Monday, June 08, 2009

There Was More Than Just Fidgeting

The drive on Friday night took longer than four hours. It was a warm night, and I drove mostly with windows rolled down, resorting only to air conditioning when I couldn't bear the sound of the windows any more. I stopped when I felt like it, for a burger, some bad pink lemonade, the kind that comes out of those square machines with the self-filling fountains inside. Sometimes I just stopped at an exit, to take a photo of the landscape, because the clouds had turned a nice color, or because I had come upon that bit by the gorge where the horse sculptures sit up high and invite you to take their photo. I was happy to be on the road.
When I got to the dorms at Gonzaga, Christopher and the others were all out. The girl at the desk was doing needlepoint, gave me a key, told me where I could park my car. She looked so young. I liked it, the dorm room. Not that it was a nice room, it was just the twin beds, with thin mattresses covered in plastic, armoires and other furniture in that blonde wood that looks like plastic. It was just nice to be there, felt silly and momentous at the same time, waiting for my roommate, just like those first hours at St. John's.

When Jessica and the others came in, we realized that it had been nearly twenty years since I had seen her last, maybe during her time away from St. John's, my freshman year, maybe? We talked late into the night to make up for it. Frances and I know each other three ways, have met through three different friends who have nothing to do with each other whatsoever, and though I doubt I had ever met her husband John, it felt as though I had.

That first year I met Chris, I also met his friends Evan and Jason, who I love all out of proportion, as though they had been my high school friends, and not just Chris'. Evan was there, and I got to meet his wife Megan, finally. This delighted me since I had been told that she was a knitter, and indeed she is, even more than I am, a sock in her hands from the moment I first met her. I loved her instantly too. It is easy to love the people who Chris loves. This is the way it has always been with him, as though it's an atmosphere he lives in, a weather system that surrounds him.
The fact that Megan liked me back so easily, and let me know she did, made it even nicer when we stood in church together, and she took my hand at a moment when I was uncertain, and smiled without reserve, and kept me from worrying about a thing. For me, it's easy to be worried in church. When to sit, when to stand. Not only that, but there's the eucharist to worry about, and why all the priests are men. There were, by Jim's count, 120 of them there in church on Saturday. One after one, they filed up to bless the six priests who were being ordained, each of the older priests a little different from the next, someone with box pleats in the back of his robe, someone with a stole embellished with green leaves and vines, one with two long thin braids. Some leaned in close and moved their lips softly, some stood a bit more distant, eyes closed for a moment. One elderly priest rested a hand gently on Chris' shoulder and smiled before moving on.
It was all gentle, the mass. Both that day, and the next. I don't know how to tell you about it, those things that happen when you sit there in a church that long, watching someone you love become something much bigger than himself, and thinking about your own little part in all of it. It's complicated and simple. I thought about things, and also, I let go of thinking. I watched Christopher and saw his sweet happy face tighten a bit around the eyes, with emotion, and was glad I had gone back for a bit of tissue before we left the dorms.

When it was time to take communion, those of us who would not, or could not, were invited to come up, arms folded across our chests, for a blessing from our new priests. I stayed back at first, but then Megan went, encouraging me as she did, and then I just thought, it's Chris, Christopher, how could I not go? Whatever else I believed or did not believe in that moment, I believed in his blessing, and wanted it, so I followed Megan up the aisle, sheltered behind Evan, still nervous, but glad to be there. The moment when I stepped forward, and Christopher looked into my eyes and said his blessing wasn't the only moment when I found myself with tears in my eyes, but for me, it might have been the sweetest.


Anonymous said...

Oh! I had tears in my eyes when I read this! Beautiful, as always.


Kate said...

Oh I just got tears in my eyes too! I miss church sometimes. Never on Sunday mornings, but I do miss it.

Barb said...

This is wonderful Heather. You captured so much of the emotion of that day and your relationship with Chris and I had tears in my eyes here too.

Anonymous said...

Heather, you don't know me and I don't know you, but Chris forwarded this on to some of us, his friends from Weston/Boston, and I just wanted to thank you for helping me to be present at a moment in our friend Chris' life when I wasn't able to be there in person. He is such a blessing, and I have a feeling you and I would get along just fine! Peace. Crista

Heather said...

Thanks to everyone for such nice comments, means a lot to me that the emotion and importance of it all came through to some degree!