her, my voice hushed. We’re sitting side by side, in a pew far closer to the front of the church that we originally intended. I suppose that’s what happens when you arrive at 10:28am for a service that begins at 10:30am.

She nods in enthusiastic agreement, offers a response, as all around us, the morning’s worship set fills the high-ceilinged room, and outside, the first snowfall of 2015 settles slowly into grass, street, and car.

Of course, we’re still there two hours later, as the last of the lingerers shrugs coats onto shoulders, tightens scarfs around winter-pale necks. We’re still in the stone-tiled lobby of the building, our voices echoing across the wide space, and outside, the snow is still drifting down, blowing across the street in gusts whose strength we can barely assess from our insulated standpoint.

Slowly, in stuttering stops and starts that have one of us ready and seven others meandering each in their own direction- slowly, we get ready to leave. Four of us leave, pushing through the automatic side door out into the white-sky brightness of a winter day of white clouds and white snow and white, swirling wind. Another has already left- he’ll meet us there. Two others, a third then, are nowhere to be seen, but coming soon, no doubt.

It’s always a process, leaving this Sunday morning building.

But then, we’re six, there on the steps, and that’s enough for a party- and two more coming later- and we begin the walk to lunch, to that Chipotle-style promise land of Mediterranean food and the most unique french fries I’ve ever eaten. It’s a two-block journey; to the corner, past Subway, Pot-Belly’s, Jamba Juice. Across a plaza and a street and another plaza. Past Fountain Square and a towering office building or two, and even the black steel building that used to be Borders. You know, back when Borders existed.

We’ve made it around the corner, are nearly to Jamba Juice, when the wind hits. Blowing across the plaza in huge, snow-colored gusts, the cold whips at our ears, pulling hair every which way, and shoving tiny bits of ice down the necks of our coats, into our sleeves, down our boots. Heads down, we shriek, the wind carrying our voices away just as soon as the syllables leave our lips.

The father far ahead of us now, a little girl clasping each hand, we fall behind, fighting against the scorching, searing, freezing winter wind. My tights quickly turn from black to white, as the wind plasters bits of snow to the thick knit. My eyes turned down to shield them from the stinging flakes, I turn sideways, almost discombobulated, thrown for a loop, by the ferocious wind, and our need to move through it.

Shrieking still, fighting, and yet laughing at the fierce absurdity of it all, we cross the street, pass the (long empty) fountain, and finally, finally, step- or collapse- through the restaurant doors.

Shaking shoulders, brushing our arms, stamping our feet, we will the cold away from us. Inside moments longer, we pull coats off, slip scarves into pockets, stuff them down sleeves. Catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I laugh to see my head covered in ice; snow that had melted ever so slightly, frozen again atop my head.

We unwind and unwrap and settle in, moving erratically around the little restaurant as our group slowly arrives. Coats in a pile, purses scattered across seats, we occupy twice as much space as necessary, but the little girls have opinions, have a plan, and when the food is ordered, arrives, they direct. You there, you’re sitting here, you can go on that side.

And we sit, eight there in the warmth, with the food before us and the ice melting off our boots, into puddles below us. And the biting chill outside rivals the glow of contentment inside, and we linger long there, over out pita, our fries, our falafel. And when we go outside once more, stomachs full, hair now thoroughly melted, the wind is not quite so bad, and the cold is not quite so bitter, and the friendship is all the richer.

~Natalia

We Shall Part No More

We’re sitting in the space outside the coffee shop.

Again.

It’s become my space now.

Study notes, Bibles lay strewn around us, and my computer’s propped on my raised knees.

We’re studying, but I’ve taken a moment to pause, my eyes watching, unfocused, as students I can’t recognize move back and forth across the plaza below.

I can’t believe I’m going to be saying goodbye to this place so soon, I say, almost to no one.

Beside me, my studying partner looks up from the Bible spread open in his lap, his gaze following mine into the indiscriminate darkness of the plaza.

We talk for a moment, vocabulary words and biblical references set aside for the moment.

We talk about goodbyes and transitions and visiting friends in the months to come. And the goodbyes that come all over again.

That’s why I like the Moody song, he says then.

I glance over, eyebrows raised. God bless the school that DL Moody founded?

Yea, he nods, then recites a familiar line that I had forgotten existed.

When Jesus comes in glory we shall part no more.

And I nodded then, and I knew what he meant, and in the days since, as it seems like every conversation ends with a hug, with a vague promise to visit, to keep in touch, to check in, I’ve held onto those words.

Held onto the hope of a day of no more goodbyes, no more waves as dear friends disappear around the corner.

Held onto the hope of an eternity spent in fellowship, spent completely surrounded by the hearts I’ve walked alongside all the years of my life.

Held onto the hope that all these things we do down here, all these things we strive for together, will be complete, will be made whole, in that wonderful eternity.

And then, only then, I can’t wait for then, we will part no more.

~ Natalia

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