For actual Christmas day, the Gent and I werein rural Illinois where I grew up. To date, I think it was one of my most favorite times. While this may be the case because we were all able to gather and also celebrate my dad's soon-to-be birthday, there was something else present for me that is still hard to describe and put into words. It isn't simply nostalgia for a place I once lived or a renewed appreciation for a town I once didn't like (or more like the greater region). It is deeper and broader and has something to do with memory, history, fruits of roots, and gifts of community.
He and I were here a solid seven days before heading back to San Francisco on Monday. This is the type of town where I know almost everyone at stop signs and I routinely see my English teacher, fellow church goer, or my mother's coffee friends at the local coffee shop. (Last year on my visit back, I saw my dance teacher from when I was seven. I am thirty one now.) It was wonderful to be back and to create new memories in the house I have ever only known. Monday he and I made the long trek back to California.
Two days later, unexpectedly, I found myself back on a plane to where I had just come from. I had gotten word that someone I knew had passed away tragically. It was important to me to be there for the family and the sister, with whom I am friends. We played together in the same subdivision when we were toddlers and young little persons. We became friends in high school when she welcomed me into her friend group who were all a year older than I was. I went to her wedding and she made it to mine. It was important to me to make this significant event in her life and their family's history.
This evening at the visitation, she and I shared a hug I will always remember. The three years that has spanned since we last saw each other or talked distilled into a moment of embrace that communicated more than words ever could and will travel across all of time forever for me.
I am still experiencing and seeing the history of my small town and the perspective that is awakening in me from my previous visit back here, but suffice to say that I am embodying the gifts of memory, history, and fruits of small town life (and those that may inherently be in me) in new ways, especially against the backdrop of a transient, technological, urban city that may not allow for roots to grow deep and people to be rooted.