When I posted this photo I took on Facebook a friend of mine who attended Seminary with me wrote, "It must have been surreal being there." In fact, for me at least this whole vacation was surreal; from last Friday and Saturday nights' high school reunion through three and a half days in the nation's capital, it was an jarring yet wonderful time.
Of course, I've been back to my hometown. I've followed old high school friends on Facebook, even run in to a few from time to time. There is little to prepare a person for a gathering of folks with whom you grew up, and from whom you've since moved on. It was really quite wonderful; it was also quite strange. Many of the people gathered I'd met in grammar school. There was at least one person there who was in my kindergarten class!
I have to say there is much to admire. The gentleman who has owned his own hair salon for almost 25 years. The DVA nurse who is also married to a United Methodist minister. One person is setting up a support group for people raising their grandchildren. The single father of three, far more brave than I ever could be. The survivors of life's curve balls like cancer and family tragedy. We've lost four through the decades, but we keep on. A good looking bunch who have managed, somehow, to reach middle age and retain the ability to laugh together, drink together, and share both old times and new experiences with equal fervor. Oh, and I still feel bad not recognizing a couple of you. Hair styles were longer back then. . .
Then it was off to Washington and a whole different experience of surrealism. We arrived and before checking in to our hotel, toured the National Cathedral. After checking in, we walked down to the White House, then made our way back to the hotel for some sleep to ready ourselves for the week. The National Zoo, the various museums of the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, around the Vietnam War Memorial with Miriam, through the Holocaust Memorial Museum with Moriah. Of course, we stopped at Wesley Seminary which is undergoing a facelift. Lisa and I took a stroll through the old neighborhood, much as we did each morning, wondering what our life would be like.
I will always cherish my time living there; our time, my wife's and my first years, first courting then our first year of marriage, will always remain among my fondest memories. We have moved far beyond what and who we were when we were younger, poorer, and wondering what life held in store for us. Being back, those questions surfaced and even though I know they've been answered - not always the way either of us wanted - it was nice, for a brief moment, to remember what it was like to be young, have all the answers, and be ready to conquer the world. Settling for the struggles of life and family and the relative quiet of a small city in the Midwest has been its own reward. I would like to think that, in our own way, we have done a small part in changing the world for the better. Arriving home yesterday afternoon, being greeted by our St. Bernard and our cats and my in-laws who were house-sitting, that same sense of surrealism overcame me, followed quickly by the two best words in the English language: "I'm home."
N.B.: The highlight in many ways was taking Moriah's advice and heading to the East Building of The National Gallery of Art. Along with some special exhibits and a whole room dedicated to the work of Alexander Calder, I turned a corner and there on the wall was this:
Pollock's #1 1951 is an amazing piece of work I first encountered on a high school trip to Washington in 1980. It is stunning, arresting in its power and beauty, and was the first painting I ever saw that made me think, "Yes! Someone gets it." To see it again after all this time was a real treat. I sat and gazed at it for about ten minutes. Miriam came and sat with me, the two of us together sharing a moment with one of my favorite pieces of art.
N.B.II: Before I forget, as we walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial I was gratified to find this:
The angle of the sun was wrong, but the spot where Dr. King stood and gave his speech to the 1963 March on Washington has been commemorated. To stand where he stood . . . It gives me chills.