Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thank you for reading. Seriously. You have no idea.
I'll be back tomorrow.
Monday, March 30, 2009
"Will you be my wife?"
I felt like I was falling and flying at the same time. I don't think I could've remembered my own name if you'd asked me. But I was suddenly aware that I was repeating "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!"
Grinning, he opened the box to reveal a thin gold wedding band, and explained that he hadn't wanted to wait for me to choose a ring. He wanted to propose. We could get a fancier ring later. He slid it on to my finger, and I don't think any 1 carat diamond has ever been more beautiful than that simple ring was to me that night.
Jumping up, he said that he had more surprises and that he would be right back.
While he was gone, I stood up and leaned against the railing and looked up into the still night sky. And I started to cry. Surely tears of happiness, but also tears of amazement. The unthinkable had happened, after all that time. I whispered, to myself, "I'm getting married..." and then uttered the shortest, simplest prayer of thanks.
Dave came back out with a bottle of sparkling cider and a dozen deep cream roses. Trailing behind him were Mike and Sarah and a camera. To this day, the picture that they took is one of my favorite of Dave and I. We are grinning like idiots, in the best possible way.
After they took our picture, Sarah said "Can I hug you now? We're going to be sisters!" That comment, that welcome, just completed the evening for me. I could not have been any happier.
The only thing left to do was drive over to my parent's house, even though it was almost midnight, to show my mom the ring.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I grew up in an absolutely fabulous home, with parents who did many things right. They had provided me with opportunities to learn, work, and serve. They had been unfailingly loving and supportive. To have been born to such a family is a rare and precious thing. To be able to marry into a family that is equally loving and accepting was nearly beyond my comprehension.
One night in the second week of March, I walked down the hill from school. I was wearing a long sleeved pink shirt and white overalls, and was in a great mood. I had been at my oil painting class, and Dave was spending the evening at a religion class. I didn't expect to see him, but hoped that he would call. I had just walked into my room when the phone rang--too early for it to be Dave. To my surprise, it was. He asked if I wanted to go hang out with Mike and Sarah that night. He was going to bring his guitar, so he and Mike could play. It wasn't like him to skip class, but--sure--I was always up for a date and some time with Dave's family.
He came by a few minutes later, and seemed a little edgy. I tried to bring up the issue of possible dates again, but he didn't really want to talk about it. I tried to figure out what his deal was, but couldn't put my finger on it. When we got to his parent's home, where Mike and Sarah were living while his parents were out of the country, he pulled his black guitar case out of the trunk and we went inside.
Sarah was there, watching the news of Elizabeth Smart being found. We talked about that for awhile, and then Dave asked me if I wanted to go out on to the balcony with him. It was a cool night, with a brilliant moon. Everything was peaceful and still, and--as soon as we were outside, all the edginess melted away. This was a place we had always loved. It was perfect for watching sunsets, or looking at the stars. Dave grabbed a couple of fleece blankets, and we sat down to enjoy the early spring night.
He told me he had a surprise for me, and opened a pocket on his guitar case. Surprised, I held out my hand, and he placed in it...
a Lindt dark chocolate bar.
I was thrilled. (Home from Switzerland mere months and still going through withdrawls.) I was so happy that he laughed and said "If I knew you were that easy to please... but that isn't your only suprise." Reaching into the pocket again, he pulled out two things: a picture frame and a small notebook. He told me that he had something he wanted to read to me--a journal entry from his time in Jerusalem, about a time when he had wondered if he would ever find the love of his life, and felt assured that he would find her, and she would be everything he had always wanted. The experience had been striking enough that he took a picture of the place he was sitting as he had written the journal entry.
He handed me the picture frame, which included that picture and, under it, the words "Everything I've always wanted."
I was so touched at how sweet Dave was, and--to be totally honest--kind of overwhelmed. I wondered if I really could be everything he'd always wanted. I wasn't even totally sure what that "everything" was. I was a little afraid.
As I considered those feelings for the first time, he pulled out his guitar and started strumming the familiar chords to "Forever and Ever, Amen." Only, as he started to sing, I realized that he had changed the lyrics to fit us. They were funny and delightful and romantic.
I wondered if this man was for real.
What a great date! What a fun night. Not bad, since I hadn't even been expecting to see him. I was tired and content. He laid his guitar down, and we talked a bit, then he knelt over to give me a kiss. As he kissed me, he slid something into my hand.
It was cool to the touch, smooth, and square. Looking down--I saw a rosewood ring box.
He leaned back on his heels, looked into my eyes, and said "Will you be my wife?"
Saturday, March 28, 2009
If I know anything about myself, it's that I'm not the most patient person. Besides, having been engaged once before, and that engagement being BEFORE 18 months in Switzerland with it's chocolate, I had a size 6 wedding dress to fit into. I needed a timeline. Dave, however, was still chilling and getting used to the idea. So I'd just have to learn some patience and wait for him to actually propose.
In the meantime, I was looking forward to my first ever Valentine's Day as someone's girlfriend. (Well, except 6th grade when I was going out with a kid named Brock. Talk about a disappointment--he didn't even give me a box of conversation hearts.) That year, Valentines fell on the weekend, and it happened to be the same weekend as Preference--a girl's choice dance.
All anticipation and excitement, I taped tons of Jolly Ranchers to Dave's door with a note that said I'd be a jolly rancher if he'd go with me. (The cheesiness was half the fun.) His reply? A bouquet of tiny, bright pink tea roses left on my doorstep with a heart that said "YES."
I have never had so much fun choosing a dress for a dance than I did that one. A friend of mine had a whole bunch of beautiful formals, and I borrowed them all and decided to wear her deep brown satin gown with a beautiful sweetheart neckline and a skirt that rustled. I searched until I found perfectly matching brown ballet flats and a sheer shawl to go over the top. That day, I did my hair all in curls and pulled my hair back, weaving a ribbon through it, then decided on a simple floating pearl necklace for jewelry. I had never been so excited for Valentine's Day.
He came to my apartment, right on time, wearing a black suit and carrying a bouquet of flowers--all red, with one yellow for friendship. Then he instructed me to turn around and close my eyes. He removed the light necklace from around my neck, and then I felt a new necklace take it's place. A cool, heavy weight that rested perfectly. Reaching up to touch it, my eyes fluttered open and I looked down to see the most exquisite pearl necklace--a real one.
Besides my chai necklace, this was the first piece of jewelry Dave had ever given me. Before an engagement ring. Before a wedding ring. A simple, heavy strand of pearls. Suddenly, I felt so perfectly like Anne of Green Gables, getting ready to be all grown up, with my strand of pearls. I wanted to throw my arms around Dave and tell him how much they meant to me--how much the fact that he had gotten them, for me, for Valentine's Day, meant to me. But I couldn't really say anything. I just gazed up at him and smiled.
He took my hand and walked me over to the couch. Reaching behind to grab my roommate's guitar, he started to pluck the strings, and then began to sing. An old, familiar country song. It surprised me, really, since it was the kind of song that I would've expected to come from my grandpa, or my father. I hadn't expected something as old fashioned and lilting as this, even if it did make me feel completely secure. Completely at home...
I'm gonna love you forever.
Forever and ever, amen.
As long as old men, sit and talk about the weather,
As long as old women, sit and talk about old men.
If you wonder how long I'll be faithful,
I'll be happy to tell you again--
I'm gonna love you, forever and ever,
forever and ever, amen.
My first ever "award" given by a fellow blogger! If that's not the nicest thing anyone's ever given me, I don't know what is. And since I'm a sucker for recognition of any kind, I'll probably have it framed and put on my wall. *grin*
The award came with some rules, though, and they are these:
Rules, rules, rules... list 7 things that you love, and then pass the award on to 7 bloggers that you love! Be sure to tag them and let them know they have won. You can copy the picture of the award and paste it on your sideboard letting the whole world know...you are Kreativ!!
7 things I love?
