Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Our Second Home (and Thoughts on What Made the Adventure So Lovely)

Well, the emotions finally did hit and hit hard. Today and yesterday were great days, but there's a knot in my throat and the tears flow so easily. And I wonder if it won't be awhile until that's not the case.

Yesterday we were headed to a park and Annie brought up something Peyton had played with them at the same park months ago. Something silly and seemingly so insignificant. Peyton and I marveled a bit and she told us matter of factly "I have a good memory". She has an amazing memory, in fact, and it's one of the most fascinating things to me. I love to hear all the intricate details of mundane events she can recall. And I envy her a little bit. I envy her alot. In that respect, anyway.

I've mentioned before that I actually have a horrible memory. I'm thankful that the Lord (I truly think it's Him!) has given me tools to combat this lack. Ellis has a wonderful memory and recalls everything I'd ever want to remember (and then some) I have all my journals (as well as various AIM conversation that I printed out) from high school and that's been sufficient for that portion of my life. My childhood is pretty much left up to what I can recall, sadly. And now of course, I feel like through snapshots and through my words here I've made a pretty good time machine for myself and I can go back a few years and enjoy my memories whenever I feel like it.

The mind is a funny thing, though. Even if you go to great pains to document each event, experience, and season there is a selection process. An unconcious one, of course. You don't think of every detail of the thing, even as you're experiencing it. And of course you don't remember every detail. As time goes by, you remember less and less and that's why I've been known to do compulsive things like writing Graves's birth story about six hours after birthing him.

I've been thinking lately about what we'll remember about this time- these last few weeks. Will I remember the tension and the anxiety? Will I remember all the emotion and how hard it hit me at times? Will I remember how much joy I found in our last visits to certain beloved places?

I hope I'll remember all of that. I also hope I remember the details and the sensory things because those make a memory to me and those things take me back to the place and time. I hope I remember how I wore my bright coral Converse nearly every day and how I had a raglan t-shirt that matched them perfectly (knowing that's terribly dorky). How I fell asleep on the train a lot, as much from being mentally drained as from being physically exhausted (knowing not a thing to do for it but to push on through). How Annie talked incessantly about riding back home in "the van" that we rented and how I fantasized about one day owning a van and somewhat filling it up (knowing that's a weird as Hell fantasy). How almost every night Peyton and I would watch Parks and Rec with the computer in the windowsill and I'd try to memorize the way the brick walls of the co-op looked in the darkness (knowing how deeply ironic that was in light of how hard I had fought living here).

I've also been thinking about what we'll remember about the experience overall. I wonder often (and have mentioned before) if I'll remember how hard and challenging it was or how beautiful and exciting it was. My guess is that I'll remember specific things (like TRANSIT! and WINTER!) as really stressful and sometimes overwhelming almost beyond what I could bear, but that my general picture as I look back will be one of a place where I experienced adventure, and loved harder, and saw beauty more easily, and learned to find hope in such dark places.

Peyton and I find it enjoyable to analyze things and the other day we were talking about how vastly different the experience would have been had we wound up in Manhattan, or even in a different neighborhood in Brooklyn. I wonder about that kind of retrospective theoretical a lot. How different the experience would be if we had landed at different churches, if we had done it how we orginally planned, if I had gone into it with a certain mindset, if Peyton hadn't been really gracious and gentle in the begining, if we hadn't had visitors from home somewhat regularly and if our Mississippi friends hadn't been so faithful to continue loving us from afar. All these things have played a part in making this experience what it has been and they all play a part in formulating the memories we'll have.

This beautiful neighborhood- we have loved it so much. It has been a great set of spectacles to put on and teach us, and teach our children, a different way to view the world. It's been perfect because it has forced us to examine (and in many cases, alter, our world views) but there's been a measure of comfort and we hardly ever felt truly unsafe here. We've seen diversity in so many areas- in culture when I do laundry with a Haitian woman who tells me that doing it by hand in a tub got things much cleaner, in race and ethnicity when I'm the only white person on the bus, in sexuality when we wrestle with how to explain that a neighbor boy has both a papa and a daddy, and in age when an older gentleman tells me about how he remembers the neighborhood looking twenty five years ago. Moving here was worth that experience alone!

