March began in Chicago with fancy hotels and Champagne Thursday in real life with my dear friend, Liz. I thoroughly enjoy time spent with her. She reminds me how much I love vegetables and drinking four cups of coffee a day. We wore big parkas and walked around Chicago from coffee shop to bookstore to food spot. We spent ample amount of time dreaming about my bookstore and her upcoming inception into the world of law school. Our lives, though vastly different, have paralleled one another for quite some time. Walking alongside her through tumultuous seasons is one of the greatest gifts from the World Race. I’m grateful for her friendship and her honesty.
In between our bookstore and coffee stops we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. There were beautiful lions standing guard over the building, majestic and courageous. Inside were works of art so vast in concept and style that I couldn’t begin to name them all. We saw Picasso’s Old Guitar Player, Monet’s Water Lilies, and stood mesmerized in front of portraits that danced across the canvas as if real. Liz and I arrived a little late (they close so early!) so we ran around trying to see as much as we could, barely pausing for all the madonnas-with-child sprinkled throughout the halls and galleries. By the end we were panting and sweating. The brisk outside air welcomed us with cold hugs – one of the only times I’ve ever been grateful for wind.
We walked to the Bean (of course) and watched some people ice skate while we cooled off (we’re pretty sure we saw Taye Diggs, but who can be sure?!).
My road (or flight) back to my own big city was a little wild. While I was in the snow-less Midwest a blizzard of outrageous proportions decided to drop fourteen inches of snow over most of New England, grounding all flights for hours. Thus, I spent sixteen hours in the Chicago-Midway airport. If you’re not familiar, Midway is more or less the Dollar General of airports: you stop every once in a while if you’re passing through and in dire need of an essential (and even then it’s hit or miss). There are no lounges, but thankfully they added a few new restaurants recently so there’s actually food to eat instead of airport-gas-station-snacks. In the same amount of time it would have taken for me to drive to Boston I read a little, napped, caught up on TV shows, and decided I am too old to spend that amount of time in an airport. Six years ago it would have been fine, but… not anymore, y’all. I can’t handle it. I was delirious by the time my flight took off at 9 PM.
The snow was beautiful when I arrived in Boston, though it quickly turned to grey masses of ugliness. The mounds of parking lot snow (affectionately deemed city glaciers) have been bigger than I could have ever imagined and there’s always ice lurking around to trip me up. It’s the end of March and the snow and ice are finally melting. Birds (besides gulls which are always around) have started making appearances. We’re seeing sunny days and temperatures that reach the 50s. This southern girl has officially made it through her first New England Winter. I think.
It should be duly noted that I did take one more trip back to Georgia. I haven’t been south since December and I thought I could make it until late April without getting my hair done, which seems to be the only reason I go south these days (there’s no way to insert a side eye and a laugh here, but read: obviously there are more important reasons for my trips south). As it turns out, I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) make it to April. I needed to sit across the table from familiar places and thaw out a little in the Georgia sun.
Several great things happened while I was home. Most notably, yes, I got my hair done – with hints of purple because I’m having a life crisis? In true Georgia fashion, the weather was colder while I was home (call me Elsa) and we ended up under a tornado warning/watch while I was out having drinks with a friend. Why am I not surprised?! I spent several days legitimately working. Not all time in Georgia is for play, but sharing an office with Donna is pretty fun.
I’ve also been mulling over why leaving is still so hard. We are 265 days into this New England thing. This trip to Georgia was my fourth since The Move in July. Part of it is the struggle to find community in Boston. I feel like I’m awkward at conversations with strangers and winter makes me want to hibernate. It’s hard leaving people who are okay with my quiet, okay with my emotions, okay with me, for a place with people who don’t know me. Some of that is my own fault because I put up walls and hold back, afraid of being too trusting, too open, too raw and real. Why? Haven’t I always been the one who meets no strangers? There are a million excuses I could come up with, but they don’t hold water.
Part of it is this ridiculous desire to be grounded, rooted – the whole reason I bought all this heavy furniture two years ago and got mad a year ago when I realized it wasn’t enough to hold me in one place.
Part of it, still, is realizing that time doesn’t stop. As comforting as that can be (nothing lasts forever), it creates this urgency in me (because nothing lasts forever) and I get all up in arms over missing moments, growing apart, losing who and what matters most to me, no matter how unrealistic that is. In college and after I’ve been the one who may or may not show up, may or may not be in one place for very long (hello, the World Race?).
This year has made me realize how much I want to be stable – for my own sanity, but also because I want to be the one who shows up for other people.
I’m in my own way a lot over this. Looking back, I’m glad God moved me. I didn’t need to stay in Rome. I couldn’t have thrived there. It was so good to bring me stability and foundation in my early post-college years and it’s so good to go back to front porches and green Berry grass every now and then, but it couldn’t be my forever.
And as ironic as it is, I feel a little more able to be the one who shows up these days because I’m not constantly worried about whether or not my paycheck will cover all the essentials, let alone the extravagances.
Needless to say, I didn’t cry leaving this time. Not one tear. Maybe it’s getting a little easier.
March has ended after a fun five day romp around Boston with Bell, my original Berry roommate. We explored Concord’s nooks including the Alcott house and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. We visited half a dozen bookstores and walked miles in our sneakers through Cambridge, Back Bay, Salem, and downtown Boston. Berry couldn’t have known that these two random freshman roommates would still be friends eleven years later.
April looks to be an equally busy month. The Boston marathon marks the ides of the month with a trip to south Georgia soon to follow. Temperatures are looking up (maybe even to the 60s!) in the next few weeks so we New Englanders can finally be warmed by the sun instead of using it just for light. And of course baseball season is finally here, which is all the more reason to celebrate. Here’s to spring flowers, warm sun, and the waking after a long, cold winter.
In the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, here’s a few things that are saving my life right now: