Sometimes my blog is an attempt to amuse, a chance to express, and sometimes it's a brain toilet. This is one of the latter. You've been warned.
This is part 1 of the three blog posts I've been meaning to do. The ideas has been knocking around in my head but I just haven't had time to put pen to paper, or fingertip to ipad. I can best sum up my time since doing the Marine Corps marathon in three events: going home to Alabama, trying to run at work, and going to Hawaii. First: going to Alabama, the thing that scares me.
I have been dreading and anticipating this trip since my neice announced her engagement. For one, Baboo wasn't going. He had drill weekend. I get restless without Baboo because he gets me. I can look at him, and he at me, and know that we're both thinking the same thing about whatever just occured. For another thing, my Alabama relatives, hell, about 95% of my living relatives, are as far to the other end of the political, religious, and philosophical spectrum from me as they could be, and so I was nervous. We're talking about people who made a point of buying chick-fil-a on th day of the walkout, when they might not have at any other time. Not because they think same-sex coupling is icky, which they do and won't admit, or because they think they're going to hell, which they admit but claim that it's not their judgement, "it's in the Bible." No, they claimed to be doing this to support free speech. I considered that for about five minutes, until it occured to me that the only free speech that they support is the speech that they agree with.
In any case, I arrived in Alabama onFriday at noon two days after arriving home from washington DC and the marine corps marathon. I left Alabama on Sunday morning. I came to attend the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception. I came loaded for bear, ready to defend any and all challenges to my beliefs. Except--except that they weren't really there. Nobody came at me with torches, screaming, liberal commie pinko! Go home!! These were happy, pleasant, genuinely joyful and non-repressed people. They hugged. They smiled. They laughed. We chatted.
There are some fundamental differences in lifestyle. Whereas I have been working on purging most of my house of stuff, in my sister's house, stuff was everywhere. The woman loves a bargain, and she loves comfort and convenience. Her house, as I have mentioned previously when explaining why I am not a china kind of person, is a celebration of hard work, comfort, taste and consumption, from the kereug coffee maker (which seems, to me, to make very small amounts of sugary creamy coffee drinks, one cup at a time and quite expensively) to the classic cherry furniture.
These are nice, friendly people. Hard-working people. Not an unkind word in the bunch, from anyone, about anyone or anything. And why should they? Life is easy, and everyone they see and speak with every single day is exactly like them. And yet I'm left with the sneaking suspicion that if I wasn't like them--if my skin were darker, or my clothes shabbier, or if I spoke out about my beliefs, they wouldn't be as nice to me. I look just like them. But I've seen the facebook posts warning others about the gays. And, the muslims...who are taking over everything. I know what is discussed at their meetings. I know what they pray for...they pray for change. Not forward change, a change to the way things used to be. I felt unease from time to time. I've felt that unease since the day I left South Dakota and started a new life, like I was a fraud. Not really one of them. A former welfare recipient, liberal in their midst.
There is no mandatory recycling in Birmingham, and I couldn't see any evidence that it was done anywhere i went. I felt awkward throwing coffee grounds and eggshells in the trash, they usually go in my countertop composter. Throwing plastic in the trash just seemed wrong. Water poured everywhere, which i guess is appropriate, when it rains inches per month, instead of inches per year. No need to conserve.
I went for a run early Saturday morning, just before dawn. My sister was mystified. Why would I go running in the dark? There's a gym down the street. It was cool and humid, and hilly. A great run. I came back and sat on the back porch overlooking the woods. The porch, mostly unused, was full of leaves and sticks and one, large spider and its web. We eyed each other, warily. Detente.
Eventually I figured out from evesdropping that this kind of joy, the happiness that i saw, was the kind of happiness you have when your world is carefully insulated. They live in a bubble. They travel in bubbles. They go to the same schools, attend the same churches, and never, ever travel outside their own circles. They even take cruises together. They have no idea that life can be ugly, painful, and uncertain. Or they know it in theory, because they pray about it, every Sunday, these abstract sufferers, the children in some unnamed country, these sinners, those others. Then they return to their joy and happiness and the lives built on happiness, consumption, waste, and joy. They are the ones who do not walk from Omelas.
The wedding was splendid, and beautiful, and expensive, and wonderful. Nothing went wrong save for a brief mishap when a groomsman slipped on the stairs and was caught by a bridesmaid, while the gallery chuckled. Joyful. My sister knows how to throw a party. All ten bridesmaids, and all ten groomsmen, danced, and I did too, a couple of times. The guests were all fair, but tanned, tastefully appointed, beautifully dressed. The bride was beautiful and the groom tearfully sweet and clearly smitten.
Both evenings were spent in country clubs, where staff lined the edges and looked on, impassively, occasionally, and invisibly, removing used items from tables. I noticed them, and I wondered if that was an analogy for their life: on the margins, looking in. I wondered if the guests thought about them.
So it was mixed, all in all. Going home. Full of joy, full of unease. They say that you can't go home again, but you can. It's not that home has changed, it's you. Or me. It's me. It's home, but it's not home.
That's all I have to say about that.