February 8 – 16
I’m writing this post sipping a Valentine’s Day inspired espresso drink at Midnight Oil in Searcy, AR – the coffee shop that I frequently visited with friends during my college years to study, chat, listen to live music, and even complete pre-marital counseling homework with Brad during senior year. I spent 4 years of my life in this small town, making some of my best and most special memories because it’s where I made some of my best and most special friends. But nearly a decade and a half have passed since I was here. It’s so fun to be here again, but also bizarre. Everything is so different, but so much the same in the same moment. Loads of new businesses have appeared in the city, and lots of new development around the Harding University campus. But walking across the front lawn to eat ice cream in the cafeteria feels exactly like 2001 all over again.
When I would think of this place to tell stories to friends in Washington, my memories of everything had started to become fuzzy. I could still picture the main avenue in town Race Street, I could still see the Bensen Auditorium where we attended chapel every morning. I could easily recall this coffee shop I’m sitting in…but these memories had started to be covered in an ever-increasing fog of diminishing memory. Even though I had delivered flowers all over this area and knew nearly neighborhood in town, much of what I was familiar with had disappeared. It almost felt as if this whole world no longer existed on the same plane as my life in Wenatchee for 13 years. So to be here again brings it all back to life in an electric burst. Seeing campus brings back old feelings, old thoughts, and even makes me feel for a moment all of the same dreams and worries I had the first time I walked these sidewalks. Exploring campus and the town slowly wipes the cobwebs away from the memories I have of this place. The sensation is distinctly different from learning something new. It feels very much like uncovering a thing in my mind that I already knew.
It’s also interesting which memories have become distorted over time. When I went to chapel in the Bensen, something I’ve been wanting to revisit for years, I was struck by the thought, “It’s smaller than I remember.”
I came to Searcy ahead of Brad and the girls to help out during the Valentine’s Day rush at Corner Florist & Gift where I had a part-time job in 2003-04. It was an exhausting but fun week of delivering flowers, making snack baskets, taking Valentine’s orders, blowing up balloons, answering phones, and joking around with people that were a big part of my life so many years ago. It was wonderful to catch up, and even better to feel useful. It turns out just as I expected – I actually like working. It meant that Brad was home with girls, which is very impractical for us at this point in time, but I think it was a nice change of pace for all 4 of us.
The first couple of nights before Brad & the girls arrived in Searcy with Stumbo, I stayed with some of our great friends the Princes. I really enjoyed getting to have them to myself to catch up before my family arrived. The over-the-top adorable, Landon, and I connected over the fact that chocolate is our favorite food in the whole world. He talked his grandma into taking him to the store after school the next day to buy Nutella & graham crackers (I had told him those was my favorite Nutella-catalyst) so that we could have a Nutella Party that night. I really like how this kid rolls.
On Saturday morning Kristen treated me to go along to her weekly yoga class. It was the first time I’ve ever been to an organized class and it was surprisingly invigorating.
While I spent lots of days and hours at the flower shop, Brad & the girls enjoyed more meals and play time with the Princes.
We also had the joy of seeing Brad’s cousin Cassidy who is now a freshman at Harding. It’s insane that she was our 6-year old flower girl the last time I was in this town!
On Sunday afternoon, the Princes, Cassidy, and our family went out to our wedding venue, Wyldewood Retreat Center, and had a picnic where Brad & I exchanged vows. It was a beautiful afternoon that felt more like June that February, and it was such a meaningful thing to watch our kids play on the dock, feeding bread crumbs to the fish in the pond that is in the background of all our wedding photos. To be there with our flower girl, now all grown up, made it even more special.