Monday, November 10, 2008

The Art of the Visit

This is a blog I've been thinking about for a while, but alas, time, you crafty vixen, have gotten away from me.

A few weeks ago my mom and I traveled out to Chicago to see the city, yes, but also to visit some folks. I went to see some good Mississippi friends who have resettled there and she was looking forward to seeing an old college friend and a cousin she grew up with.

There have been times, I'll admit, when I feel like because I am single and in school (which means you have all the time in the world right?) I have been expected to be the one to go, to travel. And I often resent that. Yet, I'm coming to realize what a great gift it is to be able to visit others, both for them and for myself.

For one thing, because I generally avoid phone conversations and long e-mails about my life or anyone else's life (if you send me a mass e-mail from your summer trip, I probably won't read it), visiting gives me a chance to catch up on those things in person. Linda's trip to Europe for instance, was much more interesting to hear about while I visited her in Austin and we lounged spring side in the city. I understood her excitement and frustration more (yeah those French airline people stink) when I could hear and see her.

I also love seeing where people live. While visiting Ben in Baltimore, I saw his new place and where he works. I have some context now when he tells me about his day to day life.

It's great to have friends in fun places too. It's so much better to listen to the funny tour guide on the architecture tour with Erin than by myself. Also, it's good to be lead around sometimes, to have someone who knows where the good restaurants are and which museums are boring.

Often the visit is informative too, in a personal way. When I visited the Boston ladies at the beginning of September, I got in touch with my college self. Oh right, I remembered, I like dancing in the kitchen to ABBA, and telling dirty jokes. I am bonded with those women through a very certain time and place where we learned who we were.

The most interesting thing about visiting Juanita and Ann in Chicago was learning about my mom and indirectly, about where I came from. When my mom and Juanita talked, it was as if no time had passed, although it had been 30 years. I could see two college women who perhaps also danced in some kitchens and told dirty jokes.

I got to ask our cousin, Ann, something that has always intrigued me. I wanted to know about my grandmother, my mom's mom, who died before my second brother was born. What was she like? I asked. Because I feel like we have made her into a saint, and I'm sure she wasn't. What was she really like?

According to Ann, she was something close to a saint. Except she was sassier. She was warm and caring, but knew how to tell the truth. She could prepare a feast out of almost bare cabinets. Ann still remembers her as one of her favorite cooks. These memories were a great blessing to me.

Of course, I'm not the first to understand the transformative nature of a visit. Jesus visits all kinds of people and sometimes he transforms them, and sometimes he is transformed (see certain interpretations of the Syro-Phoenician woman). I think in a culture consumed by texting and facebook, it seems to be a great gift to be able to give if you can, all the way around.

Maybe some of you will be inspired to come visit me!