This is a repost from Facebook of a game Alan Gann got me playing….where you write on a particular year in your life.
It’s fascinating that Alan Gann assigned me “30” for the age to write about. Because it was a memorable year. I don’t even need to re-read journals to remember.
When it started, I was living in TimberCreek Apartments, just off Melody Lane and Skillman. It was the last generation of young single adults to live in Vickery Meadow, and already the neighborhood was transitioning from what Uptown is today and into the hodgepodge of races and colors that live there now, unified by one single common denominator: being poor. (Attention, Uptown…)
TimberCreek was set in the midst of gorgeous tall trees, with a creek winding through. My apartment backed up to it, and in Spring/Summer the foliage was so thick, you couldn’t make out the apartments across the creek on the other side. After a big rain, I could sit on that porch, and listen to the rush of the waters, 80-feet away.
I remember turning thirty vividly because I was glad that no one would ever call me “a kid” again. I was on staff at HPUMC, and seemingly every day of my twenties, somebody would ask my age and say, “But you’re so YOUNG!”
Which annoyed the hell out of me, for some reason.
What I didn’t clue into then was that this mean two things: I was surrounded by an inordinately high number of old people, for someone in their twenties; and that I was young, and should’ve just enjoyed the hell out of it while it lasted rather than being in such a hurry to be “older.” (Hindsight)
My staff decorated my entire office black the day of my thirtieth birthday. Skeletons. Fake “RIP” tombstones. This moment has flashed back to me both when I turned 40 and when I turned 50 a year and a half ago.
Now, what I was proud of at the time, seems like a horrid reminder.
(“If I was “old” at 30, what the hell am I now, at 50?”)
The crux of my thirtieth year revolves around a five-weeks prior during May/June. It was a dizzy, crazy, time. And it makes me tired, even now, when I think about it.
During that time…
— Dennise finished law school and final exams.
— We celebrated her graduation.
— A WEEK later, we got married.
— We moved all our stuff into a little house in Little Forest Hills.
— She started working.
— She started studying for the bar.
Later that summer I’d take my first trip to Russia (August) with twenty-seven adults from the church.
It was a crazy, crazy year.
On our first anniversary, Dennise said something like “Wow…this year has flown by.”
And I responded, “Are you kidding me? it’s been the longest year of my life.”
By which I meant that was that it was a ton of stuff, all piled on top of each other, in a very short time. Almost all of it was good. It was just a LOT of life in a very, very short span.
We loved that little house in Little Forest Hills. It was a block off the train tracks, back in the woods of that neighborhood, and the trains would shake the ground as they rumbled by. I would go down to watch them pass, with Gorka’s “Mercy of the Wheels” in my head.
I remember a few things very clearly. I remember we had a big wedding shower very close to the wedding. We had Dennise’s Chevy Citation loaded down with gifts still in the boxes, late a night one night, and we were stopped at a light next to some Dallas Cops. They kept eying us, clearly wondering what all those beautiful gift boxes were doing in a Chevy Citation driven by those two grungy kids. But they didn’t stop us.
I remember how Dennise and me got a refrigerator from Montgomery Wards, and instead of paying for delivery, we loaded it up in my truck, and hauled it into that house ourselves.
How did we DO that?!
I remember how busy Dennise was, adjusting to working full-time, and studying for the bar.
I remember watching spring rains in that house, while The Story’s “The Gilded Cage” was playing….and right at a moment when the music swelled, the rain started pouring even stronger, as if nature itself was listening in.
I remember listening to David Wilcox’s “Big Horizon” CD over and over and over that year.
I remember the big swaying trees of Little Forest Hills. How quiet it was at night. Except for the crickets. How peaceful the days were. How back there, near those train tracks, on those streets with no curbs and sidewalks, it felt like some small town, far far away from a big city.
I remember long bike rides around the lake.
I remember being afraid of the Russia trip that first time, that August. It was a big step. It was not too many years since the “wall” had fallen, and groups were just beginning to make their way over from our nation to theirs. I remember how it seemed like there was a lot riding on Americans and Russians learning to be friends. (There was)
So, as the trip approached, I was both more and more excited and more and more stressed. I LOVE traveling. I love seeing the world. But every single trip brings anxiety and stress. In this case…
How would it go?
Would we be safe?
Would *I* be safe?
One night, just before we left, I found myself taking out the trash. I put the bag in the can and turned to walk back inside. There were crickets chirping all around. The tall trees were swaying quietly. Deep peace.
Dennise was washing dishes in the sink. I could see her clearly…standing the yellow light of that window, and me in the total darkness at the street.
I burst into tears.
“What the hell am I doing, going to Russia?”
“Please God, let me come back safe….we’re just getting started with our lives. I don’t want to miss this.”
I remember that moment with incredibly clarity.
I wanted nothing more than to go.
I wanted nothing more than to come back safe, and look at her washing dishes in the window.
That juxtaposition —between the desire to explore and see the world, and to just be safe at home— that bi-polar desire has *never* left me to this day. That sense of being rooted like the trees, and restless like the trains, pulls me still.
We moved soon after that. We were only in Little Forest Hills for that one year, before moving to Junius Heights on the other side of the lake. But it was a hugely important year. And I’m amazed it’s the one Alan picked for me…
It’s 22 years later.
All sorts of things have happened.
It seems as important as ever for Russians and American to learn to be friends.
Dennise is a judge. I’ve helped build a new church building for Northaven, and shepherded them for thirteen years.
We live another quiet neighborhood, that is true.
But it’s North Dallas quiet.
Rather than the neighborhood itself…the trees, the houses, the people….enfleshing a quiet/calm in every moment, the quiet of North Dallas is a “keep it to yourself” quiet. Or maybe a “we’re all afraid” quiet.
Or maybe both. I’m never quite sure.
It is a familiar place, though. We’ve been here thirteen years now. Longer than we lived in East Dallas. And it’s a mile from where I grew up. Very familiar. There are trees. Not as tall and stately as in Forest Hills. But there’s an awesome walking trail, along a creek, at the end of our block that we don’t walk nearly enough…but we did just a few moments ago…
And, just like that seminal year, these past few months have been a hectic and crazy time, that really reminds me quite a lot of those weeks when I was thirty…
— HUGE staff changes at church
— A same-sex wedding that has caused ripples here and throughout the UMC
— A church trip to Guatemala with Maria
— A visit by Bishop Talbert
— My mother-in-law’s death
It’s been like drinking out of an emotional firehose, these past few months. I mean, I should have blogged about all these events in the past months. But I haven’t written a word about any of them.
It’s enough just to keep my head above water, much less to write about how the life preserver fits.
Not to mention a wife who’s teaching law school in addition to her full-time job, a daughter who’s driving, and is a varsity cheerleader, and who wasn’t even a gleam in our eye back when I was thirty.
But now, she’s a huge part of our world. Through things like the Guatemala trip, I hope I’m teaching here to get out and see the world, but also to remember to be rooted too. And I like to think she’s getting a feel for what my life was like, back when I was thirty, and spent perhaps a quarter each year out of town, on trips of one kind or another.
And yet, for the most part, this person who means the world to Dennise and me now, knows nothing of that hectic year when I was thirty, when life was stacked up on top of itself, in Little Forest Hills.
So strange, time.