Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

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Love is what you do and what you say

Today is my Grandmomma Janet’s birthday. I’ve had three grandmothers, each very different. Now, only one is still living, Grammy Sara down in Florida. The third was the first one we lost, Sue-Sue. Each of my grandmothers had their own special name. They had their own special way of being. They have their own special impact on my life.

Grandmomma Janet loved to share love with people. She went out of her way to care for others. She set up crafts for the shut-in ministry at her church, she made pear preserves every single year that she could, she hosted our family for Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters when we lived close enough. I learned table etiquette from her influence. (You cannot eat your dessert until the person serving everyone has been able to sit down and eat their first bite.) I learned that love is just as important by what you do as what you say. She was an artist, though she never quite claimed it. She loved daffodils.

Daffodils
Dancing in the wind

 

My grandmother looms larger than my grandfather, though I have memories of him as well. Granddaddy Norris still loves to work with his hands and build things out of wood. He loves cookies of all shapes and sizes. He always fell asleep while we were watching TV, unless he was watching Jeopardy, because he had to make sure they got the answers and the questions right. He loved to travel with Grandmomma Janet, they made sure that they took each of their grandchildren on at least one trip with them, to share that love.

Memories are funny things. We remember people from different times in our lives, and from different times in theirs. We put the memories together to build the composite of who we loved and who we remember. Some memories fade and some become crystalline, clearer with each year that goes by. It is important to forgive hurts and angry words, but it is also important to remember that the people we love and look up to are as imperfect as we are. Remembering loved ones as whole persons allows us to have grace for the people in our lives now. Norris and Janet at Wedding

Spinning

I faintly recall our house in Reidsville, and I know that the house in Greensboro had blue shag carpet in my bedroom, and that my sister and I “redecorated” the bed, her doll, and a few books while we were still there. I remember learning how hot things got cold and cold things got hot when they were left at room temperature… I couldn’t understand why my pear didn’t stay cold. But my first true memory is of a very particular merry-go-round.

The Merry-Go-Round is my favorite playground element. I like the swing, it is a very close second, but the merry-go-round? You spin faster and faster and faster and give yourself over to the force pulling you against the bar, never quite sure if you might spin off or stay until the next push. It has been years since I’ve been on one, but some of the same feeling comes when I go Contra Dancing, the same spin and release of control to someone else.

As a child, I always wanted to do the merry-go-round first. After church one morning, we went to go visit one of the mission communities in Columbus, Georgia where my father would eventually serve, Open Door. And I saw it. In the back there was a playground and I saw my prize: the merry-go-round.

Like a smart child who has learned the ways of the world, I knew that the quickest way to get from one point to another was in a straight line. Even if there was grass that was kinda tall, and there was an obvious path out of the way, I went straight to where I wanted to go.

I didn’t make it.

Stinging started.

I looked down, and my legs, in their lovely white tights (that I hated, by the way), were crawling with stinging things.

My seven year old self freaked out.

I thought that I had been attacked by a swarm of bees. I did not like bees. I did not want to be covered with them. But I was covered with stinging horribleness.

I don’t know how my mother got me to calm down enough to realize that I was not, in fact, being stung by a swarm of bees, instead I had run straight into a briar patch of sand spurs.

After I calmed down enough to sit, my mother and the children around me began to pick the stingers off of my tights at least enough to get me to take the tights off. There were too many stingers to get them all off a seven year old’s squirming legs.

I distinctly remember the kindness of the children around me and I distinctly remember that they were all black.

My first true memory, with a beginning, middle, and end is of children like me and yet with a different skin color than me.

I did end up getting to play on that merry-go-round, with those children.

I don’t know if I ever learned their names.

I don’t remember if I ever played with them again, though I don’t think so.

I’d love to say that I was always as kind to other children as they were to me, but I know that is not true.

I know that I learned that caring for someone is not based on their skin color.

I know that sometimes the path might not be the most direct route, but that the people who are part of the community know the dangers that formed the safest way to journey together.

And I know that playing together and working together is better than trying to push a merry-go-round all by yourself. If you take turns as the rider and the spinner, everyone has more fun.

Nauticus

The Nauticus.

It doesn’t exist anymore. You can still go to that stretch of beach in Sunnyside just down the road from Panama City, Florida, but it was sold and razed for a couple of condos when I was in college.

