Memories... how deliciously addicting they can be, while either making you smile from cheek to cheek or turn your stomach upside down and release the Kraken-esque butterflies that make your eyes well up with tears. Memories are incredible and I wouldn't want to live without any, ANY of them, good or bad.
I just experienced almost four days of reliving old memories and making new ones. I experienced a homecoming, of sorts, while visiting the wonderful city of St. Louis, for work. ---MAIN CAVEAT---
Work to me IS fun and I enjoyed every minute of all the work meetings, conversations and memories carefully, yet spontaneously orchestrated by life, this weekend. Goals were met, work got done.
In the middle of scheduled meetings, meals and appointments, all work-related, my head and my heart reminded me, or perhaps, it nudged me to think that there could be time for everything. Define everything, I asked? Well, are there others that you could visit with? Are there other places we can squeeze in to see once the work is done. No way-there's lots to do. Hold the phone, try.
No way! It worked. This is a silly example of when you set a goal, or put your heart into something, it will happen. Or better yet, you can make it happen. And the creation of new memories, celebrating old ones, began!
A quick visit to the office where some of the gifted spiritual leaders of my community work, was the first of the new memories I created. Here's the thing, friendship, love and support are not things. They are organic, feelings you feel, funny, weird goosebumps in your skin, or uncontrollable needs for giving and receiving hugs. I felt all of that when I walked in the door. Immediately, arms go up in the air and smiles shape faces. :)
As we walked up and down the hallway I glanced at the wall paintings, many of them by artists I admire, images of Madonna and child- the real Madonna and child, not the one from Michigan. Memories of my visit from November 2010 when I presented to a group of alumni, to the March 2011 meeting to review the best ways to communicate using on-line marketing. Great conversations and brainstorming, community building and faith sharing together. The mass in their meeting room on December 8, 2012, as an already, somewhat "seasoned" resident of Cardinal Nation. All these memories came rushing back.
Talking out the plans for the weekend, quickly updating folks on the latest happenings at the university, and more important, anticipating anxious and loyal support for our basketball team-all part of the new memory card created at that moment, now forever engraved in my mind---and heart.
The next day there was, dare I say, an hour at the end of the day to make a stop I was hoping for. A place where I once found a best friend for my heart, mind and soul; a community of friends and educators living for the "hear and now" of young men's lives. A Dragon's lair.
Another set of hallways. These wide and green and with small windowed doors, I glance into classrooms and quickly recognize faces. One, two, three, four Dragons come out to say hello. My boys. After being blessed with being a faithful companion in the spiritual journey of some of these fine, young, men for the last few summers in Dayton, I give thanks. More hugs, memories- bring it!
At that moment, I experienced joy, simple, pure and real joy. Smile.
Teachers say hello, some I met last summer, others I met years ago. These are my friends even if I don't see them every week, email, call or text each other everyday, like we used to. You are part of me. I missed some that were gone for the day, but that's OK. They know I was there, looking for them. Wanting to see them, Wanting to hug them... wanting to say "It's sooooo good to see you again."-- Tear.
After a heart-wrenching basketball game, where the boys tried and tried, but didn't quite make it--and those memories some may want to skip altogether-- we moved on to another "what if..." A celebration of community was taking place at another high school where more friends waited, while others had no idea we would show up. Tic toc, tic toc, we were running late. Late, late, I hate being late-- don't I, friends? ;) -- but we made it and with my heart feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest, we made it and sat in the very last pew. How purely, perfectly, Catholic.
Silence, peace, grace. I look around and recognize faces and finally, I look up and stare. God, I know you are witnessing all of this. You know, I know you know what I know. Memories, welcome back. Tears fill my eyes, butterflies savagely fly inside my stomach. I had been there before, many times before, but now it was different. Everything was different. I smiled without making any type of fuss or noise. For right then and there the image of my friends laughing, telling stories and joking, praying and praising together, hug my heart and make it smile. All of these filled my heart, my soul. Anxiety, nerves... calm. And, yes... I smiled.
I didn't get to talk to everyone, nor I got to really catch up with others for as long as I wanted to. With some, only looks and glances were exchanged. But at least, I am glad the exchange took place. Words are great--I am a big fan of them-- hugs even better, even though at times, it's OK to simply have eye contact and share a simple glance.
The evening concluded with more memories shared of times of Marianist LIFE past! Memories of reconnecting with old amigos, meeting new ones and facilitating the potential "beginnings of beautiful friendships" made for a weekend of work, turn into a weekend of creating and re-creating.
We created memories, while re-creating old ones, celebrating that they happened. We created shared times and spaces that only US, those present, at that time and that moment, lived and shared together. Like our own little secret, full of "you had to be theres" and a million and one THANK YOUs.
This entry could have easily become an ode to St. Louis. It could have included detailed accounts of conversations, exchanges, agreements and questions among friends and strangers alike. What I hope to share is an appreciation and a celebration of memories. And, by memories, I take the good and the bad equally- can't discriminate against what has already happened, for it has happened and there's no way of changing it... whatever "it" is. Think of a place you have been to, a city lived in, a school attended, or office you worked at. Memories fill your mind. Experiences in life that helped shaped your life. Much like I have written about before, life experiences come with the baggage of memories. Whether they make you smile or tear up, this entry is to say thank you to the memories past and bring it on to the memories yet to come!