Block after block of grey, stoic flats flit past to converge with still others in a parade past my train window. An aging reflection gazes back reminding me I need a haircut. The broom-covered, volcanic hills stand guard against a broadening horizon of uncommonly blue Edinburgh sky, and I am pensive.
My wife, as I have described her at least, is a tempest in a teacup. Actually, human hurricane was the term as I recall.
She is the poster child for extraverts, an off-the-charts go getter with a zest for life and love for adventure. It’s fun but rather exhausting! I accompany her downtown from Brunstane to Waverly Station where she caught the morning train to a writer’s retreat near Bath.
After seeing her off, I indulge in another quick jaunt up Princes Street. I trip into a trendy Edinburgh café (there are gazillions) for a third, perhaps fourth, coffee and obligatory Facebook check-in. James Blunt sings to me through café speakers, “how I wish I could walk through the doors of my mind; hold memory close at hand, help me understand the years.”
We’re well past halfway in our 2016 “Trip to Bountiful.” A journal and a full heart loudly pester me for a few reflections. At a reunion party last evening, my wife and I were reminded how central relationships are in our lives. Many photo albums and now an iCloud full of photos give evidence of a full life, lived fully.
But, although places and experiences fill much of our memory hard drive, it is the faces of those whose voices still sing loudly in us that best help us to “hold memory close at hand.” It is they who can most capably help us “understand the years.”
In another post, I share some thoughts from the tale end of our time spent among the good people at Granton Baptist Church, Edinburgh.
There is much I could say about the few months spent among these dear souls. To do so would require some fierce self-editing. First, because our memories are many and detailed. But, secondly, because we weren’t always the best influence despite our lily-white, suburban-Canadian, preppie exteriors.
Life is handed to us often in haphazard basketfuls of beauty and complexity and chaos. The best bits are those we live by accident, the unplanned moments of grace which splash upon us, baptizing us in their freshness. We can no more execute them than plan for them. They simply show up and we do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Like the time my boys’ group talked me out of Sunday School in favor of a football game (soccer to North Americans) at the park. It was an effort requiring a lad or two to be stuffed unceremoniously in the boot (trunk) of the car for the journey.
Perhaps the time my wife and her coworker decided a girls’ sleepover the perfect time to discuss procreational geometry to middle school girls with the aid of balloon phallic symbols? Perhaps the seaside games night in which my wife and I, so exasperated with each other, shouted “fuck you” in the presence of innocent, Baptist kids? The rest had long before given up and were shoving each other into the sea. Perhaps the time we danced at a church-wide ceilidh (party) and a young boy affixed himself to my leg all evening and wee Calum became the namesake for our eldest son, now 25.
Yes, all these and many more besides provide the yellowing pages of our memories. These folks have shaped our lives, glutted our hearts, and colored our memories. And so we find ourselves back here in Edinburgh at a café get together arranged for the purpose.
We may have been the ones to uproot and replant for a time at 73 Inverleith Row in the land of bagpipes, blood pudding, and pasty skin, but it is they who have walked us through the doors of our mind, holding memories close at hand.
And, yes Mr. Blunt, most definitely have they helped us understand our years. More than they will ever know.