It really does make it a place where only memories exist, then. And I don’t know how many memories there are. My parents began going to that stretch of beach when they were on their honeymoon, and then we began going to the Nauticus, and we just kept returning to this small little space of 14 different 1-2 bedroom units on two levels surrounding a pool and on the shoreline.

It was the perfect place to bring children. I don’t think I will be able to find a spot like this as I raise my children to love the beach. I have vague memories of the early nineties version, but then a hurricane hit and they remodeled to the beach style tile and sturdy furniture and vibrant colors that makes you think of the beach. The units all faced the pool, but you could still lay in your bed and listen to the waves at night.

Once I got old enough to always bring a book with me on vacation, I remember joining my mother in the Adirondack chairs underneath the covered deck at the seawall, feet perched on the railing, enjoying the sea breeze and a new story.

We’d always have New Orleans chicken and cantaloupe. And Cheesy fries. Every trip included going to the place that sold shrimp fresh off the boat by the pound, where they would steam it for you while you waited. The smell of Old Bay permeated the entire car on the way back to our temporary home.

We’d always make a pilgrimage to Alvin’s Island, where they sold cheap tourist trinkets and swimsuits and flotsam and jetsam, the one with the alligators you could pet and the volcano you could walk through.

We went with our cousins at first, where Julie, Will, Beth, Morgan after a little while, and I would get to figure out how to be people together. Will and I always wanted the same cereal. I always thought it was unfair that Julie never had to put as much sunscreen on as I did, nor did she ever have to wear a scratchy t-shirt on the last day in the pool, something I always had to do because I was burned.

Later, we more often went with the our family friends: my best friend Amy, her brother Albert, and Ms. Barbara. I remember the last year before college we got a henna do-it-yourself kit, and I did the designs on my arms and legs and read that people in India put the henna on their nails… I had to paint my toenails for 8 months until the burnt sienna orange grew out.

I remember children plastic barrettes in my hair when they had a brief fad period.

I remember putt-putt games and riding the strip.

I remember a family of boys all in red shorts who tried their best to impress us…

I remember breaking a glass in the shower when I was trying to rinse my hair out.

I remember taking long walks all by myself in the morning, listening to the waves and the sandpipers chase the receding water.

I remember iced coffee, mike’s hard lemonade, chocolate cake with coffee ice cream coated in caramel frosting, boiled peanuts, and tuna cones.

And I remember chance glimpses of dolphins, my favorite animals in all creation, where each encounter seemed a gift that should never be squandered.

Creating Our Family Story

My husband and I are preparing to usher a new life into the world in about five months. Baby Bryant is coming. We are getting ready to expand our family and share a whole host of new things with this new little person on the way. Among the host of preparations, considerations, alterations, decisions, and worries associated with becoming parents, I want to make sure that we pass on traditions that we cherish from our own families.

One of the traditions of my family is going to really interesting places. This may be as part of a really long trip on a vacation, or as simple as making a set of memories as we go away for a weekend or as short a trip as a picnic. I remember specific picnics that we took while I was a child on Sunday afternoons, the meal already prepared before church, then carried out to the edge of a lake at a bench on the side of a hill at Callaway Gardens. I remember going on a camping trip to Amelia Island so we could watch the full Lunar eclipse. I remember trips to the High and the Cummer Museums to go look at poignant paintings and sculptures four feet across made of ribbons and feathers dipped in wax.

But there were longer trips that I cherish as well. We loved going to Colonial Williamsburg, more than our trip to Disney. There was more to do, more to see, more to learn, and really, there were not as many people there, which made it all the more better. We were delving into history, learning the steps of the old dances and the stories of the people who created our nation. We traveled to California to learn about the westward expansion of the nation, and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at Big Sur to see the waves, in the forest to walk among the Redwoods, and at Monterrey to watch the seals flop around. We traveled down the Florida coast to the Keys, and went sixty miles west of Key West, to the Dry Tortugas. We camped on the beach (again) and listened to the waves (and the cars on the highway) lull us to sleep.

I want to be able to share these kinds of memories with my child. I want to learn what different things my husband loved to do, what we want to create for our own family, what memories we have to share with this new thing, this new family we are creating. We are creating a family, and a family is held together by its common story, by the narrative that we weave together. We will take our different parts, the memories of each of our families, and create something new together.