From the frosty white to the dripping grey-green once again. I bade another tearful airport farewell to my family and Chris (who’s also family), went to my gate, sat down, and was suddenly greeted by Riley Armstrong, who remembered me from camp last summer – he even remembered that I was studying in Vancouver. We chatted for a while, and he showed me pictures of his son. But he wasn’t the only famous person on that flight…I got to sit beside the wonderful Robyn Holmlund, another camp person, on the first leg of her trip to Mexico for a 6-month YWAM program. It was so cool the way God set it up for us to spend that time together as she left. We went our separate ways in Calgary, and I unfortunately parted ways with my luggage there, as well. Upon arriving in Vancouver and waiting a half an hour at the baggage carousel, the Air Canada staff told us there “wasn’t enough room for all of our luggage” from Calgary. Judging from the luggage that DID arrive, they only had room for about 15 bags. There’s something fishy about this. The same thing happened to my sister three weeks ago with Air Canada… I think I need to start favoring WestJet.
I just went back and read my blog from exactly a year ago, and I was surprised at how similar I feel coming back from Christmas holidays this time, too. It’s funny how the homesickness and melancholy feelings hit harder now than they do in September. I felt it a bit last night, and it was fighting to control me this morning, too, until I gave it to God. I’m realizing more and more how prone to self-pity I am. I was thinking poetically about it on the bus this morning… it’s like self-pity is a glass of a really gross alcoholic drink, and I drink it down because there’s this sugary fringe of self-sympathy on the rim that makes me feel good. I always fail to see it’s bringing me more grossness than good. Some of the sadness is legitimate, and it comes from the realization that while I’m here, I can’t be as involved in the lives of the ones I love in Saskatoon. I can’t go to Europe with Rachel, I can’t see Daniel perform his one-act play, I can’t study at the same desk as my mom or enjoy my dad's jokes at dinner, I can’t be part of any groups Chris starts or be active in the lives of the camp girls. And they can’t witness my life as I live it here, either.
More than sadness, though, I feel this strangeness of moving from one slipstream of life to another, the feeling I keep trying to describe in vain, the fish-out-of-water-yet-still-in-something-like-water feeling. Maybe you guys are sick of reading about it because you’re at a point in your life when you (wisely) stay put, but I have this urge to “figure it out”. It’s not so much a feeling of familiarity, like I described last month. It’s more like feeling that things are UNfamiliar, but that you strangely know what to do, what role to fill. Like a thousand moments of deja-vu strung together. I know where to hang my coat and where to find the tea, I slip right back into joking with Danice - the motions are automatic. It also feels a bit like betrayal…fitting back in so automatically in a place very different from the place I fit best, the home where I want to keep fitting in. It’s a confusing thing to say “back home” in two different places. It’s a mind-boggling thing to have a three-hour ride on a plane take you so far away, transforming people you spent time with into pictures on the wall and semi-regular e-mails.
People in Saskatoon often talk about leaving it. It’s almost given that people do not stay put these days. But something tells me we weren’t meant to be so transient, that being constantly uprooted from people we love is not the ideal. I’d love to raise my own children in the city where their grandparents live, so they can know them...but some of this is out of my control, like it was for my mom and dad, from different countries. I’m sad about the relationships I’m missing out on with my family in the USA, who I haven’t seen in five years. Yet here I am, far from the ones I love. And this is ok, I think. God is trying to tell me something in this. Maybe there is significance in the tightness of my family, in the fact that I’ve spent 23 years in the same city, in the same church.
So I’m trying to hang on to Saskatoon. And I’m trying to hang onto real people, real memories, not manufactured nostalgia. I’m growing to understand the distinction. So often I make moments into things they’re not – I photoshop them as I live them, I add a passionate soundtrack and slot them into a nostalgic spot in my head, where I can flip through them, with emotion, later on. I attribute this to my overactive imagination, and to movies. Movies are awful for making a big deal out of select moments in people’s lives, making it easy for us to inject emotion into our own lives likewise. This is ok for those who have trouble finding any emotion or meaning in their lives, but I’ve got plenty already. I read something by Annie Dillard last semester, and it floored me, how well she describes this nostalgia feeling, as she talks about spending a weekend at the cottage with a child:
I knew that the weekend would be, above all, over. At home at my desk I doodled on tablets and imagined myself and the child standing side by side on the riverbank behind the cottage in the woods, standing on the riverbank and watching the blossoms float down, or the dead leaves float down, or just the water – whatever it would be – and thinking, each of us: remember this, remember this now, this weekend in the country. And I knew that instead of seeing (let alone remembering) the blossoms, or the leaves, or whatever, the child and I would each see and remember some dim picture of our own selves as figures side by side on the riverbank, as figures in our own future memories, as focal points for some absurd, manufactured nostalgia.
There was no use going. At best, we would miss the whole thing. If any part of the weekend should prove in the least pleasant, and worth trying to remember on that account, or on account of its never-to-be-repeated quality, it would be unbearable. Who would subject a child to such suffering? On the other hand, maybe it would rain.
I decided, in short, not to go. The child is nine, and already morbidly nostalgic and given to wringing meaningful moments out of our least occasions. I am thirty-five; my tolerance for poignancy has diminished to the vanishing point. If I wish, and I do not, I can have never-to-be-repeated moments, however dreadful, anywhere and anytime, simply by calling that category to mind.
Man, I love how well she describes it - imagining ourselves in the future remembering things. Here are some of the real memories from my holiday that I will hang on to, the ones I tried not to imagine myself in the future remembering, the ones I’m fighting hard not to “nostalgize”… sitting in Chris’ living room, hearing her talk passionately about experiencing God; laughing until my stomach hurt with my cousins; watching Rachel fall asleep from her window-seat; the sibling sleepovers; walking around the lake with Olya; the giant Dutch Blitz game; hearing Eric Whitacre in Alexa’s car; seeing grandma chase a dog through the snow in my front yard in her stockings; getting the car stuck in the snow in the back alley; having a dance party with Rachel, Lesya and Tanya; hearing Daniel’s voice at his recital; Dad’s gentle but powerful sermon at the Candlelight service; puzzle-making with Mom. I miss all of you, for real, and that’s a very good thing.
We watch the water striders. We are, alas, imagining ourselves in the future remembering standing here now, the morning light on the green valley and on the clear river, the child playing with the woman’s fingers. I had not thought of that before we came, that she would be playing with my fingers, or that we would hear trucks shifting down to climb the hill behind the cottage. We turn to leave.