It snowed most of the afternoon and evening today. I love snow. I have been making snow puns all day, until my friends and coworkers have told me in snow uncertain terms to shut up.
I love walking in snow; I love looking at snow; I love sledding on snow; even just the inch or so of fluffy wet snow we got tonight. I check the weather spastically, looking forward to the day that the weather gremlins are calling for snow. But every moment that the snow is falling, I’m afraid it’s stopping, or slowing down. So with the enormous joy comes an equal sense of loss for every minute passed.
I realized it’s awfully similar to how I felt this weekend, hanging out in the mountains with 12 of my closest friends from UNC.
With some astute Facebook stalking, I figured out that many of my housemates from last year and close friends through Intervarsity would be in or near North Carolina around MLK weekend, and since most of us had Monday as a holiday, we planned a mountain weekend reunion at my last roomie Abby’s aunt’s cabin. Yes that’s kind of a mouthful.
I looked forward to our mountain weekend for weeks – from the minute I sent out the message inviting everyone to the minute my little Toyota finally chugged up the world’s steepest driveway to the cabin at just past midnight on Friday after the longest day at work – I was pee-my-pants excited.
And then I arrived. There were hugs all around as I reunited with friends I hadn’t seen in six months, or some even longer. In the whole scheme of things, maybe that’s not such a long time, but considering that’s the sum total length of my entire adulthood, that’s a long time.
And that’s when the clock-ticking began. A weekend – even a three-day one – is such a short time to recharge your soul.
These people are the ones who surrounded me during the three most formative years of my life. So much of me I have them to blame or thank for. It felt so right to be reunited, that it felt wrong that we had ever been apart. Those painful-but-worth-it get-to-know-you conversations were long since passed. Gone was the tension of wondering, ‘Am I clicking with so-and-so? Do they like me as much as I like them? Am I talking too much? Can they tell how dorky I am in real life?’
It was so comfortable.
And so ephemeral.
I found myself feeling torn. While I was having the time of my life with my dear friends, usually laughing so hard I figured I could pass on the abs portion of boxing class for at least the next month, it felt so unreal. Like the real Olivia had stayed in Dayton, and I’d gone back in time. I almost felt guilty that I wasn’t doing something productive with my life, like putting in my time to get to this same level with my Dayton friends.
But every minute that passed was a minute closer to saying goodbye, and I had to constantly fight that sadness in order to enjoy the moment.
In almost seven months living in Dayton I have finally gotten to a point that when I leave, I miss it for more than just its familiarity. I have made real friendships. I leave a part of myself in the dirty old skyline in my rear view mirror. Despite my initial plan to leave Dayton after two years, I feel my roots starting to grab hold of this frozen Ohio soil. And it scares me. What if life takes me to somewhere else entirely after Dayton, rather than returning to North Carolina, and I leave a little part of my soul there too? J.K. Rowling got it backwards. You can hide fragments of your soul in all kinds of places without killing anybody. Love binds you to people and places, even against your will.
But the mountain trip was amazing. As my friend Carolyn put it, “I feel like this is one of those glowing weekend memories I’ll always go back to.”
We saw waterfalls, we illegally jumped over a fence to run behind a waterfall, we ate Kilwin’s ice cream in Highlands, we sang, we danced, we made spontaneous musical fusion, we sat in a hammock, we watched the sunrise (although I do sometimes wonder why can’t we just film the sunset and run the tape backwards and achieve the same end), we quoted Pitch Perfect ad nauseum, we ate home-cooked meals, we beasted a puzzle and we played hours of Hijack.
Hijack is kind of a variation on Egyptian Rat Screw, or like the game ‘War’ except on crack. Each player lays out a card, and if it’s a face card, everyone has to perform the corresponding response, depending on which card is played. For jacks, everyone yells “Hijack!” For queens, everyone freezes. For kings, everyone salutes. And for aces, everyone slaps the card. The last to respond, or the first to break the frozen pose, takes the stack from the middle, and the goal is to run out of cards. As you can imagine, the game often devolves into players realizing that if they simultaneously slap the middle, salute, yell hijack, and then freeze, they can cover all their bases and make up for any deficiency of focusing ability. My old housemate Lisa took this one step further, freezing in a victory pose every time she laid down a queen, but that naturally backfired, since it turns out it’s a lot harder to hold perfectly still in a jubilant stance than it is to stare stone-faced at the table in front of you.
The TV at the cabin didn’t have a DVD player, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a viewing of Pitch Perfect one night, and then The Breakfast Club the next. We plugged a karaoke machine into a MacBook and piled all dozen or so of us around the 15-inch screen. MacGyver would be so proud.
We found out that we all have terrible hearing, and combined with dirty minds, that can lead to some strange, but hilarious miscommunications.
We found out we have both musical geniuses and musical dunces in our group (me).
We found out that the Blue Ridge Parkway is often closed because of ice and snow in the winter. Yes, we found that out the hard way.
We found out that a grown man can survive sleeping outdoors in a hammock when the low is 24 degrees, if he's determined enough, and has enough blankets.
We found out that the lyrics to Girl on Fire would make a great theme song for a National Dyslexia Awareness Month barbecue.
And we found out that no matter how many miles, career paths, or new friends separate us, we can still come back to that place our souls call home – a community united by our shared past.