1. Pioneer Woman's Prune Cake. (DANG.)
2. "Sunshine on my shoulders, makes me happy"
3. Southern bluebird (they are rare and, oh, so beautiful)
4. Getting comments on my blog (I am so pathetically addicted to them. You have no idea.)
5. My Wednesday nights OFF. (Ah, the joy of the $1.00 theater...)
6. Something to look forward to. (Currently, a cruise next month with my own little family and my parents.)
7. Old stuff. (Cemeteries, books, cities, and on and on and on.)
Now. I get to pick 7 people to award?? Goody. I choose:
The lovely Tess. (Practically perfect in every way. I adore her.)
The invincible Michelle. (Seriously--check out her vinyl.)
The inspiring Stephanie. (I want to be her when I grow up.)
The beautiful Erin. (One of those people who is so lovely and talented, you think, "Are you REAL???")
The incredible Emily. (Seriously the nicest woman on the planet.)
The brave Sarah. (Brave because she's going to beauty school. Oh my lands.)
And my sistah, Jen. (I don't know how I got so lucky to have her. Truly.)
Happy award, guys. Loving you and your blogs!!!
Friday, March 27, 2009
He's in love with me. He loves me. He's in love with me.
Meanwhile, he walked back down the stairs, across the grass, and did a somersault.
He loves me.
I slept restlessly and kept waking up. I wanted it to be tomorrow. I wanted it to be tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. I wanted to call him in the middle of the night and hear him say it again. I wanted him to repeat those words over and over and over, "I am in love with you."
I also learned that not only is it possible to walk without ever touching the ground, it's possible to feel beautiful every second of every day because the man of your dreams is in love with you. It's possible to smile first thing on a Saturday morning when you have to get up for work at 6:00 because of that. It's possible that flossing your teeth becomes fun because you're thinking of him.
I thought I had known love before, but this?! This was awesome.
The next night, Saturday night, we drove out to his parent's home to watch a movie I'd never seen. Shanghai Noon, actually. He told me it was hilarious. I don't remember a darn thing about it. I do remember, when it was over--we started to talk. And we really talked. We talked about our past--we talked about meeting on June 19th, 1999. We talked about the places we'd been since then, and the people we'd become. We talked about the two paths we'd been walking, which had been leading--ever so steadily--to this point. All this talk of our past led so very easily into our future. We didn't want different paths anymore. We wanted the same thing. So we decided that we were going to get married.
Thursday night he figured out he was crazy for me.
Friday night he realized that he was in love with me.
Saturday we decided that we were going to get married.
At this rate, we'd be married by Wednesday.
We left his parent's house and got in the car to drive home. It was pouring rain. As we drove, holding hands, neither of us quite knew what to say. It was going, and had gotten there, so fast, we didn't know what to do. So I asked him.
Me: "What do we do now?"
Dave: "Now? We chill."
Me: "We chill?"
Dave: "Yes. We don't go looking for rings. We don't set a date. We just get used to the idea. We chill."
I could do that. I could chill.
For maybe a week.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
That night we drove 45 minutes up to his boss' house for a work party, followed by a movie. We entered the beautiful home, taking in details and drifting among his coworkers and their families. It was the first night I remember feeling, distinctly, like a couple in front of the whole world. Even when Dave was across the room, talking to other people, I was physically aware of where he was. I would raise my eyes from a game I was playing because I could feel his gaze from another table. It was effortless and easy, as simple as breathing, to fit my hand into his or rest my head on his arm as he leaned over to kiss the top of my head, without thinking.
I had always thought that being in love meant work--you worked at love because you loved that person. At least that had been the belief that prevailed in my first engagement. But this? This required no work at all. This was like coming home.
After the movie, we drove back to my apartment. We sat for a few minutes in his car, talking quietly, but also just being silent. Just being together. He leaned over to kiss me (which still made my hands tremble) and then, pulling away slightly and resting his forehead on mine, he said quietly, "I am in love with you." To which I could only whisper, "And I am so in love with you."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
But, we were DATING, with all that the word implies. This time was for keeps, and there was no going back. One way or the other, we couldn't go back to being just friends ever again. I could hardly believe it, and sometimes expected that I would wake up and find myself laying in bed in Switzerland.
But it wasn't a dream--we really were dating. And this guy--this best friend that I'd known for three years? He was turning out to be even more amazing than I could've imagined. He would stop by my work to say good morning, and send me little notes via e-mail while I worked on school assignments. We met up, every Tuesday, to walk to devotional together. While I would be sitting there, with one foot crossed up on my knee to take notes, he would reach over with a Bic pen and draw a little heart on my ankle. There were a million little things that made dating Dave different from just being friends with Dave, and I savored every single second.
Dave was also, in every way, a gentleman. He walked me home, or called to make sure I'd gotten there safely. We kept curfew. We went on group dates--the most memorable being "sock puppet" night with his roommates. We were rarely alone. Compared to my only other serious relationship, this was pure, unmitigated bliss. The sound of his deep voice on the phone would pitch me backwards on to couch grinning. The sight of his 6'4" self walking through the bookstore to come see me at work made me forget how to form sentences. I have never been more utterly content.
I was also loving more time with his family--dinner up at his sister Carolynn's beautiful home, or hiking with Mike, Sarah, and Nicole. His parents were serving a mission out of the country, and his siblings were keeping a close eye on their brother, even from a distance.
One Thusday night in January, we went up to campus to see their production of "Crazy for You." Afterward, we walked down the hill toward my apartment and ended up on the brick walkway next to a stream. All by ourselves, we alternated between talking and dancing to a made up song that Dave sang. I could've stayed there under the stars all night.
The next morning, when I went to leave for work, I found a sign on my front door. It was his handwriting, with a paper moon, that said "Crazy for You."
This was significant.
When Dave had been dating the Russian girl, one of their big deal breakers had been this simple truth: he was not crazy for her. (His words.) He and I had talked about that, and I knew everything that the note implied.
The fact that he had acted on the impulse to make the note and come back to my apartment, after getting home very late anyway, made my heart beat fast. Was it possible? Could it really be? Was he beginning to be, at least a little, crazy for me?
Monday, March 23, 2009
Some of you have asked me what Dave has thought about the stuff I'm writing. It has been fun for me to meander through my memories, picking and choosing the ones I want to share. I've referenced back to journals I kept at the time in an attempt to remember how I felt about everything as it was happening. When I finish, I drag Dave over to my computer and make him read the latest entry. He reads it, and then he gets this look. This look says "That's not quite how I remember it."
I then tell him to get his own blog.
Really, though, to be fair--he didn't much like where I left off last night. Because he says that he and his roommate invited that girl *together* even if he was the one that called her. He also still doesn't understand how I thought that he was asking me on a date. ("Hm. Maybe because you asked me if I wanted to spend New Years Eve with you while we were cuddling. But I can see how that might be confusing to you." is what I think.) Anyway, for the record, he didn't think that he was asking her on a date. He also didn't think he was asking me on a date.
Are we clear? Okay, good. Carry on.
New Year's Eve was great fun, although I was confused by the addition of another girl to our double date. Was she the fifth wheel? Or was I? I figured I had prior claim and decided not to worry about it. (Let Dave worry about it--he'd invited her, right?)
Shortly after New Years, I moved into my new apartment at BYU and started school. My schedule was rigorous: oil painting, ballet, stained glass, German, and religion. I didn't know if I would be able to handle the mental strain of that course load, but I decided to give it a try. I'd also gotten a great new job working at the campus bookstore in their art framing department, which I was working to learn and loving. I was in a good place, and in a perpetually great mood.
One day, after work and between classes, I was browsing cards at the bookstore and I came across a card that said "Good friends, like good meat pies, are hard to find." And on the inside it said "Hello, my little meat pie." It cracked me up, and suddenly I just wanted to share it with Dave. I wanted him to stop stressing about dating me or not dating me, and just be my friend. So I bought it, with some candy, and dropped it off at his work on campus.
