I have cool sisters.
If you haven’t met them, you should.
One of them just returned from spending a week of her Spring Break with Somali refugees in Minneapolis, and then spent two hours on the phone with me, thinking deeply about how her experience there should affect her view of God.
The other recently cut off two one-foot long pony tails of hair, and told us in an email distributed from Brandon, Wisconsin to Orange City, Iowa; Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland; and Suleimaniah, Kurdistan, Iraq that it made her feel grown up. In her own words: “I agree it is sad, also my hands, feet, and wrists are bigger than Mom's and I'm only an inch away from being her height (aaahhh! I'm not supposed to be grown up already!) cry. ;)”
The third (or rather, first) writes beautiful blog posts. Here’s (her) autobiographical proof: "I am a student, not because I attend institutions of higher learning, but because I live to learn. I worship, because I am not my own. I think, because there is a reason for everything (and so that you know I exist). I love, because I was first loved. I travel, because it's a big world worth exploring." She has the uncanny ability to state succinctly and meaningfully the same information that I require several rambling paragraphs to articulate. This disparity gives me the advantage in writing essays, but I think the tide is in her favor for blog posts. You can thank her for inspiring me to write this, and ask her to give me a few more pointers on terseness.
In October 2009, Michelle, Lydia and I drove eleven hours (one-way) to spend about 52 hours with Anne and Jerusha. Together we perused the Oxford (Mississippi) Public Library Used Book Sale and returned to their mint-green apartment to turn our finds into journals. With an X-Acto knife (Yes, that’s how you spell it. I checked.), a ream of ivory Office Max paper, glue, burgundy thread and a needle, I exscinded my purchase’s 300 pages and converted Russell Baker’s Growing Up into the cover of a new journal. Since my journals chronicle my life—and I’m continually aging—I found its title ironic, yet pleasantly appropriate. (Moreso than the other I fashioned—entitled Indecision—in honor of my habit of ruminating over important choices.)
I didn’t start actually writing in the journal until March 2, 2012, with an entry about the school shooting in which a student killed Jeremiah Small, an American teacher at a Christian school about five minutes from here, in Suleimaniah.
I wouldn’t have guessed Growing Up would begin that way.
The truth is, it didn't. I started in 2009 pasting the tea bag tags inside its first few pages next to scrawled notes:
-Good Earth (“Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.” Evelyn Waugh [1903-1966]): Tues Oct 6 09 Small Group, Sweet & Spicy Tea & Herb Blend
-A yellow Lipton tag: Spiced Chai Flavored Black Tea—11-2-09—11:30 pm, while reading Metaphysics
-Lipton 100% Natural Tea: Tues Nov 10 Honors Lodge with Dr Jeremy Begbie, Duke & Cambridge expert on Theology and the Arts
-Lipton. Tea Can Do That.: Orange & Spice Flavored Black Tea Mon Nov 30 TESOL Project 4 Côte d’Ivoire
-2 Bigelow English Teatimes and their Green Tea counterpart: The Blur that was Dead Week Fall 2009 (aka Metaphysics Paper on Divine Temporality vs. Divine Eternality & Summary Paper of Kantian Ethics and so on) December 6-11, 2009
In the following pages I pasted tickets from my Jterm in Oxford in 2011 and the Ethics Bowl (etc.) nametags I saved until I cleaned out my collection when I graduated last May.
Growing up didn’t begin with moving to the Middle East. Nor did it begin with metaphysical cups of tea or Ethics Bowl case briefs. Its origin is closer to the twelve-year old realization that I was nearly as tall as Mom, and that I looked older after I got my hair cut.
Incidentally, I’m going to get my hair cut this afternoon. My Kurdish friend is taking me to a salon she recommended.
I have never been brave enough to cut off 12 inches of hair at a time, though.