This is Summer: Season Five {Episode 2}

Then: green rolling grass

Now: red light, stop light, city

Driving days apart

{Iowa}

~Natalia

Airplane Squish 

  
Four days of travel

Then back to reality 

Hello again, bed. 

~Natalia 

A Corner Greeting

It’s the backpacks I notice first. Blue, bright, still crisp with the new-year creases of fresh bookbags. They’re not fancy, not embellished with superheroes or elaborate patterns. Rather, as I wait at the red light, second car in from the bustling intersection, my eyes are drawn to the vibrant backpacks, simple yet sophisticated where they rest, strapped tight to their owners.

The boys, a pair of them, arrive at the crosswalk just seconds before I roll slowly to a stop, mere yards from where they wait for the white walk sign. Standing there at the corner, fidgeting slightly with the sway of boys who must move, they seem out of place, their presence unexpected and oddly unexplainable. Chicago Public schools have not yet begun, but their pressed khaki pants, matching navy sweaters, white collars peaking out around freshly scrubbed necks can only mean one thing: school, at least for these two, is back in session.

I watch as the bigger boy, his freshly hair cut into the neat lines and waves that I’ve come to love, reaches a hand still little-boy soft up to his shoulder, adjusting his bookbag nonchalantly, even as he turns to talk to the one beside him. The smaller one, mere inches shorter than his companion, listens with eyes serious, his face reserved compared to the open movement of the one speaking.

Painfully aware of the impending light change, the glowing green of GO, I watch out the window still, my eyes and heart somehow- inexplicably- drawn to the young pair on the corner. There are more than 2.7 million people, stories, lives in this city, and I’m watching the afternoon chapter of the lives of two young ones unfold right here at the intersection of Western and Milwaukee and I can’t look away.

The taller boy is moving around now, his eyes roving over the cracked concrete under him as his feet slowly rotate, spinning him on his axis. But then, suddenly, he’s looked up, something down the street, behind my line of vision has caught his eye. I watch the boy’s face light, watch his smile spread wide, eager yet faintly restrained, across his round face.

Mere seconds later, a man my age- maybe older- arrives at the corner. He’s neatly dressed, the sleeves of his button-up rolled to his elbows, his own bookbag hanging just below the waistband of dark denim jeans. He has a short beard and mustache, and his own dark hair is styled and gelled similarly to that of the boys, just as his dark, creamy skin parallels their own.

The taller boy, still grinning, has straightened, his head carried higher, his shoulders resting more relaxed, in the presence of this new companion. Greetings I cannot hear are exchanged, and the pair grasp hands, hug each other in the half handshake/half back-slapping hug way that men sometimes do. Then, his smile still unwavering, his gaze still directed admiringly at the man, the taller boy turns to the smaller one. Introductions are made, the man extends a hand, shakes the boy’s small one-

And the light changes. I’m to move on.

So I do, accelerating into the intersection and leaving the three behind. My last glimpse of the two boys, their older friend, has them stepping, one foot outstretched, into the newly-paved street. Onto the next block, the next activity, the next corner greeting, the next chapter. Just as I drove east, north, to my own next chapter.

~Natalia

I Saw That

I’ll start right off by saying that my least favorite thing about driving is that I lose the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, take in the sights and sounds, and generally study the hundreds of people that I drive past every day. I count this as a great loss because I am not oblivious to the vast amount of interesting interactions that can be subtly observed from behind the safety of tinted windows, and I am acutely aware of the road hazard I would become were I to choose not to focus on the road itself. No matter how boring the road may be.

I became aware of this when, while teaching me to drive several years ago, the only time my father came anywhere close to raising his voice was when watching a middle aged couple rollerblade up Sheridan Road interfered with my ability to brake, as well as my awareness that the car was indeed, still moving.

Nothing happened, of course, other than a rather forceful braking. But after that, I tried to be more like a horse with blinders and less of a sightseeing people watcher while driving.

But rear-view mirrors are a gift to mankind. Especially mankind who drives more than 30 minutes each way to work and spends much of that in traffic.

That’s how I saw you.

I glanced into the mirror as I slowed, as my daddy taught me, and caught a glimpse of your face, your left hand resting casually on the steering wheel. Your brow was pulled down, ever so slightly, in the concentrated why-is-there-traffic-the-sun-is-shining-in-my-eyes-let’s-just-drive kind of expression that I imagine I wear rather frequently. My rear windshield and your front windshield worked together to tint the color right out of your face, but your short, scruffy hair rested at odd angles around your head, making you appear pleasantly approachable.

Eyes back on the road (where they always should be) I let my own car roll forward to fill in the gap that the infinitesimal advance of traffic had created in front of me, before glancing back to the mirror once more.

And that’s when I really smiled.

I saw you dancing.

In the time that I had driven those two yards, a worthy song had come on, and I couldn’t help but grin as I watched you move, bop your shoulders, swing your arms, and sing the lyrics to a song I could not hear. I felt the joy of your freedom expand in my chest, my traffic-heavy commute suddenly glinting with the silver lining of your personal dance party.

You couldn’t see me, didn’t know I saw you. But, in the few seconds that I watched, you happened to glance up, towards the bus in the lane beside us. The driver level with me, your own headlights stood next to the near back of the bus. I couldn’t see, but someone in that tall city bus must have caught your eye, because I watched your body still, watched the lyrics die, there on your lips. The dance was over.

The light, several cars before us, changed then, and I had to accelerate to stay with the flow of traffic. You switched lanes, sank into the blur of cars behind me, and I never saw you again.

But in those rear-view moment, I saw your dancing. I saw your goofy, your joy, your movement, and it really was the best thing that happened to me that day.

So please, don’t lose that. Keep dancing at stop lights. Keep yelling those lyrics out. Keep letting the small things be the silly things, because then, the big things start to become not so very big, not so very scary.

And we can all use a little spontaneous car dance party in our lives.

~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}

Florida Days 



It’s not like this is a normal thing we do. 

We go to Michigan, really. 

California, on special occasions. 

But now, this week, we’re in Florida, and so far, it’s been absolutely wonderful. 

Sunday brought 16 hours at Magic Kingdom, truly and honestly the happiest place on earth.

Today, we’re south, settling into a little rental condo while somewhere nearby, the ocean beats shells against Florida coastline.

And tomorrow, we’ll be there, watching waves wash over sand, over shells, over feet, all under the hot Florida sun. 

~Natalia 

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