Sunday, December 21, 2008

things to say:

- It was very strange coming back to American soil when Becca and I landed in Newark (thank GOD it was last week and not this week because of the snow delays!), driving on the right side of the road, hearing all these normal accents, seeing all the flags-- but it was good and exciting too! It felt nice to have my passport out and have it be the passport of the country I was entering, my home! When we were about to land I pressed my face hard against the window to look out at Boston or wherever we were passing (I wish they would have a map to tell you... I'd love to know) and tried to realize in my mind that it was AMERICA, a continent that I had not seen for three whole months, after so much had happened to it and to me. Surreal. VERY surreal to use my American cell phone to text Lieutenant Reed (!) and my other friends and call my parents-- my fingers felt so clumsy trying to re-figure it out! B's parents drove us to Baltimore and we got there around midnight-- so 5 AM to our bodies, ha! We got out of the car and there we were, on this cold, frosty street in America going into a normal house-- Becca's house-- and seeing her dog and newspapers and eating her mom's amazing carrot cake with milk at "5 am." And only 24 hours before we had been exhaustedly finishing packing on an entirely different piece of land in the world. And we had been with Ellyn, our dear friend that we finally had to say goodbye to? What? We're not going to see her in two hours? Crazysadsurreal reunion is NECESSARY. With all the Butler girls.

- People keep asking me "how was it? How was it? Was it AMAZING?" And yes, it was amazing... in its way. I guess it got to be so normal-- living in England, having my own space, staying up til 2 AM to talk to home and listen to basketball games, going on buses and trains and getting dark at 4 PM-- that it didn't always feel amazing on a day-to-day basis anymore, if that makes sense. But all throughout, it was good, a good life that I got very used to and grew to love, and a life that changed me subtly in ways I cannot quite pin down still, maybe never. France was incredible. All my traveling was fun and gave me more confidence. Meeting new people was great too. In a way, I feel like I would have been fine spending the semester at Davidson-- although by the end of last year I really did feel like I needed a break, and maybe that would have exerted itself more had I stayed on campus-- but when I think of the people, skills, travels, adventures, and fun that I met/found/had/did/insert other verbs, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Plus-- I think being gone from America and Davidson made me realize how I wouldn't trade either of them for the world. Going to UEA made me re-realize how blessed I am to be a part of Davidson and makes me excited to go back. I used to think that maybe I could live abroad at some point in my life-- and though I know I could change my mind, after these three months, I feel like the only places I can see myself settling are either Atlanta or Davidson/Charlotte. Those are my homes. And I think being gone-- and being gone happily, thankfully never truly homesick like all the brochures promised I'd be-- reasserted that notion of home in my mind.

