Today I feel caught between worlds. I grew up in a country place that has not changed much, a place with an easy rhythm, lots of land and an uncomplicated approach to life.
My sister, Kristen, wrote this in her letter today: I decided to find a new home for Mom’s sewing machine. A Mennonite friend picked it up the same day. It will be shipped to Romania where machines will be distributed to women who need them. I love the idea of mom’s machine traveling and being used like that. Funny, you wrote about not having an iphone. I have found that communication with my Mennonite friends is one of my greatest pleasures, because they have not lost their reverence for face-to-face communication. They honor the person they speak with, giving them eye contact, attention and thoughtful responses. Their social skills are a breath of fresh air, a balm to my soul.
My sister’s village is unadorned and rural, a single flashing light marking the center. Rush hour comes on Sunday mornings when Mennonite horses and buggies make an austere stream of uninterrupted traffic on an otherwise empty road. This environment lives in my childhood soul, informing my frame of reference. Part of me really wants to live on the land, go into town with horse and buggy and stop the pace of modern life.
This view sits next to the bustle of Los Angeles, where everyone is in a hurry, dressed to impress and focused on serious career paths. I tried to imagine myself as a resident during my visit. It would require a modern hair style, fashionable clothes, a shingle hung in a good neighborhood and tripling my prices. I could brag about movie star clients and eat sushi in the best restaurants, while sucking up car exhaust and sunshine.
The last time I flew from that tiny village into the heart of Los Angeles, the shock was so great my back collapsed. My son was not successful yet and had an appointment of his own, so I had to drive his car to the chiropractor… all by myself. The car was old and the doors broken, meaning I had to climb through the passenger seat window and crawl to the driver’s seat in order to get anywhere. Then I got lost, and drove in circles. When I pulled to the curb to ask for help, folks either ignored me or ran away, unless they were deranged, then they wanted to crawl in next to me.
After an hour of lurching around the city, I pulled over, crawled out the window yet again…on the passenger side, walked in a shoe store run by an Italian man, sat down on his shoe-trying-on-bench and wept. “I don’t know where I am! I’m supposed to drive toward the ocean, but I can’t find it – or see it – and nobody will tell me where the damn thing is! I can’t do this anymore.” He offered his phone. I called my son’s office and one of his friends answered. “Help,” I said,” I’m lost.” He listened, then asked. “Where are you?” I couldn’t believe it. I was on my last nerve. “If I knew where I was I wouldn’t be lost.” I hung up on him. The Italian man calmed me down, took the address and helped me crawl through the window again. “Its okay lady, you’re almost there.”
I’m stuck today between a flashing red light and the pull of Los Angeles memories.