The next day, a Tuesday, he asked me to come over to his apartment to try out the new blender he'd gotten for Christmas from his oldest brother Gary and his wife Melissa. We were going to make smoothies. I put on my periwinkle coat and walked to his apartment where we spent the night eating and chatting. It was a great night. He offered to walk me home.
It was a crystal clear night, and very cold. We were close to my apartment when I asked, jokingly, what he'd been thinking about lately. He said quietly, "You mean besides you?" That response took me by surprise, and I didn't quite take him seriously. Suddenly, he reached out and took my hand, sending shivers up my arm, and pulled me across the street to a small park.
He told me that he'd been thinking about me and about dating until he was tired of thinking about me and dating. When I had showed up at his work with that card and that candy, it had just stressed him out even more. He told me that he'd decided that he didn't want to date me, but then talked to a church leader who kind of said "What have you got to lose?"
My stomach was tied in knots. I couldn't tell which way this conversation was going. He was holding my hand, so that was good--right? But then he was telling me about the turmoil in his heart, and I felt like I was pushing too hard or twisting his arm somehow. We walked around the park, re-crossed the street, and ended up on the metal and concrete stairs outside my apartment. We tried to tie up the loose ends, but we couldn't--we left them open.
I walked into my quiet, dark apartment, leaned my back against the door, and slid to the ground. Throwing my arms around my knees, I buried my head and sobbed. I just didn't know how to think or feel. I had no idea why I was in love with a guy without even trying to love him, when it seemed so obvious that he just didn't feel the same way about me.
Friday night, he took me to see a John Schmidt concert at the Provo Tabernacle. After it was over, we drove to a nearby park. It was dark and cold, but--even though it was January--there was no snow on the ground. We got out of the car and played on the playground equipment for awhile when, suddenly, I tapped his arm and said "Tag! You're it!" I took off running across the park, dodging through huge trees in the light of the full moon. When I was nearly all the way across the park, I stopped to catch my breath and turned.
Dave was walking slowly toward me through the trees. The brilliant moonlight was met with a silver fog rising up from the ground. His eyes were focused intently on my face. Until the day that I die, I will never forget that moment in my mind. My heart started to race. I walked slowly up to meet him, laughing breathlessly.
He wrapped his arms around me. I said, "My heart is pounding" then, laying my head on his chest I said, "Your heart is pounding, too."
Looking up at his face, he looked down at me and softly said, "But I don't think it's for the same reason."
I had three years to imagine my perfect first kiss. I had envisioned them in every season. But, for me at least, none of my imaginings even came close to being quite as perfect as that one in a cold park on a January night.
We kissed. Then we laughed, and we hugged, and he said "That was a long time coming."
We both had lost time to make up for.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The next afternoon, the phone rang. I answered and heard Dave's deep voice on the other end, "Hi," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice, as well as a slight nervousness I'd never heard before. I grinned. "You want to try dating?" he teased "Alright. Will you go on a date with me this Friday?" I certainly would.
We went on our first real date in almost 3 years. I had forgotten so much about those few weeks when we'd dated the first time, but I found it all coming back in waves. How he liked for me to reach over and unlock his car door after I got in the car first. How we each had a side of the sky, and how I teased him that the stars were better on my side. The topics of conversation we liked to dwell on, and the views that we both savored. It was so easy and utterly uncomplicated. One night, as we sat with our arms wrapped around each other, he said "Why does this feel so normal?" I replied "Because it's right." At least, for me it was.
We spent time together and went on dates, but I could tell that Dave was still conflicted and uncommitted. I signed a contract on an apartment in Provo, only a few blocks from his apartment. I decided that if we were ever going to really date, there needed to be no more than a short walk involved. I wondered what was holding him back. I wondered what in the world his was thinking, most of the time. It was so much easier for me, since I could see so clearly where I wanted us to be--what I really thought we could be. I could tell he wasn't sure.
I could tell because, three years later, and the man had still never kissed me. I won't go into what that will do to a girl's self esteem. I knew him well enough by now to know that he wasn't going to do anything that implied he felt more than he did. He is true to himself, as well as honest with others. And unlike my impatient 19 year old self who just wanted a kiss before he left for Jerusalem, I found myself somewhat more content to wait. I knew that when, and if, he ever did kiss me--he would mean it.
But, then again, New Year's Eve was coming. New Year's Eve 2002-2003. I knew that things would change this year. They would go one way or the other, for better or for worse. I almost didn't want to know what he would choose. My choice was made.
He asked me what I was doing for New Years and we planned to go to First Night, this time in Provo. I didn't know, when he asked me if I wanted to spend New Year's Eve with him, that he would be inviting another girl along, too.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Cue momentary awkward silence.
"What I mean is," I fumbled "I've never understood why you didn't want to marry your best friend."
(My mind is racing. Oops. I think I said too much.)
But we begin to talk.
I wish, sometimes, that I had a recording of that conversation. It was the most important conversation of my life. I know that I was bold. I know that he looked bewildered and confused. I wish that I remembered, better, what he said. I tried to practice some patience, and not to let all the things I'd been wanting to say for 18 months--no, more like 3 years, come tumbling out. But there was just so much that I wanted to say, and I knew, deep down, that I would never be at peace unless I knew that he knew how I really felt. So I told him.
That he was my best friend.
That I loved how comfortable we were together, and how happy he made me.
That I liked so many things about him.
That I was different than the 19 year old girl he had met at e.f.y. years before--that I had grown up and gotten better, in so many ways.
That I thought we should give dating a chance.
It was a long talk. What was apparent to both of us was that, eventually, one of us would get married and our friendship would have to end, and neither of us liked that idea. Neither of us wanted this best friend thing to be over.
He said he would think about it.
I walked inside my parents home around 11:00 that night. My mom was sitting in a chair in front of the computer playing spider solitaire. I guess she was waiting for me to come home. I walked in, leaned against the wall, sighed, and said "I'm not sure what that was. I don't even know how to explain what that was. But whatever it was? It was big."
She just looked up at me and grinned.
Friday, March 20, 2009
On the first Sunday in December, there is a Christmas devotional at our church headquarters in Salt Lake City. One of Dave's older sisters, Teresa, had tickets for Dave and his siblings to attend, and he invited me to come along.
I pondered what to wear that night and decided on a nice deep aqua crossover top with the chai necklace he'd given me from Jerusalem. I pulled on my gray three quarter length coat from Los Angeles and a cashmere scarf that my parents had given me, and waited for him to pick me up. I had no idea if this counted as a date because, well, he had asked me to come and he was driving 30 minutes to pick me up. Did that count? We picked up Mike and Sarah, then drove to Salt Lake and met up with his sisters Teresa and Nicole. All of us sat together in the Conference Center, basking in the gorgeous Christmas music and message, and I just enjoyed being with his family. (Dave has the coolest family, who have the ability to make you feel fabulously at home, and several of them I knew from e.f.y. years before. I wanted to be part of that family. You'll see why.)
When the devotional was over, we decided to pile in one car and drive up to Teresa's apartment for super-yummy dessert. But there was one problem--there wasn't quite enough room, so someone would have to sit on someone's lap. Dave's sister-in-law Sarah (who *always* has my back) said happily "I think Becca has to sit on Dave's lap!" (I could've hugged her.) As I crammed into the car and perched myself as lightly as I could on Dave's lap and we all laughed and joked, I decided this was going to be my best Christmas season EVER. (See what I mean? Cool family.)
A few hours later, it was just Dave and I in the car as he drove me home. It had been such a beautiful relaxed night, and I was already sad that it was coming to an end. Then, he casually said, "Yeah, my roommates don't understand why we're not dating..."
My heart hammered in my chest and I could hear the sound of rushing in my ears. Was this my opening? Was this my chance to say something? On my mission, I had *promised* myself that I would not pursue Dave, or any guy. That I was worthy of being pursued, by jingo. I wasn't going to be the one that brought up dating first. But did that casual introduction count as him bringing it up????
In that split second, I made my decision...
"My roommates don't understand why we're not dating..."