- I flew into Charlotte last Saturday. It was sunny and cool and Mom and Dad picked me up and all my luggage came through (no lost luggage! hallelujah!) and we drove up I-77. We got off at Exit 25 to get gas and then drove through Cornelius-- oh cute little Cornelius with all its Christmas decorations and the elementary school and the city hall and the churches and flea market-- and passed the Molly McKay House and Davidson United Methodist Church and the biggest grin spread across my face. HOME!!!!! Have I really not seen you in so long? And we came down and parked next to CVS and I tripped out of the car with my Sweet 16 shirt and my next-to-nothing birkenstocks and ratty jeans and BELONGED. Immediately. And we went to the Soda Shop for lunch-- where we always go, one of the first places we went ever-- and sat down in the back booth and I heard and saw and tasted so much familiarity and love of this little town on a cold wintry cozy Saturday afternoon before a basketball game. Didn't even have to look at the menu. Mom and Dad hardly did either. We just know it. And then we drove and parked across from the health center and I traipsed curving around Rich and behind Belk (spotting my 2 Belk windows in a quick glance) and up past Duke and it was so quiet and dead, oh exams, but quiet and calm and breezytrees and cobblestone under my feet. And I went into the student union with that soft buzzing of morning studying and found Rob Mayo on the couch and soon Ellen came down and later, after I changed my status to "Claire is sitting in the Davidson College Student Union. Basketball game later. Homehomehomehome!!" I went up the stairs and saw Shields and then sat with Mom and Dad by the Christmas tree by the fireplace and lounged there all afternoon like I'd never left. Even though I felt distinctly different all at the same time, there was no place I would rather be. The door opened and closed and people walked up the stairs and I called names and people stared excited/confused/huh?weren't you gone? and Sarah Mac shrieked and crashed into me and Mary said "just the person I've been wanting to see!" and hugs and smiles and these people mean so much to me. Soso much. And dinner, dinner was the best because it was Saturday night pre-basketball game rush dinner and that means students/professors/kids/townies all together let's eat and go down to Baker! I sat at a table across from the 900 Room eating Union pizza and drinking Snapple and watching my friends come up the stairs and jumping up again and again to see them, with shrieks of my own. Dev and Rachel and Katie... and then Zach came up and it made me breathe deeper and smile wider to see his face and hear his voice. Then Lindsay!! beaming in her scarf and jacket, hugged me, gave me my endzone ticket-- finally, the day we'd talked about for so long!!! And we linked arms and chatted and giggled and walked out of the union down the walkway past warm Southern voices in cold air and the Wildcat, joining the growing crowd, and as we approached the doors I breathed, "I think I'm going to cry." Because it is HOME. It is where I am supposed to be. Yes, definitely, I was supposed to be in England-- I don't mean to downplay it in any way, shape, or form-- but part of being in England was always going to be coming back here after being gone and having had those new wonderful experiences. cominghomehomecoming. Here I am. And it was exactly right. We walked into that thick warm atmosphere of popcorn smell and people and rubbergym smell and the buzz of brass blaring behind the glass doors and the murmurs and mumbles of being normal, being at home--going to see the boys play. GOING TO SEE THE BOYS PLAY. Like no time had passed between the last time I'd seen them play-- March 30, 2008 ohdeargod--and here and now, December. No time since I last saw them play at HOME-- February 27, 2008-- and ten (TEN?!) months later. So much has changed and yet nothing. Mike was standing there in the endzone waiting for us, MIKE! and we all talked and I leaned against my seat and just watched, listened, as it filled up with people that I know and people that I've never met, and watched the boys shoot hoops and pass and dribble in the warmup, with the pep band accompanying them beside me. Savored the buzz and the voice of the announcer and the little kids and the token music and watching the place fill up to the rafters, sold out on the Saturday night of exams. Ha! Kilgo and Kruse down below on press row. David Baker grinning, dimples bursting, and throwing his arms around me, "WELCOME HOME!" Guitar riffs and the energy of an entire arena of 5000 people standing and screaming as the Cats take the court, always Bryant first.
And the Star-Spangled Banner.
Oh, the Star-Spangled Banner.
Kelsey sang it, and I got shivers before it even started, as we stood and shushed each other and waited, one little bit of this country waited and looked at a flag. A flag I hadn't seen in awhile. Listening to a song I needed to hear. My palm covered my heart. I always do that, and I always feel very significant when I do it--it's a tradition, yes, and I adore tradition-- it makes me feel within a bigger something, within a history and a staunch need to recognize who I am amongst others and how, though we are different, we are the same. Because we come from different places to be here, we are the same. Because it's a song that I learned years and years ago and I honor people as I sing it-- people I've never met, my best friends, my family, people who died a long time ago and who died today. Because I showed my United States passport every time I traveled and when I came back home. Because I was born here, because I've lived here my entire life except for the last three months. Because I voted. Because even when things are harder and strange outside this little cozy arena we still sing it. And I sang it because I was home.
The boys played. I screamed, sang, jumped up and down way too much for a girl who has traveled for over twenty-four hours and whose internal clock thinks it is one in the morning. I cursed (once Tory got there-- yaaaay Tory!!--and I let out an especially loud profanity, he turned to me and said, "Claire, you're back! This is crazy!" Yes, my screechy swearing is a sure sign), cackled with laughter, yelled their names. I missed 08, players and friends. I loved looking at my friends, people I have so many memories with, and looking at faces I didn't recognize, freshmen who are just beginning to come into it all. I turned around and talked to friends, talked to new people (apologized for my screaming). When I saw Tommy Tommy Ross and Fountain and familiar faces I felt like I'd just seen them yesterday. I sang the fight song that I have not forgotten, started cheers and let them go. My friends and I yelled at the townies to stand up and I think I pulled a muscle in my right arm trying to distract the Mocs at the free throw line. I climbed over chairs to reach people, Kealy, Emily, Jamie! I wandered around the lobby. I loved coming back into it all, letting it surround me.
The entire day, when people heard I was going to the game, they would say in a slightly impressed/slightly you-are-CRAZY voice, "Wow, you're such a great fan!" Of course that's part of it; but with that, more than that, intricately tied and connected to that, what makes me a great fan of the boys is something I've said a lot a LOT over the past year especially, that they are ours and we are theirs, and being within the community during these games is one of my favorite manifestations of belonging to Davidson and sharing with friends and strangers, being one community. Of knowing and appreciating what this place is and what it's done for us. "This place," Davidson, equals people. And I needed to be with them again.

- Homehome, birthplace home, is wonderful too, and Christmastime makes it better. Last night at Amy's wedding (!!!) reception, my best friends and I sang and danced for hours on end, people I have known for many many years and plan on knowing for the rest of my life. That energy of familiarity and joy that no matter where we go we can come back and be together and dance dance dance... irreplaceable.

alleluia, amen.

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