Thursday, November 7, 2013

perhaps be welcomed back again


we're all homesick--is love the reason?
my hunger led me to your arms.
--Eden, Alli Rodgers

Oh, Kolkata. You devilishly enchanting, overwhelmingly pungent city.

The Minnesotan good-bye (also called the Norwegian goodbye. Norwegian and Minnesotan are often interchangeable adjectives, dontcha know.) is one of the most wonderful and obnoxious of social art forms.
But in an incredibly loving and loveable way.
The art of the Minnesotan good-bye is to squeeze as many forms of good-byes as possible into as short a time as possible. 
Or, conversely, to drag one single good-bye out for as long a time as possible.
The art of a Minnesotan good-bye is to make sure that the process of leave-taking is drawn out for as long as possible.
The art of a Minnesotan good-bye is the art of holding on for dear life.
If you're quite skilled at the Minnesotan good-bye, you know that no farewell is complete without a slightly premature round of reminiscing.
{sigh} Oh, wasn't that lovely?
It was so good to see her!
He is such a sweet man, bless his heart.
It is so good to spend time with friends like them.
Nostalgia.
The key to any successful Minnesotan good-bye is a healthy dose of nostalgia. You should lay it on thick, for any part of a successful good-bye is wishing that you were already back again.
Today, I have been indulging in my nostalgia by taking a trip down memory lane, and comforting myself with the sweet memories of the simple devotions of childhood.

Those coloring books defined my childhood, nay, they were my childhood. 
These introduced me to saints and stories that I have never forgotten, because I remember reading the story while coloring Catherine Labouré's habit fifty different shades of blue.
And I never had the Our Lady of Lourdes coloring book, and my seven-year-old self wants it so badly. 
But it's going for a cool fifty dollars on Amazon, and that's at least two weeks' worth of groceries right there, so my twenty-two year old self, who's far too sensible to dress up like a hipster and too elegant to make fun of her exes, has decided it would be an impractical purchase.
But nostalgia tugs, whispering to me that I could relive those joyful days of sitting at the sacred, always messy Art Project Table (which is located in the Art Project Area, which I have recreated in my own home, in the form of a Very Cluttered Desk in the basement), coloring in the details of St. Philomena's tunic.
Never mind that in Mariology class, our beloved professor casually crushed my confirmation patroness, with a throwaway "And yes, the Church removed several saints from the calendar who were more legend than fact. Like St. Philomena."
Whoops.
But, nostalgia whispers, if you make a small purchase of $2.51 you can return to the happy land of the Art Project Area and color the story of St. Philomena, and remember a bit of what it's like to be seven years old when St. Philomena was the coolest saint that none of your friends had ever heard of, which gave her a lasting cool caché, a status beyond an overly popular saint like St. Cecilia's wildest dreams.
Everyone liked St. Cecilia; but you preferred St. Philomena, and that gave you ridiculous amounts of street cred, in the Church Basement 'hood.
(St. Cecilia is now the patron saint of our house, so no hard feelings here, Cecilia.)

But no amount of coloring books or Norwegian goodbyes can ever change the fact of change.
Change. Goodbyes. These are the inevitables.

In a burst of providential ill-humor, I packed an odd assortment of books for the summer in Kolkata. 
Like myself, the little library I brought makes very little sense from the outside. 
My literary taste is located somewhere in the no-man's land between Moby Dick and John Paul II's Theology of the Body.
On a whim, I packed a book that I'd never really liked: Sun Slower, Sun Faster, a strange, time- warping piece, full of musty history, and cryptic conversations I had never quite understood. It had never captured my imagination fully.
But something about Sun Slower, Sun Faster I understood this summer was its beautiful exploration of time.
This was a novel whose author was bold enough to write about eternity.


Eternity may be that endless series of good-byes; but it's also an eternity of reunions.
Eternity may be a letting go constantly of what is past. Of allowing yourself to jump out of a ruined past, into the endless cerulean.
Maybe, if you can finally let go, and let your guests get out the door, you'll find that a better time awaits you.
That reunions are the inevitable results of good-byes.
And the joy of reunion is absolutely worth the pain of good-byes.

I felt the joy of reunion palpably on my tongue, felt it overwhelm my entire face, turning it into a beam of shining light.
I could have danced back to my seat. 
I was as weightless as a new soul escaping from his old ruins.

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