"Actually, Dave, neither do I."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Sunday afternoon, I brushed through my hair, put on a gray sweater with a black skirt and black shoes, and a sheer lip gloss. I looked in the mirror and realized how un-American I looked. I wished I looked even more...changed. I hoped that Dave would be able to see how different I was, on the inside.
I drove over to his apartment, holding the address on a post-it note on my hand. I parked and walked up the cold metal stairs and down the dimly lit hallway until I was standing in front of his door. The butterflies were back, and they were feeling more like bats. I knocked.
The door opened a slight crack and Dave slipped through, closing the door quickly behind him. He wrapped his arms around me, as I stood up on my tiptoes to give him a good hug. I had forgotten how tall he was. We hugged for a minute, tightly, and I laughed nervously.
Stepping back, he smiled at me with his happiest, lopsided smile, and my knees felt weak. I tried to pull myself together enough to form coherent words. He had some people visiting inside, and they would be a few minutes more--would I come in and meet them, and his roommates? Taking me softly by the elbow, he opened his door and directed me to the couch. After introductions, I tried, desperately, to make polite conversation with complete strangers while all I wanted to do was turn to my right and look at this guy. I wanted to reach out and make sure he was real. I had to remind myself, repeatedly, that we were JUST FRIENDS.
After his company left, he asked me if I wanted to go on a walk. Oh, did I ever. We walked toward some fields at a nearby elementary school, talking the whole time. We had so much catching up to do, but all the things I wanted to talk about were irrelevant and obsolete. So we talked about my mission, mostly. We arrived at the fields, at the base of snow cover mountains and stood gazing silently at them. The ability to be silent with Dave was one of the things I liked the most about him.
He was standing behind me, and--without speaking--he just slipped his arms around me. (There were those weak knees again.) It was a good thing he was behind me, because I'm sure I couldn't have hidden my smile to save my life. Why did that small thing, mean so much?!
In my mind, I could see a huge chasm in front of me. Dave and I were standing on one side--the side where I was in love with him, and he wasn't in love with me. On the other side, we were happily in love with each other. And I had no idea how to bridge that gap. My mind raced, trying to see a way over.
But the rest of me was happy to stay there, in his embrace--looking at the mountains--as long as he'd let me.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I found myself living at the edge of the Black Forest. Every morning I woke up and watched the fall colors change on a vineyard hugging the hillside next the black pine trees. The clouds seemed to be suspended from the sky, rather than a part of it, and the sunsets were golden and purple. Germany was my newest, and last, mission adventure. With one week left to go, I checked my mailbox again. (Can you see a pattern here?) Inside, was a birthday card from Dave. It included his current phone number, and an "I can't wait to see you and give you a huge hug" sentiment. The butterflies in my stomach were multiplying by the day.
I'll never forget sitting on that airplane as it rose slowly into the endless blue sky. The pilot dipped the plane steeply to one side, and I could see the trains, buildings, lakes, and mountains falling away from us. There were my beloved Alps. There was my lake--a still mirror. Above all, down there, were all the people I had come to love in 18 months. Dear friends. People I would never forget, who had permanently altered the shape of my soul. They were out of my hands now. I turned to the missionary next to me, Elder Wright from my hometown, who was returning after his two year mission. I asked him "Do things ever hurt just as much as you think they will?" His quiet response, "No. Sometimes they hurt a lot more."
Home. Home is a wonderful, and frightening, place to be after a long absence. I had been living in Europe on September 11th, 2001, and much had changed since I left. My country was different than I remembered it, and I found the changes to be jarring. I thought of Dave and wondered what else would've changed. Would he still be my best friend?
I called him my second day home. My hands shook as I picked up my parent's gray cordless phone and dialed the number. He picked up, and I felt a thousand emotions at the sound of his voice. I was in love with him, and he didn't know it. I'd fallen in love with him from thousands of miles away, and wasn't sure how to hide that. I wanted to see him. I needed to see him. Unfortunately, he had a date.
Monday, March 16, 2009
With six months left, I got a letter from my mom who noted, near the end, that she had talked to Dave's mom. It had been awhile since I had heard from him, so it seemed unavoidable to me that the next sentence would tell me of his imminent engagement to Moscow and emigration to the wastelands of Russia. I braced myself inwardly, fuming. How could he do this to me?! You'd think he would've at least written me himself. But, wait... "Apparently he and his girlfriend broke up recently and he's been having a hard time..."
Clutching the letter, I sat down on the steps, and--of all things--I cried. The selfish me was giddy that the Russian frau had been given the boot. Nothing could've made me happier. But the unselfish part of me hurt for my friend. I hurt that he was hurting. I wished that falling in love, and being in love, were simpler. At that moment, if being with Moscow was the thing that he wanted most and would've made him happiest, I would've wished for it and given them both my blessing.
Eventually, I got a letter from him--telling me of his breakup, and his feelings about it. He had decided to stay on at his current job after his graduation that summer. This news made me cautiously blissful. I had mere months of my mission left, and it appeared that Dave would be graduated from college, working full time, and romantically available.
Now all I needed him to do was experience a massive change of heart. What were the chances??
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Inside were three letters, two cassette tapes, and an extra envelope.
Inside the envelope were pressed flowers from Southern Utah--the colors still vibrant. He sent them, because he thought I would like them. (I did.)
On the two cassette tapes was new music for me to listen to, since he figured I would be tired of the music I had. (I was.)
Nervously, I opened each letter in the order it had been written. The first was light-hearted, and talked about how things had been going since he broke up with Mary. He mentioned going to his family reunion at Panguitch Lake, where he'd gathered me the flowers in a meadow next to the church. I set the letter aside with relief. No new girlfriend, yet. The second letter talked about getting into school, and that he was living in the Russian House to perfect his Russian skills. Second letter down, with no girl news, and one letter to go. So far, so good.
The third letter was short--just an explanation about why he hadn't sent the letters and package earlier. He told me that he'd met a cool girl, from Russia, and they'd been hanging out. Scrawled next to that, quickly, was the note "We're dating now. Cool, huh?"
"Not cool" I thought "Not cool at all." Visions of hot, slender, European women appeared in my head and mocked me. "Maybe she has bad teeth...or really big feet." I thought. But that didn't console me. He was going to go and fall in love with a gorgeous Russian. I just knew it.
I fumed inwardly. I'd been asking for a sign, and I'd gotten a great package that also had news of a (hot) Russian girlfriend. WHAT KIND OF SIGN WAS THIS?!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Be still my beating heart--I was living in The Sound of Music.
Rarely does a place live up to your expectations of it. I can say, without hesitation, that Switzerland lived up to mine. In every way. Surpassed many of them. I found myself, later that same day, pulling my suitcase down a narrow Swiss street behind my "trainer"--the friend that would mentor me and show me how to be a missionary.
Now, I know that most of my friends who read this blog aren't Latter-day Saints. I know that you have had run-ins with the Mormon missionaries in the rain. Or peeping through your windows. (You know who you are.) We've talked about this, and I've laughed and cringed with you. But let me tell you--it was just as hard for me, as it sometimes is for you.
One of the things that we did a lot of (a LOT) was trying to talk to people on the street. In German. Or Swiss German. Or English. Any number of languages, really. I am not a shy person, and I've spoken to strangers all my life. But it was unbelievably difficult for me to approach people on the street and talk to them about my religion. Some days, I would stand frozen in place, crying great tears, because I *wanted* to tell people about this faith that I have and that I love. I wanted to talk to them, and tell them how happy it makes me, and that I want them to be happy, too. But there were days when I just couldn't, and that tortured me. They rushed past me, and I stood rooted to the spot.
When I had taken all I could of failure, we would go and knock on doors to try and talk to people. We did this, sometimes, for 12 hours at a go. For months and months at a time. In the rain, snow, and sunshine. People threw forks at us. People answered the door naked. (Why??) People yelled at us, cursed us, and called us words that I, thankfully, had never come across in my dictionary. Other people, though, would let us in. We would sit, and we would talk to them. Sometimes we would share a message. Often, I would feel that I just needed to express that God was aware of them, and loved them. When that happened, I was perfectly happy.
