Dec 5, 2006

Thanksgiving, Pt. 2

Larry and stayed in at the Comfort Suites in Castle Rock, courtesy of my mom. We were just a few miles from my sister Nancy's place: they're a family of six, plus my mom who lives with them. My brother Jim was there, and so was Phill's dad Lowell. SO with nine people in their small ranch house, Larry and I welcomed the hotel: a quiet place to relax, a bathtub with no toys, and a toilet with no trainer seat or urinal cake. Yes, it would be great to have a little place to retreat to.

After being awakened by the terse discussion between a motel tenant and security guard, Nancy called to recommend a place for Larry and me to get breakfast, in downtown Castle Rock. So Larry and I headed a bit south to the old area of Castle Rock.

The Comfort Suites was fine, of course. But it felt weird, like I'd stayed there before. Maybe because I had: at the Hampton Inn in Franklin, Tennessee, the Holiday Inn in Provo, Utah; and the Residence Inn in Salt Lake City. Same building.

And come to think of it, each hotel was situated in the "hotel chain" section of town, across from the "restaurant chain" section, down the street from the Target/Wallmart section. There must be only one urban planner in the US, and he's phoning it in.

Larry and I loved going into old town Castle Rock and finding the place Nancy suggested: an old diner with high wood-backed booths and a real soda fountain. Problem was, they didn't serve breakfast after 11am. Who did they think they were, McDonalds?

We strolled around the local antique mall and headed over to Nancy and Phill's place in Sedalia. Nancy and Phill's 13 year old son Matt was happy to see Larry: that meant an extra hand to help them dig a trench for the new electrical cable, going out to the barn. Larry hurt his wrist in a bicycle accident a few weeks ago and he couldn't work a shovel, so Phill insisted Larry not worry about it, but Matt was a little bummed.

A few minutes later, I found Larry and my brother Jim, plopped out on the couches with their dueling Mac laptops and reading glasses. While Matt was digging a trench. But soon their second son, Jonathan, persuaded Larry to go to the barn to see the goats and their one chicken, Goldie: the Lone Free Ranger. There was Larry in the middle of a Green Acres episode.

The day went by quickly. Nancy offered to make broccoli cheese soup for dinner. I saw a look of terror wash over Larry's face. Fortunately, none of the trench-digging men wanted for soup either; they wanted restaurant cooking! So everyone else took off for Applebees, and Nancy and I stayed home to make pies.

I wanted time to talk to Nancy. We don't get to see each other enough. We're a thousand miles apart. And it's not just physical distance.

Nancy, Phill and I shared a house, back in the 1980s when Nancy was getting her masters in English at UCLA. She had short hair with a streak of electric blue in it, and she listened to Paul Simon and U2. Nowadays she wears long hair and longer skirts; she listens mostly to Christian music, and she talks mostly about God. She got rid of her Thomas Pynchon novels to make room for her home schooling books.

Yeah, Nancy home schools her four kids, takes care of my mom, drives her eldest daughter Emily to dance class, and Phill takes Matthew on hiking expeditions. I've watched my sister get quieter, and it hasn't sat well with me. Come on, what's wrong with Paul Simon or U2? What's wrong with girls wearing bathing suits? What's wrong with TV? (well, now that I've watched a bit of TV, I understand but .. but …

Phill and Nancy have retreated from much of American pop culture and "the world." What's wrong with the world? Didn't Jesus love the world?

But with Britney Spears recent foray into partying commando in mini-skirts, who can really blame them? In fact, who can blame the Muslims for detesting us? But that's another story. And while we disagree on a lot of things, I look at their kids: they're terrific. They're well-adjusted, they treat other people with respect. They get a lot of discipline and a lot of love. And it shows.

Still, I often miss that fighter part of my sister; the one who loved Charles Dickens and literature, who wore dangle earrings and her hair like Princess Diana with a blue streak.

A couple years back my sister and I had a big argument over my ex-boyfriend, because we'd become friends again.

N: Susie. You can't do that.
S; He's going through a hard time. I'm trying to be a friend to him.
N: What if tomorrow he meets someone and tells you he doesn't want to see you ever again?
S: If he meets someone, great! But he's not going to blow me off, because I'm his friend.
N: No, he's a wolf, Susan.
S: Nancy, I can't talk to you about this.
N: Susie. you're hardening your heart to the Lord. I can hear it in your voice
S: What you hear is me, trying to keep from telling you off for treating me like a child!

The conversation devolved until I told her I had to hang up. We didn't talk for a couple months. That was Thanksgiving, 2004. We didn't talk until January 2005. She admitted she was still hurt about a comment I'd made about James Dobson back in May 2003 … I'd gone back to New York to move out of my apartment, three weeks after I'd broken up with this same Ex. I called her in tears, and she scolded me: "do you really want to go back to a guy who isn't going to heaven?"
I hung up on her then too; and later wrote her, saying I identified with the broken and wounded than with the James Dobson people who seem to have everything together.

So in January 2005, I apologized for whatever I said about James Dobson in May 2003.

I had another apology to make: she was right about my Ex: he sucked me dry for emotional support, and then snuck out of town without telling me. He WAS a wolf.

Whatever disagreements I had with my sister and her life, she'd been right about many things. And maybe ditching her Thomas Pynchon novels for Second Grade spellers wasn't too "off" either.

When I got engaged this past summer, she sent me this book by some neo-Amish woman about how to be a good wife. Defer to your husband. He's head of the house and his opinions are now yours. Dressing like a man is an abomination. The book freaked me out. And when Nancy came to visit in July and met Larry for the first time, she asked me, "Susan: Does Larry put Jesus first?" I got very angry. It seemed like her idea of being a Christian was wearing Amish clothes and memorizing scripture and retreating from life altogether.

But now here we were at Thanksgiving, 2006. A lot had happened. I got married. And you know, I did want to defer to Larry. I didn't want to be some passive idiot, but I was tired of being a Lone Ranger, Leader of One. I wanted to relax and be a woman, and let Larry lead. And that's not easy for Larry, leading.

I don't agree with Nancy on a lot of things, but I could stand to be open.

She's gone through a lot as well. Nancy and Phill had been part of an independent church, led by this 31 year old pastor who likened the spiritual life to climbing a mountain. In fact, Everything was an analogy to mountain climbing. Their 13-year old son Matt said: "I know Jesus spoke in parables, but he didn’t' keep using the same one!" Their church imploded when the pastor had a meltdown and went off on one of the members, and nearly half the church has left.

The refugees have been gathering at my sister's house, and Phill has done a lot of emotional mop-up of the people who got hurt. Phill said it's been difficult, but also very healing. "I've been reading Galatians, and it really needs to be about grace!"

Nancy said as much as we stood there making pies. She talked about grace, and how hard this year was on their family, but how much she has learned about grace. She's got a peace I want. I don't want the long skirts, but I sure want the peace she has.

And on this trip, she didn't ask me if Larry put Jesus first. She just said, "Larry's a great guy. And he's so perfect for you."

1 comment:

Debstar said...

Hey Suz, You and Lar are so cute. Thanks for sharing. I was at "The Happiest Place on Earth"?? on December 5th. I was really worried I'd never get that song out of my head. Merry Christmas!


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