Our churches- our church friends from Trintiy Grace: Crown Heights and Calvary-St. George's have been our support system, our family, and our home for the last fifteen months. They have supported us in tangible ways and encouraged us when we were feeling down and homesick or frightened and unsure. They have loved me and Peyton, and loved our children, so well. These churches have been such incredible places of rest and rejuvination that the effort involved in getting there always seemed worth it tenfold. They have allowed us to hear the Gospel preached audibly with bold words and see it made visible through brave actions. These people have shown me Jesus and walked me to the foot of the cross. And they have weekly walked our children there- reading them scripture, puting the wafer in their tiny palms, bending down and asking them questions about their stupid plastic dinosaurs, and welcoming their noise and disruptiveness the way our Savior did. They showed us what it meant to join God in the renewal of Brooklyn and to preach Christ and Him crucified. And they let us be a part of it all. We will cherish this year forever largely because of the way these people loved us so.

Annie and Graves- I'm forever thankful I got to do this differently than we had planned. It pretty well known around here that the orginal plan was to do this adventure as newlyweds. Then SUPRISE...Annie! Truthfully, there are times when we pass a fancy resturant or a swanky bar or see a fun show advertised that I do think "Wouldn't it have been fun....". But it became obvious to me early on that the Lord's ways are abundantly better than ours. There is nothing I would trade for the gift He gave me of lettting me see this amazing city through the eyes of my own little girl and boy. There's nothing like a child's sense of wonder and I remain convinced there are but a few experiences that cannot be enjoyed more fully, more deeply, and more cheerfully with a small child alongside. There's another side to the coin with this, too, that I've only recently really dwelled on and here it is- while Annie and Graves do experience a personal sense of amazement about many things here, they don't have any sort of cultural conditioning about what it means to visit, or to live in, New York. They don't know the stereotypes- be it about lavish wealth or crippling poverty, about power or about pain, about cultural icons or about historical imagery. Their palettes were clean. They were, in this sense, a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Annie and Graves will not, for a few years anyway, realize the conotations New York City has to many people. They will not know, until much later, that they got to experience something for sixteen months that many people save and save to experience for less than a week. They have no idea that this isn't a normal thing and there's so much beauty in that. There is nothing about this experience that in any way relates to the image of themselves they want to potray to the world. And there's beauty in that. It's intriguing and it's convicting.

My own preparation for this journey- I progressively got more and more excited leading up to our move but right after Peyton moved, a switch was flipped and I was in one hundred percent. It was totally the work of the Lord. And Bruce Springsteen, if we're being honest. I know if I hadn't gone into it with this mindset it would have been totally different. I want to go into all our adventures that way. Hook, line, and sinker. This involves a lot of thing- prayer, Bruce Springsteen (a joke- sort of), a certain confidence I never had before, and a real desire to look for beauty and to experience something new and different.

Peyton- there have been squabbles for sure and in some ways we've dealt with more challenges than ever before, but overall this has been by far the best year of our marriage. I know that my love for this place has had a lot to do with how much our love has grown here and the reverse is also true- our love grew as we experienced falling in love with a place simultaneously. I have to say he bookended this adventure perfectly- when we moved in and now as we get ready to leave I've felt more patience and grace and sensitivity from him than is typical and that's meant so much.

Friendships from afar- Our friends in Mississippi have been so dear and I don't know how I would have done this without the love from afar. Somehow (hint- God's providence) we ended up sort of staggering our visits from friends and family so that every month to two months we saw someone from home (or in the case of Cookie's wedding, we spent the better part of a month at home). This was instrumental in keeping my heart from breaking and my head above water. Perhaps more important, though, has been the correspondence. I have several friends I have emailed with regularly and they are a manifestation of God's grace in my life. Time and time again, they've made this year doable. I know it would have been a very different year without that support.

I talk about this all the time, but looking back I am amazed at the way God has provided for us and I'm amazed at the depth of love I have for this place. New York will always, always have a huge chunk of my heart and while I know we belong in Mississippi for now, I also know there will be a little bit of sadness and longing for it, possibly for the rest of my life.

We are so thankful for this city, our experiences here, and the friendships we cherish. I'm grateful we got to live our dream in such an amazing place.

See you on the flip side!

1 comment:

Mallory Pickering said...

I loved reading this. Especially thought-provoking was the part about the innocence of the children- no pre-conceived notions, no image-consciousness. Maybe that's part of what it means to become like children again.

I can't believe this is drawing to a close! Can't wait to see you soon.