And let me tell you, the highlight of my life as a missionary was coming home after doing 12 hours of street contacting or knocking on doors to open my mailbox. There was always a hope that there would be a letter from my family. An even more distant, but delightful, hope was a letter from Dave.
One November afternoon I was walking home for lunch, and I was thinking about Dave. I hadn't heard from him in a few months, and he had been on my mind a lot that week. The last that I'd heard, he had broken up with Mary. I wondered what he could be up to now. I didn't want to wonder. I didn't want to waste precious time as a missionary focused on this guy. I was irritated with him for being in my mind so much, and irritated with myself for not being able to shake him. Suddenly, almost out of no where, I realized I was in love with him. Smack dab IN LOVE. How terribly, awfully inconvenient. I bowed my head as I walked and asked God, with all the faith I could muster, to either help me forget Dave or send me a sign.
Arriving home, I opened the mailbox.
Inside was a package from Dave. The first, and only, that I received my entire mission.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I worked, those days, at the Missionary Training Center at 5:00 in the morning. I went about my work that day, and then--as I went to check out--was greeted by one of my friends in the office, holding a hand written note: Your mom says to call home. Your call is there.
I collapsed into a chair. It was there. The decision was made. And my honest to goodness first thought was "Please not Nebraska, Please not Nebraska, Please not Nebraska."
Unlike people who are more righteous than me, who always say that they'll go "Wherever the Lord wants to send me", I had never been hesitant in expressing that I hoped to serve OUTSIDE the United States. I spoke German, so I dreamed of Europe, but would've been happy with any crazy destination. Thailand sounded awesome. Maybe Fiji. Chile, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan--so many places had crossed my mind. Now, it seemed obvious that I would be sent to the Arizona, Phoenix Mission or the Ohio, Columbus Mission. Not that there was anything wrong with that...for other people.
I drove slowly to my mom's office, where she had the envelope. I took my time. Now that fate was decided, I was a little hesitant to meet it. Arriving there, she had it propped against a south facing window, hoping to see something--anything--of the contents. It had been arranged that my whole family would meet at home at 6:30 that night, where I would open my call. (Whole family excluding my younger brother that was serving a mission in Washington state.) I stared at the envelope and talked to my mom. She finally said "Aren't you even going to hold it???"
I crossed over and picked it up. It was light. Too light to contain papers for visa applications. My heart plunged. I flipped it over and started wiggling the flap, trying to peek inside. I saw "Provo, Utah on Wednesday"... this meant that I was going to the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center and not the training center in Brazil or England. My mom told me not to open it, and I shooed her off. "I'm not. I'm just..." I counted two lines up and saw "w i t z". Witz. Witz. And it dawned on me, slowly--like a glorious sunrise. Switzerland.
Without another thought, I tore open the envelope and extracted the letter. I had to know if I was right. I had to see the words for myself. There it was--I had been called to serve for 18 months as a missionary, assigned to serve in the Switzerland, Zurich Mission. I would be speaking German. I was to report 11 weeks from that date.
In those moments, reading that letter, I don't think my feet were touching the ground. I had dreamed of every place on the planet, but even I had not considered Switzerland. No one went to Switzerland. I did not dream, then, of the incredible challenges that I would face. I could not have comprehended the enormous task in front of me, or how it would shape my life forever.
For the next 11 weeks, I bought shirts and skirts and pantyhose. I brushed up on my German, and learned all that I could about Switzerland. I put my whole life, like a puzzle, into a big blue suitcase.
On the night before I left, Dave came to my house. We sat in my room, and we talked for hours and hours. He sat in a rocking chair, and I sat at his feet. We talked about school, his family, and his girlfriend Mary, and how things were going between them. I watched him as he spoke and I wondered where he would be, in 18 months. He would graduate college while I was gone. I asked him to write to me, and he said that he would. I promised to write him back.
As we shook hands goodbye (I was already set-apart as a missionary, so no hugs) and I watched him walk away to his car, I wondered if I would ever see him again. I wondered if he would care if I didn't.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
How do you go about explaining a former relationship--let alone a former engagement? To disentangle all the good at the beginning, from the bad at the end? I try to remember back to those early dates, and how I felt before I ever knew how things would turn out.
So, who was Daniel? Daniel was adoring. He poured attention and affection in my direction. He loved to take pictures of me smiling, or us together. He gave compliments. He had a goatee. He had emergency medical kits in his trunk, including one to deliver a baby. He always backed his car into parking spaces, so he could be ready to go at a moment's notice. He was neat and tidy. He struggled with learning disabilities. He was the youngest. All these things, and so many more. He was complex, and I was naive. Those two things, combined, would turn out to be a bad combination.
He proposed on an October night, and I accepted. We began our engagement, but set no date since I was still planning to go to Jerusalem in the winter. I told Dave, and even showed him my wedding dress. His brother Mike asked me if I was really going to marry Daniel. His soon to be sister-in-law Sarah told me that I was supposed to marry Dave. I told them, both, that Dave wasn't interested. Oh--and because I was in love with someone else. (Red flags, anyone?)
We had a beautiful Indian Summer that entered into winter. The Jerusalem Study Abroad was cancelled because of unrest in the Near East, so we moved our date up to January. We chose our wedding venue, picked our colors (periwinkle and navy blue--my favorite color and his favorite color), took my bridal pictures in the snow, with both of us. They were breathtaking. Everything for our fairytale wedding was coming together beautifully, while the fabric of our relationship was disintegrating before my eyes. Some of Daniel's struggles with obsessive compulsive disorders were coming out. Sometimes I felt like I was just an object he was seeking to place among his orderly collections. I felt pressured to be thin and perfect. We had fewer and fewer things to talk about, so--instead--we made out. (That, by the way, is a very stupid thing to do.)
It was a December night. Cold. Our wedding was a month away, and I couldn't bring myself to send out wedding invitations. We were talking on the phone, and the person on the end was not the man I was in love with. Bewildered, I asked if he even loved me anymore. "If I ever did, I don't remember anymore...but it's okay. We can still get married, because the love goes away eventually anyway." It took me a heartbeat to comprehend what he had said. What we were.
"What do we do now?" he asked. "Well" I replied "We don't get married on January 19th."
Our engagement was off, and our attempt to resucitate our relationship failed spectacularly and we decided it was best not to see each other again. My study abroad in Jerusalem was cancelled. Dave was beginning to date a girl named Mary.
For me, it was on to Plan B--I submitted my application to be a missionary for my church the Sunday after what would have been my wedding day. I had always wanted to serve a mission, which girls can apply to do when they're 21.
I was 21 and 4 months old the day that I stood there holding a big white envelope. Broken hearted, but hopeful. Looking and moving ahead in every way. My life, including where I would be living and what language I would be speaking for the next 18 months, depended on the contents of that envelope.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Back to Los Angeles. To soft rain on wilting gardenia petals and the smell of orange and grapefruit blossoms in the air. I embraced Los Angeles like I hadn't dared to before, spending more time alone. Exploring different areas of the city--from Dodger Stadium to the fabric district. I spent more time with other guys, and with new friends that were years older and wiser than I was. I worked and I enjoyed. I began to feel, in a way, at home.
Dave and I continued to send e-mails, as he launched back into his Linguistics major at BYU. Meanwhile, I applied, and was accepted, to the Jerusalem Study Abroad for fall semester. We both applied to be EFY counselors for the summer, and were offered jobs. My nanny-family was making a permanent move to Miami, and so I was leaving earlier than I had planned to so that they could hire a new nanny that would be able to fully cover the transition. I packed up the new clothes I'd bought, and the life I'd constructed in less than a year. I hugged my nanny-kids and my nanny-mom, who hugged me tightly and told me that I dreamed beautiful dreams. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me. A friend picked me up at their beautiful home, I put my suitcase in the trunk, and we pulled away. I remembered arriving, scared out of my mind. Now, as I waved goodbye, I cried all the way to the airport.
