Joy to us, baby.

I got friends in Nashville, or at least they’re folks I know
Nashville’s where you go to see if what they said is so
(“Carl Perkins’ Cadillac,” Drive-By Truckers)

The summer is ending quietly—things like planners and syllabi are creeping back onto my radar, replacing the much-needed summer “schedule” of TV-watching, coffee-drinking, blog-reading and nail-painting that I had developed. Maybe remaining in school perpetuates the feeling of transition that seems always to be involved in my thoughts, since school schedules are defined by short time periods—semesters begin and end, summer breaks arrive slowly and end quickly. I think about transition and what goes with it—beginnings & endings, hellos & goodbyes—all the time, trying both to make the most of the time I have and accept the transitory nature of my current life situation.

Two dear friends of mine moved to Nashville for the summer, and tomorrow they’re leaving. I have to say goodbye for who-knows-how-long, and my stomach has been all knotty for days thinking about it. What if they don’t know how much I loved their being here this summer? What if plans fall through? What if we just run out of time? Why can’t I feel like nothing is going to change?

This summer, these friends and I got to know one another more deeply. We made each other laugh, ate meals together, got frustrated with each other, talked it over and made things right again. We read books, went on walks, obsessed over fancy popsicles and watched Nora Ephron movies. We ate peach-blueberry pie & ice cream, watched the Nashville city lights in the rain, listened to good music and sat on porches. We talked about poetry and songs and how we find joy. We learned from each other. (Update: As the best parting gift I could have asked for, they recorded two songs for me on the night before they left, playing them in my living room as I tried not to cry. It was incredible.) I’d call both these friends ‘my people,’ if that hasn’t been made obvious so far.

I wish I didn’t mourn as much when one season ends and another begins. I think too often along the lines of If this is so good, why does it have to end? and Why doesn’t anything last? But maybe good things just end. It probably has something to do with how time works, and how it always moves forward, or something. But maybe the fact that everything—good and bad—begins and ends at some point should show me that those moments of transition are to be taken in stride. Sam Lewis sang that “Time’s gonna take its time, and so am I,” and I think all this transition asks of us is to take our time wading through it, to be in it, to know it well.

Because maybe I owe it to those blissful, laughter-filled happy days not to be sad they’re gone. Maybe I just get to live with them with me. Someone told me once that everything I learn is mine to keep forever, and I think this is similarly true to all the joyful time we have with the people we love—every moment we have is ours to keep forever. The fact that it ended never means that it didn’t happen. Because time moves, but in some ways it doesn’t have to. Charles Simic wrote, “Time—the lizard in the sunlight. It doesn’t move, but its eyes are wide open.” I think that’s true, too. I like to think I can slow down enough just to look around at all the time I’ve built up. There are good things that are mine forever.

There’s an episode of Modern Family in which everyone in the family tries to celebrate Christmas early after figuring out that they all won’t actually be together on Christmas day—and for all their good-natured attempts at throwing Christmas together on December 16th, it’s a disaster. Gloria ends the episode beautifully like this:

Family is family, whether it’s the one you start out with, the one that you end up with, or the family that you gain along the way—which makes every day December 16th.

I think this summer—however emotional it was—will be my December 16th. It’s been a summer of gaining more family along the way, which makes every day full of the sweetness of these summer months.

(Thanks for a lovely Nashville summer, Ben & Adam. You helped make this place hopeful for me.)

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends
and say my glory was I had such friends. (W. B. Yeats)


3 thoughts on “Joy to us, baby.

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