Monday, September 19, 2011

Trip through time, journal-style

For one--or many--moment today, it felt like summer again.  Enough that I took the laundry that wasn't quite dry and draped it over lawn chairs on our deck.  Said laundry was 17 little girl dresses I'd made for my daughters in their childhoods.  They've been stored in boxes until they can be used for a granddaughter, grandniece, grand-something.  But when we pulled them out yesterday they smelled musty.  Hence the colorful array of memories lining my deck.  Now they're stored in a large plastic bin with just the faintest hint of grass and autumn breezes layered in with the fabric softener.

I sat beside them taking a different kind of trip down memory lane.  As I mentioned yesterday, I found my treasured blue journals.  And late last night (or perhaps, more accurately, early this morning) I organized them chronologically in the lawyer's bookcase in the now-spare bedroom.  That lawyer's bookcase has an interesting history, actually.  It was once owned by Bill Gates.  Senior.  Not the multi-billionaire, but his dad.  His dad who went to Bremerton High school with Beve's dad and was something of a nerd himself (though I'm pretty sure 'nerd' wasn't a term used back in the forties).  Anyway, that glass-fronted bookcase is now where my journals live.  All of them.  Shoot, I didn't count them, which tells you something about how my brain DOESN'T work.  But there are a plethora of them.  Really.  About 4 a year since 1977.  You do the math.

 Today, while my daughters' dresses waved in the breeze reminding me of their early years, I sat out on the deck and revisited the genesis of my relationship with Beve.  I re-read the journals I kept the year I went to Europe when he was teaching in Finland, after we reconnected there, then when we wrote copious letters across the ocean.  And the journals from our time in the Netherlands and India--all the countries on this planet where our relationship moved from old friend to something else.

I came up for air about the time Beve got home from work, though I'd thrown tennis balls for the pup about a thousand times during my read.  It hardly felt like I was reading my own story, I'd forgotten so much about it.  But it was familiar at the same time, of course.  But a few things struck me about the period when I was falling in love with him, but didn't know how he felt about me:
1. I was very, very cautious about how I felt about him.  My heart was as fragile as a heart can be.  I had been so deeply destroyed by a relationship I terrified of feeling unequally again.  And I was particularly afraid of what I was beginning to feel for a person I'd known since I was nine years old.  It was all too ridiculous, incredible, unexpected.  How could it possibly be true?  So I spent an inordinate amount of time trying NOT to feel what I felt.  I read the very private thoughts of that young woman and want to hug her, to tell her to relax because her dreams, hopes and life itself were all about to come true.
2. I believed that not-yet-the-Beve was a treasure.  That the very fact that there was a person in the world like him was a gift, and it didn't have to have anything to do with me.That was the most private message in my journals.  Yes, I wanted him to be in my life, but even if he wasn't, I was glad he was in my life.  If that makes sense.
3.  I cared more about seeing him become who he was meant to be than be in love with me.  This is true.  It shocks me to read the words I wrote.  They were so, so loving but so self-less.  I'm telling you, I was all-in, all-in-love with him, but I wanted his best more than I wanted him.  And my fifty-four-year-old self can hardly imagine that my twenty-five/six-year-old self could have felt that way.

I looked up from reading those journals--from reading about how our relationship grew from friendship to the amazing, unique moment in the Lebanese restaurant in New Delhi when he told me (FINALLY!) how he felt about me, and God had confirmed to him that we had a future together--and there he was, my now-gray-haired 55-year-old Beve.  And I thought, 'oh my God, I'd forgotten.'  I'd forgotten how it all felt when I was living it, how amazing it was to live a romance that God had a hand in, to have such a heart for Beve that I wrote all the reasons I loved him on almost a daily basis, then ended those litanies with prayers of surrender.  I'd forgotten that God did that, God gave that love.

That it was for this life, too.  This, in-our-fifties, children-raised, lives too.  Yes, God didn't only give us romance for that one moment, but for a lifetime. When He gave us to each other, He meant it.  And we forget.  That's the thing, we forget.  I have been feeling so kind of all-mushy about Beve tonight, so, "Aw, you're so amazing, I can't believe you're really my husband," mushy.  On a Monday night when he's dead tired, and we have so much on our plates that we can't even see straight and he's taking a nap in his chair before he falls asleep the second his head hits his pillow.  I'm still feeling that rush of joy that God gave me this man because I took that trip back through my journals this afternoon.

And it makes me think again why I LOVE journals. Why I think they're so powerfully important in life.  I was thinking about what it would be like for a couple who are struggling with each other, hardly talking and are even in counseling to have journals from their first days of love to read.  There's a whole lot of revisionist history that goes on at the end of relationships, and journals don't allow that.  It's all right there in blue fountain pen (at least for me).  I can't pretend I felt differently than I did.  Someone--even Beve--can walk into that spare room, open up a book and call me out.  I dare you, I double-dog dare you!  Anyway, it'd be a good thing for couples to write down in the beginning why they believe God is calling them together.  Then take out that list 30 years later and see how their lives have stacked up.

I did that today.  It was even worth not getting any other thing done.

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