Back in Utah, I found out that I couldn't go to Jerusalem in the fall, so they transferred my acceptance to winter semester and I would go to BYU in the fall. Preparing to start our second summer as counselors, I drove with Dave and his brother Mike and his girlfriend Sarah to go to the Manti Temple. We had a peaceful, magnificent evening--I remember thinking, as we talked, that there was no one in the world I would rather be with at that moment.
Especially for Youth started, but Dave and I were only scheduled to work one week in the same place. I didn't see him much, but--at the closing dance--he approached me. I was wearing an old fashioned, flounced dress from a thrift store, which all the counselors were doing. I turned to look at him, smiling, and he said "That is probably the most unflattering dress I have ever seen."
Now, I should mention that while I was home in December, Dave and I had gone clothes shopping together. I had tried on a very comfortable pair of pants that I thought I would buy until Dave informed me that they made my hips look wide. In that instance, I was grateful for his honesty. It saved me money. It saved me from looking like I had wide hips. But, in this case--at the dance, already wearing the dress, I only had one response: "Jerk." And I walked away. (Later, I would come to realize that every couple should have to go through this rite of passage--every girl should have her crush tell her what he really thinks of her outfit, and every guy should be called a jerk to his face at least once. Just get it out of the way early.)
Dave was leaving to Peru and Bolivia for the remainder of the summer for service opportunities, I was getting ready to start fall semester, and I had met someone new. Someone named Daniel.
Monday, March 9, 2009
We met up with his brother, a bunch of friends from EFY and Jerusalem, and drove the hour to Salt Lake for New Year's Eve. The evening quickly descended into a freezing cold, foggy night, so we hopped from indoor concerts to the planetarium to events on Temple Square. Near the end of the night, our group found a great outdoor Blues concert--heavy on the harmonica and exactly Dave's kind of thing. Standing close to him, stuffing my freezing hands into my pockets and grinning through chattering teeth, I was determined to keep up. As the concert wound down, it was time to move to the main stage for the countdown to midnight. We hurried with thousands of other people, but as I turned around I realized I'd lost Dave in the crowd. I was standing next to his brother, Mike, as the countdown began.
Disappointment doesn't begin to say it. My plan was foiled. I was about to greet the next thousand years with no New Year's Eve kiss. I was flunking Singlehood 101. So I did the only thing I could do: I whined to his brother.
We counted down 9,8,7... Where was Dave??? ... 6,5,4... I guess it was too late now... 3,2,1... Rats. Happy New Year.
Music played. Fireworks shot into the sky, which we couldn't even see because they went off above the fog. Mike, ever the Good Samaritan, looked at me, bent down and gave me a kiss. May he receive an eternal reward for that act of service.
Thirty seconds later, Dave appeared.
Happy New Year indeed.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
His reply came quickly, zipping back through undersea cables or bouncing off satellites. "I don't want to be romantically involved when I get back from Jerusalem, but I would really like to still be friends and keep writing, if you want to."
I sat back, relieved. And disappointed. I was proud of myself for bringing it up, before I liked him too much. I was proud of myself for bringing it up in time to still go after the Los Angeles guys. But it's never fun to get a "Meh. You? Not so much" response.
So, while I got busy doing some serious growing up in California, we continued to write. I looked forward to his letters, and began to appreciate some qualities about him that I'd never noticed before. He was incapable of dishonesty. He was awake to every opportunity that presented itself. He loved sunsets and views. He was efficient with his time, very smart, and uncharacteristically kind. And with each new insight into this person, I began to regret--more and more, that we were "just friends."
I was going out with various guys, and one of them especially--on paper--was perfect. He was getting his graduate degree, played chess, liked musicals, was outdoorsy, athletic, and was the cutest guy around. Several of my new friends were jealous of all the attention he was giving me, and I was flattered. I had never been the kind of girl to attract the guy that everyone else wanted. So while I began to spend more and more time with a new guy, my mind kept coming back to my friend Dave.
With his semester abroad flying by, and with my Christmas vacation fast approaching, I began plotting and planning. I was determined that once he saw my new California self--the girl who had grown up, shopped at The Limited rather than JC Penney, and become thoroughly comfortable being alone--he would realize that I was worth a second chance. Through our letters, we had grown a close friendship. I had told him things about myself and the way that I looked at the world that I'd never told anyone before. He was quickly becoming my best friend.
So I told my 11 year old nanny-girl that I was determined, determined, to show him he'd made a mistake. I took an airplane home for Christmas, and got off wearing a knee length gray wool coat and a flattering French blue blouse. I breezed confidently through the terminal, no longer the sobbing country bumpkin of four months before. I wasn't a teenager anymore. I was 20, a size 6, and I had a new haircut. Things were looking up.
Together for two weeks, I reveled in his company. I took every opportunity to see him, for whatever reason. He had brought me back two gifts from Jerusalem: a silver chi (chai?) necklace that symbolized Life, and a set of olive wood candlesticks. They were exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted, and showed me that he knew me as well as I thought he did. We looked through his Jerusalem pictures together, and I listened intently to all his experiences. We laughed and talked, and I tried to be dazzling. Either I didn't know how to dazzle, or he was completely immune to my attempts. It seemed that my transformation, even my size extra small perfectly fitting red t-shirt, hadn't made one bit of difference.
But New Year's Eve was coming--New Year's Eve 1999. A big year. A big night. And we were going up to Salt Lake City's "First Night" celebrations. I felt sure that his hesitations would be swept away with the old year, and we would end up together at the end of the night.
I seriously underestimated my formidable opponent.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Three weeks and we'd spent nearly every night together, and no kiss??? I'd never heard of this happening before. Maybe he was just that much of a gentleman. Maybe he just didn't want to give the wrong impression. Maybe he just didn't like me. Hmmph. I didn't know what to think. I was even more confused when his first e-mail to me from Jerusalem mentioned that a couple had been taking wedding pictures of the grounds when he arrived at the center, and that he missed me. What was that supposed to mean?!
With the Dave distraction across the Atlantic, there was little I could do to further figure him out except e-mail, so I turned my full attention to panicking about the major transition ahead: Los Angeles. What had I been thinking, moving to a place that I'd never even visited before? Why hadn't I gone to BYU like everyone else? WHAT HAD I BEEN THINKING?! The day I was supposed to leave arrived, and I stood paralyzed in my bedroom. I hadn't packed a single thing, and it was time to go. I couldn't seem to make myself move. At this point, my angel mother jumped in, threw all my stuff in a suitcase, and practically pushed me on to the plane. I had a mental breakdown somewhere over the Nevada desert, convinced I'd just made the worst mistake of my life.
Stumbling, puffy eyed and red faced into a terminal at LAX, I met my nanny-dad and his three girls. They were absolutely beautiful--11, 7, and 3 years old. Thick black hair that curled down their backs or curved to their shoulders. Deep chestnut brown eyes. And there I stood, the absolute epitomy of frumpy and disheveled, holding a suitcase that was leaking a broken bottle of Happy perfume. I was miserable.
I should say here that this family I was going to work for, never once made me feel judged, although heaven knows I must've looked like a head case. They were professional and warm, and everlastingly patient with my many flaws. In time, I would come to appreciate and adore every single one of them. On that first day, though, when I set my suitcase down in the tiny nanny apartment and met my new nanny-mom and their two month old boy, the only thing I felt like doing was getting on a plane and going back to my job at Hogi Yogi.
My first impression of the city itself, the City of Angels, was of a dirty, dry, sprawling jungle. On my tour through the city I was amazed at the traffic, the noise, the buildings...the traffic. I wondered how in the world I would find my way around. I wondered, mostly, how to get to the beach.
