A quick post because I'm in the middle of something...
Our annual week with Beve's closest childhood friends. This summer we're on the eastern side of our great state in the home of the college prof and his wife, the nurse. They are, as always, hospitable, gentle hosts, sprinkling welcome and grace with the seasonings on the food they serve us. Last night we sat in their lovely refurbished back patio and garden, created by the hands of a man who makes his living with his thoughtful words, finished for his wife who nurtures for a living, because she's been working overtime in ways he could not share. So creating a garden was something he could do. It's as good a gift as any I've seen in a long time! The work, the product he did out of his weakness, not his strength. Yes, that's a gift.
And today, we drove south to the place where our joint memories begin. Four of the six of us in that Honda Pilot lived within three-ish blocks of each other while we were growing up and the men who are still close began that friendship in Jefferson elementary school. It's been six years since any other than Beve or I have been there so today we drove through the fields ripening toward harvest to all the important places on the four hills of our hometown.
On Military Hill, we stopped first at remodeled Jefferson, which looks nothing like the school where we trudged the halls as children. We pointed out where we wore orange vests and held flags as crossing guards. Beve and the professor (and ME!!!) played cards on someone's steep steps. Then we drove further up the hill and stopped to take pictures at each of our childhood homes--the professor's on Joe St, Beve's on one side and mine on the other side of Janet St, and the Business man's up on Orion. Over that hill, in the high school we looked through the athletic cases, trying to find their names on the trophies while the janitors were trying to lock up the place. All along we told stories, remembered moments, listened to histories as if we hadn't heard them a dozen times before.
Up on College Hill, we went to the two most important places--first, the gyms where the boys (now men) spent every waking hour playing basketball (and I spent many an hour in the nearby pool). Those boys would play in one gym until they were kicked out, wander to the next, then down the line until they'd used up their options--beating college teams all along the way. We checked out the hallways where we'd wait to talk to our Young Life leader, looked down on an empty swimming pool where I'd taught lessons and guarded during the summers of my college years, and the full one where we'd spent our middle school years swimming (or not!) because it was a free place to gather and mingle with the opposite sex. Along the way came out stories we didn't know, lights were turned on for the non-natives among us. Then it was on to Ferdinand's Dairy to get ice-cream because such rich creamy ice-cream is to die for. I watched, of course, having developed a dairy allergy (my mouth now sadly itches when I eat it!) but the others enjoyed the glorious treat.
Then we headed across to Pioneer Hill, where, as we were driving past the home of our old Young Life leader, his wife was just standing on the porch. "It was God-ordained," one of us said as we backed up. She invited us in for a few minutes to visit with her and the old Texan himself. She's frail in body but quick in mind, and he still looks strong of body like the old football star he was but is now frail in mind. We had a wonderful visit with them. She was delighted to see us and he beamed as well, though he didn't say much. I think he knew me--but it was iffy at first. At the end, we got a few photos, and the professor suggested we pray for them. Afterwards I told them that our children have them to thank. That we have raised our children to know Him is due, in no small part, to this old Texan and his wife. "It's because of you." He gave me a hug. "You've made me cry, Carolyn," he said.
"I love you, Sam." I told him. "I always will."
Walking out the door with his wife, she said, "You always had your eye on [Beve], right from the beginning." I just smiled. I couldn't bring myself to tell her the truth--which is, "No, I actually had my eye on your son for about most of high school, he just didn't look back."
We took a last picture of them standing on their front steps and then we were off to our next stop--our middle school which was also remodeled within an inch of its life and bears NO resemblance to the place we went other than the name. We didn't even take a picture.
Down far side of that hill, though, we pulled into Crimson and Gray to do a little shopping and visiting with the owner, an old high school buddy. Well, mostly he was MY buddy, my best buddy, but these guys all knew him. So the prof and the businessman talked, while the rest of us wandered. I'd loved to have visited with him but today wasn't the time for that. We were on a mission.
But maybe the mission was simply finding whatever we might find in Pullman. Perhaps not having an agenda was enough of an agenda. We ate on the patio at the golf-course at the recommendations of the Texan's wife. The food was good, the wind began to get nippy, the conversation never stopped. Worth the the price of admission was the view as well. The darkening sky, with its portents of storm, the trees of Round-up beginning to twist and swing. The smell of rain in grass. I love all these things. They're all part of the symphony that is summer on the Palouse.
After dinner, we headed north in the middle of the Creator's idea of a fireworks display--lightning! It was pretty spectacular. More than most. We were cozy in our car, singing old Young Life songs, and watching God do better what man can only imitate.
These are such days as most people only dream about. Friends like these. Memories like these. A few weeks ago, SK went to a wedding with her three best friends from college. The pastor told that young couple, "You haven't even met those people who will become your closest friends."
When SK called me a couple of days later, having just taken two of them to the airport, she was sad, thinking of them, thinking that maybe this man was right. "What do you think?" she asked.
I think this week should be answer enough. These men are real friends, Friends for life. From fifth grade onward, they were friends.
Then we got back here, climbed into the hot tub and sank. Aw, Ahhh! Yes, just like that (at least for me).
What can tomorrow bring when today has brought such a rich feast of memories? We can only imagine. Looking back was sweet--like the creamiest of ice-cream from our hometown dairy. And tomorrow...there will be sweetness in the being together as well. Because tomorrow, together: it's always sweet.