A recent trip to Florida for meetings offered me the chance to stop and spend time in Colorado, my old stomping ground, on the way home. There I did for the first time something I've been doing for almost 20 years on trips to Washington - I set up about a dozen appointments for lunch, dinner, or coffee as a means of strengthening relationships with supporters and significant friends. It's the first time I've made a trip like that to Colorado, though, in the two years since I moved away.
The family I invited myself to stay with (!) seemed a little bemused by this process... it being, I suppose, an unusual one. I'd been doing this for so many years I'd sort of forgotten how much our culture has shifted and how busy people's lives have become. Making time to get together with a friend - one with whom your paths might not naturally cross - is a luxury many cannot afford.
I'm glad - grateful - that it's actually part of my job to do this. It's one of the best ways folks who follow this full-time ministry lifestyle can ensure they are not forgotten but still have relationships back "home" (and hopefully prayer and financial support when that is needed as well).
During the several days I spent in Denver, I ran into and/or remembered others I'd love to catch up with, too. From that vantage point, continuing the process seemed do-able. Now that I'm back in Oregon, with all the responsibilities for work, house, family, and school settling back around my shoulders, I have a harder time picturing myself do this. I haven't even returned messages received from some of those I began to pursue but was not able to see.
One person I met with is a good friend who is single, and who as we spoke alluded to the awkwardness she feels about this week's Thanksgiving holiday. It hasn't been that long; how could I have forgotten what it's like to be single on Thanksgiving? Wondering where you will go, who will invite you and when... the delicate process of answering the inquiries of others when you are not sure they are about to extend an offer or, not interested in accepting it!
The question would come up at church or the office: "What are you doing for Thanksgiving? You'd be welcome to join us if you have no other place to go!" Usually I received several offers on those unflattering terms. Maybe I could go one place for dinner, and drop in elsewhere for pie and coffee? Would that be too weird? Would I feel like the pathetic add-on person and wish I'd skipped the whole thing and just stayed home?
My marriage has generally made my life more complicated, but it does simplify and answer the question of who I'll be with on the holidays. This year's Thanksgiving feast is conveniently close - as will be, I imagine, every holiday that we stay in Eugene. No need to go over the river or through the woods: Grandma Wade lives less than ten blocks away.
I'm a little more bent toward variety than tradition, but tradition wins this time. And I'll include some of my own favorite traditions though they differ from those of my new family. I'll make pumpkin pie from scratch and watch the Macy's parade. And this year I'll try to practice an unholiday-like moderation, as well, as I continue to diet. The pounds and inches are not melting off very quickly, I admit. But I do feel better and am managing to keep the doctor's orders fairly well. When I go see her again next year, I hope there will be less of me.
Restraint has an appeal all its own. It offers a simplicity and clarity which feasting cannot offer. This time of year I often think of my first Thanksgiving in Eugene way back in college days, which began with the usual feast but was followed by three days of ramen and apple slices. I suppose that even that year, the Wade family was gathered almost ten miles north of me in the big house where we'll go this Thursday.