So I began my new life--all alone, in a culture that I found impossible to navigate. I was a country bumpkin, still uncomfortable in my own skin. I set the table every night with beautiful dishes for breakfast, I read wonderful childrens books that filled several bookshelves in the house, and soon came to just love the two youngest children that I spent all day with. The second oldest was filled with imagination, and the oldest girl had a brilliant mind--even if she took a decidedly different view of the world than I did. (An exact quote "I think it is my purpose in life to disagree with you.")
I drove to the beach one night and paid $15.00 for parking. I got off early one afternoon and went to the Getty Museum and sat there, soaking in the silence and the view of the Pacific. And in the evenings, I would check my e-mail to see what Dave was doing half a world away. I told him of my loneliness and my struggles. He told me of seeing places, and how they smelled and sounded. He described his studies and how much fun he was having. His writing was vivid, but never exaggerated. One day, he sent me a list of all the things he liked about me. I wish that I had kept a copy of that list of things, but I didn't. I just sat there, staring at the computer screen and thinking that I had a choice to make--I liked this guy, but knew that I was at the crossroads of liking him and really liking him.
I sent him a letter, and asked him what he wanted when he got home in December--I needed him to make his intentions clear. I hit "Send" then sat back, clasped my hands, and waited.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I wondered what "We'll play" meant.
I never dreamed that he'd really call me, let alone that very weekend. Our first date was at my house, with my best friend Mandi and another friend, Chuck. I wanted them there as a safety net--so I would feel comfortable with this guy I didn't really know. We watched the movie "Waking Ned Divine." I remember nothing, absolutely nothing, about the movie. I do remember Dave playing with my hair. No boy had ever played with hair before, and I liked it quite a lot. I thought, "Maybe I could like this guy... if, maybe, he liked me first."
After the date, I asked Mandi what she thought and she told me that he must like me, if he'd played with my hair. I hadn't known this was proof, but I was willing to accept her word. She'd been around the hair-playing block a time or two.
For the next two weeks, Dave and I spent a lot of time "playing." We went to a Brazilian restaurant and talked about his two year mission in Argentina. We talked about his growing up in California, and my growing up in Utah. For his birthday, we went and saw "Muppets in Space", even though I hinted that I'd been "wanting to see Runaway Bride for absolutely ever." Sitting there in the dark theater, with the muppets acting away, I began to tickle his arm. It was subconscious on my part--just a gesture to say "I like being here with you." He reached over and took my hand. His hand was smooth and warm, and sent tingles all up my arm. I decided I liked him. (Turns out he, at the time, thought I was being forward and just wanted me to stop tickling his arm. One of my favorite things, it would seem, was not his favorite at all.)
One night he drove me out to the new house that his parents were building up near the mountains in the south of the valley. Against the night sky I could see the construction of the house, and it's general shape. We lay down on a pile of plywood and stared at the stars as he told me about this place already feeling like home, from the first time he'd come down the winding street. There were no street lights around, and you could see clearly all the way to the milky way. We watched for shooting stars, and I teased him that the stars on my side of the sky were better than the stars on his side. At his parents house, another day, we jumped on the trampoline and he left a fresh cut rose for me on the table. His mother, seeing it, put it in a glass of water. He was put out, but I remember being struck by his thoughtfulness just the same.
There were so many snippets of insights into Dave those two weeks--things I wouldn't understand until much later. And wrapped into all of this was the fact that I was a 19 year old girl and, therefore, nearly schizophrenic in my changing moods. Not to mention that, with the summer now over, I was coming face-to-face with the full reality that I had no plans for the fall. Dave would be leaving the country to attend a study abroad in Jerusalem, and I? Well, I had applied for a job at the local Hogi Yogi.
Sometime in those weeks together, I decided to put my application in with a nanny agency. That thought had always been at the back of my mind, and I decided to see what jobs turned up. I never said, definitely, if I was going to be a nanny or not. I was just testing the water. Within days, I had two great families, and two fabulous offers. One family was a Jewish family in Upstate New York with three school-age daughters. They offered me a position working only 4 days a week, with an apartment in New York City on the weekends. The other family lived in Los Angeles. They had 4 children, two of them very small children, with a stay at home mom. Suddenly, testing the waters turned into a serious decision for me. After agonizing and interviewing with both of them, I decided to take the job in New York. I even yelled it to the wind, "I'm going to New York!" and smiled. But when I made the call, my throat caught and I told them no. I took the job in Los Angeles.
Dave would be leaving for Jerusalem, and a week later, I would be moving to California. I did not know where this left us. We'd been having a great time, but neither of us had looked at our relationship as anything permanent. I did, however, really want him to kiss me. I needed him to kiss me goodbye.
On the last night before he left, we went on a long walk through my beautiful, tiny hometown. We walked down by the small lake and crossed over the arch bridge. It was a beautiful summer night. I realized that I was going to miss his friendship, very much. I realized that I was terrified of moving to California, and wondered where my life was taking me.
Standing there, in the moonlight, I had all these thoughts running through my head as he held me against his broad chest and we were just quiet. This was one of the things I loved the most--that we could be quiet around each other, and it was comfortable and friendly. I made up my mind: he had to kiss me before he left. I sighed. I looked up at him. I tried to give him "The Look." The moonlight reflected on his face and I could see a moment of indecision. A hesitation. Just a flickering moment.
Then he walked me home, gave me a hug, climbed in his car, and drove away.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Two months before, I had been a student about to graduate from Ricks College in South-Eastern Idaho who had no idea what to do with her life. All of my friends were heading to Utah State or Brigham Young Universities. I felt drawn to neither. They sounded normal, boring... stereotypical. And I was so very desperate to do something with my life that was different than anyone else I knew. So while everyone else was applying for schools and arranging housing, I continued to procrastinate and wait for fate to fall in my lap.
Fall it would.
The early spring days had passed quickly--too quickly for me, living with roommates that had come to mean as much to me as sisters. Desaray, Jani, Emily, Hillary, and Katie. I think it was as much about being torn from them as it was about choosing a future that had me in a deathgrip. Then there was the college itself--a small, remote two year school that had been my dream and my life's ambition since I could remember. No big, fancy 4 year school with all their fancy majors could live up to it in my mind. I would miss the frigid walks. I would miss the peaceful quiet of the Taylor building. I would miss the hot, toasted parmesan bagels... mmmmm....
Desaray and I had applied, together, to go work in Alaska for the summer at the Princess Cruise Lines lodge in Denali. We'd both been offered, and accepted, the jobs. But then, unexpectedly, I'd been offered a part time position as a counselor at Especially for Youth for the summer. I had applied, and no letter of acceptance ever came. My mother had finally pushed the point and found out that, due to a mailing error, I hadn't been informed of the job. The day my mom called to tell me, I believe I screamed and then shook all over. I didn't hesitate for a second, even though it meant bailing on Desaray and flinging her to the wilds of Alaska by herself. Being an EFY counselor meant you were cool. It meant you were popular and fun and spiritual. All my insecurities and flaws were swept away in a delusion of cool-ness. I had bragging rights.
Feeling confident, and with the summer in place, I had graduated, hugged my roomates and friends goodbye, and showed up on the campus of Brigham Young University for my first week as a counselor. And I can say, at this point, that it was an unequivocal disaster. I was assigned to work with 13 girls, ages 12-13, for 5 days. They were sitting there. Staring at me. Daring me to make this week something wonderful. And I failed, oh, how I failed. Every devotional I gave fell flat. Every attempt I made at being fun went wrong. I struggled and wrestled with my soul, and I lost. I discovered that I was not cool. I was not spiritual. I was most certainly not popular. On the last night, as I went around to say goodnight to my girls, two of them told me that I should "do others girls a favor. Quit." I was devastated. I kind of agreed. I should probably crawl under a rock and die rather than subject the world to the disaster that was me.
Luckily, I had two weeks off after that before I approached my next session--a group of 12 14-15 year olds. I approached them in the absolute terror of a 19 year old waiting to be torn to shreds by her younger superiors. But then, something happened. They surprised me. They opened up. They laughed. We began to have fun together, and I began to relax. I owe much to those girls.
