When we met, I was a new mother and Karen was finishing up college. So we've known each other through lots of life experiences. Love interests, husbands, pregnancy, one very long train excursion, brothers, beach adventures, births and deaths, Mexico, our moms (who do I trust to clean out my house when I die. . .quick, before my mom beats you to it!), late nights in front of fireplaces, divorce, tree trimming parties. Not in that order.
But the letters and cards she sent were a shock. (For one thing, I'm surprised that I wrote as much and as often as I did.) But this is the real surprise. For the most part, they were written in the early eighties, when I was in my early thirties. And guess what? Thirty years later, I am asking the same questions, pondering the same truths, making nearly the same observations about life, caring about the same concerns. I'm just able to see more layers. It's amazing.
And a gift.
Not that I never reach resolution about anything. Not that nothing about me has changed. But the general contours of my life are the same. It's not unlike the vocation questions I raised a few weeks ago. Vocation is something we are born with. We spend our whole lives exploring and honing it, and discovering more layers, that's all.
All this came home to me the other day when I was letting myself feel the pain in my heart about my son, Daniel, and his situation. His hearing is this week--Friday--and at a later time he will be sentenced, based on his involvement in a marijuana conspiracy. Accurate or not, he will more than likely be sentenced to prison. I'm not in denial about this. I know that he has broken the law. But the charges are wrong, and the consequences severe. It will mean a long separation from his daughter. So it hurts.
As I sometimes do when I'm feeling that sad, I drove by our old place on 128th Street in West Des Moines. When we moved there, the "place" was a restored country schoolhouse which had been converted into a home. It sat on an acre of ground under gigantic oaks and elms, atop a mound. A short time after we sold it, the acre became part of a mega-housing development, incorporated into the city of Clive, and the house was moved to Madison County.
The once gravel road is a four-lane paved thoroughfare, and new houses sit on our property. But I can identify every one of "my" trees, as well as where the garage once stood, the view out my picture window, and where the mailbox, the garage, the garden, and the swings once were. The contours of the land remain the same, and even though no one else can "see" those things, I still can. They are there for me, and they are just as real as they were thirty years ago.
My once-upon-a-time home comes back to me in much the same way that my once-upon-a-time life does through the letters I once wrote. It gives me a different perspective to have this--a layered one. The lay of the land remains the same. Only the daily details are different.