Saturday, August 23, 2008

An All-Too-Brief Visit

I waited with baited breath for August 18th to arrive. Having recently had to cancel long-planned and eagerly-awaited visits from Becky, Lindsay, and my parents due to church and work obligations, I was worried what we were going to do if Bob had yet another sudden funeral, and I got in all three manuscripts that are due to me in the next month on August 18th. This is because our dear friend Feminine Feminist (of Wizard of Oz fame) was arriving on August 18th from Northern Ireland (via Minneapolis, where she’d just spent a week). When a friend is coming from that sort of distance, it isn't as though I can email 3 days before asking, "Can you take a rain check?” I was envisioning her stuck on her own, barely seeing us, as I locked myself away for ten hours a day to edit (that probably sounds weird to those of you who are lucky enough to have a less-compulsive nature, but I’m one of these people who, if something is in front of me, work-wise, I just have to get it done) and Bob was off sitting with grieving families when not busy writing two sermons.

Luckily, all stars were properly aligned, and Fem managed to arrive during a week in which I only had one manuscript to work on, so was just working my normal working hours from 8:00 – 4:00, and Bob had no funerals. It worked out perfectly, because she arrived Monday evening, and the rest of the week, Bob did take her along on his routine visitations (this seems to be a common theme, if you remember Dorr’s visit with us, but just to let you know, she was in seminary for a year with Bob and did the same sort of chaplaincy stint in a hospital as he did a couple of summers ago, so she was interested in going along with him. We don’t subject all our visitors to such things, only those willing to go along) in the morning and early afternoon. Then, when I was ready to knock off work at 4:00, she and I did things like go “farm shopping,” as I call it, which does not mean we were buying farms. We were merely buying food from farms and farm stands. She was duly impressed by the fact that we are barely supporting corporate America by shopping at all these local places and (at least this time of year) buying almost all locally-grown food (noting that all the produce she buys in Belfast is typically coming from places like Spain). But, then we made an obligatory trip to Target (because she doesn’t have Target in Belfast), one of the icons of corporate America, and spent too much money on stuff we hadn’t planned to buy. Oh well…

Once again, having a visitor allowed me to view this place where I now live with new eyes. The Amish, still a curiosity to me, but becoming less and less so, become more so again when I watch them through the eyes of someone who’s never been exposed to them, remembering what it was like to see them for the first time. My feelings of awe and envy mixed with harsh judgment that are still there, but remain buried a good deal of the time, come rushing to the surface when I try to describe and explain what I do and don’t know about them. I’ve become so spoiled by the abundance of fresh produce and local markets here that I was surprised to hear her comment on how healthily she felt we were eating. And I had to think for a minute when I took her into the Amish health food/organic market without forewarning her that is what it is, immediately grabbing my basket and heading for the “cold” section, supported by generator, and she suddenly asked me, “Emily, is this store owned by the Amish?” pointing to the gas lamps throughout the place that are used in the winter when it begins to get dark before the 5:00 p.m. closing time. Last fall, I never would have taken a visitor to that store without a long explanation, but now I don’t think about it.

But, most of all, I just enjoyed the company. Do you know how much fun it is to cook for someone who acts as though everything you make could rival Rick Bayless’s best concoctions? And how much fun it is to have mint juleps with someone to whom you and your father introduced them (back in summer ’04)? And to have a visitor who comes up with the most perfect suggestion of making salsa with all those fresh tomatoes a friend has brought over from her garden? (The salsa then became nachos, of course. What else?) I was reminded during her visit how much I miss those days of long philosophical/psychological/theological discussion and questioning that are as common for students in seminaries (and spouses who wish to join in) as pick-up games of basketball and baseball are for kids on playgrounds. And oh, do I miss New York! Fem was so much a part of our first-year-in-New-York experience, it’s really difficult to separate the two. She, the lucky dog, is there now as I type this.

So, here’s to Fem. If this blog had an “Acknowledgments” page, you’d certainly be on it, my dear friend (but then, still no one would be able to Google you, would they?). Next year in Ireland! (That's a "wee" Passover allusion -- with a twist -- and a huge nod to our Judeo-Christian roots.)

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