It was during this week, fateful BYU 5, that I had been assigned to Variety Show Duty. All counselors are assigned, besides being with their groups, to help with various activities. Variety Show meant that I helped to hold auditions, choose which acts would perform, and be in charge of that week's talent show. I was supposed to show up in the lobby of a dorm at 2:30 in the afternoon, Tuesday June 29th.
I walked in that day wearing the assigned brick red "Season for Courage" counselor shirt. Sitting on the worn dorm couches in the lobby was a Building Counselor (counselors in charge of the counselors) with a nametag that said JUQUE. He was tall, blonde, and had a ready smile and a large adam's apple. Beside him was a tall, laughing counselor with dark hair. His nametag read THE ONE. Well, no. It said DAVE. If it would've said "The One", I would've been spared a whole lot of confusion and grief over the next 4 years, but I digress. Back to the auditions.
Sitting there on that couch with my new friends, Dave and Juque, we listened intently to a whole string of teenage girls warbling out "Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide..." and teenage boys with guitars and half-learned love songs. We tried to be encouraging. We tried to keep straight faces. During a small break, I went over and laid on one of the couches and fell soundly asleep. Dave noticed and, poor soul, didn't know that he was seeing a foreshadowing of the rest of his life. After I woke up, we continued and then finished the auditions. I remember just talking to these two nice guy counselors, and Dave trying to teach me to samba, I think. I remember thinking "Wow, he's tall."
For the rest of the week, I saw and talked to Dave for our variety show duties. We joked. I'm sure, looking back, that I flirted mercilessly. I believe I flirted mercilessly, and rather poorly, with anything that moved that summer. At the end of the very last session, BYU 9, Dave asked for my phone number. He was the first boy ever to do that, and I was flustered. "I'll call you. We'll play" he'd said.
I wondered what "We'll play" meant.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Today, I wonder...
Why, when I was 5 years old and I asked my mom how babies get out of a woman's body, did she mysteriously reply "No one knows"?
Why is our neighbor driving his 4 wheeler up and down our street? Is his car out of gas? Is he bored? Does he think that driving on my lawn is really considered "off roading"? And doesn't he have *anything* better to do?
Why I have to clean my house, before I clean my house? Do you guys know about this? I finally work up the ambition to clean my house, but before I can clean my house, I have to clean my house. Before I can sweep and vacuum, all the things on the floor must be put away. Before I can dust, I have to put away the books, dvds, and papers that are on top of things. Before I can clean the toilets, they must all be flushed. (Okay, maybe that was a little too much information...hm.) By the time I've cleaned my house, I no longer have the energy/desire to clean my house. It's a vicious cycle.
Why does a sandwich slathered with peanut butter and the last of the homemade freezer jam taste SO DARN GOOD when you're on a diet?
Why is it that I have an exersaucer, a bouncy chair, a swing, a Bumbo seat, a high chair, a crib, Baby Bjorn, a sling, and a carseat when Baby Person only wants to be in my arms?
How am I going to get the Valentine mylar balloons that have lost their strings down from our ceiling before the 4th of July? Should I just leave them there? Does that make us white trash? (Perhaps the "flushing" comment above should be enough to answer that one....)
What are *you* wondering today?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
So, every night around this time (10:30) I tell myself "You should go to bed." But, you know what Self says back??? "No." And you know why? Because Self is thinking "The house is quiet. No one needs anything or wants anything. The mommy guilt is asleep, along with Thing 1, Thing 2 and Baby Person, and I can do anything I want. That means I don't want to go to bed." This is a very different scenario from earlier in the day. There is a period from 2:00 to 3:30 in the afternoon where I would give up my eyelashes for a nap. But at night??? I can do whatever my heart desires.
So what if that's staying up to watch Wedding Singer? (Again.)
So what if it's listening to NPR podcasts on my computer?
So what if it's cleaning the kitchen and scraping Ramen noodles off the floor?
So what if it's lifting weights or doing a workout video?
So what if it's eating handfuls of chocolate chips without having to share?
The hours of 10:00 pm to 1:00 am are MINE. All MINE.
Unless, of course Baby Person wakes up, in which case I'm suddenly exhausted and the Spouse should come out here and feed her.
So, does anyone else out there have a favorite time of day???? And what do you do, during that time?
Monday, March 2, 2009
Rising early the next morning, the two girls waited for their taxi in the hotel lobby. It was open and airy, and they sat on the tile next to the pool--dangling their feet into the cool water. The only sound was the fountain of water coming from a carving of a stone dragon on one end. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky to the east.
Climbing with their small suitcases into the Volkwagen, they zigzagged through the streets of Kuta--heading out of the city. As they began to ascend away from the remnants of tourism, they reached open fields where rice was growing thick. Palm trees and bamboo groves stood hovering at the edge of the open clearings, dripping with thin green vines. As the sun creeped above the horizon line and began to ascend into the sky, there were more and more people visible--working in the rice paddis.
As their taxi passed through towns that, for her, had no names, she found herself repeatedly dazzled by petite Balinese women wearing colorful sarongs and balancing mountains of fruit on their heads. In one town, there was some kind of festival beginning, with children dressed in all shades of the rainbow, running and smiling on the edge of the road. They seemed, sometimes, like drawings in a children's book more than real people with real lives. There were no lines on their faces. No appearance of worry or care. But, with her head leaning against the glass window, she would catch only a glimpse of a face. Only a moment, and then that person would disappear behind them.
After a little over an hour, they arrived in the city of Ubud. They asked the driver to take them to a good hotel and, this time, that meant a delightful surprise. They were left at the gate of hotel that had been an old, if not ancient, Hindu temple. It was shabbier than their accomodations in Kuta Beach, but felt infinitely more real. And it was even less expensive than their other hotels, which they hadn't thought possible.
Pulling on their swimwear and shorts, they caught a group taxi up to the Ayung river for a rafting trip. Descending down stairs into a green gorge that teemed with sound, they climbed on rafts with a few other tourists and polite native guides. There was hardly any need to paddle as they floated down the river, leaving them free to observe women washing their clothes and children tending cows by the shore. A whole group of young, naked boys dove in and swam after them, laughing and splashing. Looking upwards was an endless jungle and cascading waterfalls. It seemed like everything was suspended in a glorious time warp.
Back in Ubud, she and Georgia decided to visit a local cluster of ancient temples that also had wild monkeys living there. She pulled on a comfortable pink sundress and they set out. Arriving, they purchased a small bunch of bananas and some pieces of yam in a bag to feed the monkeys. Walking just a few yards inside the gate, a few monkeys approached. Reaching into the bag, she pulled out some yam and threw it to them. They never glanced at it, but kept their eyes on the bunch of bananas. More and more monkeys were congregating at her feet--some much larger than the first. She tossed down a banana or two, but--when the largest monkey of the bunch hissed and took a jump forward, she screamed and dropped the whole bunch while making her retreat as quickly as she could. Besides the monkeys, she'd attracted a group of laughing tourists who were snapping pictures. "Better you than me" laughed one British woman.
As they walked among the temple buildings, laughing at the monkeys, they were astonished to see--approaching them--their group of friends that they had intended to meet in Kuta. By happenstance, they had come to the same place at the same time. As they walked, she realized--regretfully--that their plan, to possibly push for the north shore the next day, was quickly disappearing as their friends intended to head back to Kuta Beach. Later, she wished that they had never met up at all, and continued with their own plans.
That night, they sat on the floor of a wooden pier and ate duck that had been roasting, underground, for 24 hours. The stone towers of the ancient temple glowed red and reflected in the water of the pond, dotted with floating water lilies. Dancers emerged, in red and gold, and danced to discordant music.
Leaving early, she slipped away into her room and fell asleep listening to the deep call of frogs and the whisper of fireflies in the night.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Don't forget to click on her homepage and then scroll down to see that Jana's been nominated for a best mommy blogger award that she TOTALLY deserves to win. So go vote for her. *grin*