Monday, August 23, 2010

Drawing Near

Madelinde Dancing #2 w/border
M&J, dancing at Kat's wedding

On Sunday, Kat's Facebook status reminded me of where I was, exactly one year ago.

In a studio space, in midtown Manhattan.  The Magnetic Fields playing on the sound system. White walls covered in periwinkle paper flowers of Kat's own creation.  White folding chairs forming an aisle, which Kat walked down on the arm of her father, and walked back up on the arm of her husband.

It doesn't seem like a year ago since that wedding. It also doesn't seem like ten years could have passed since I first met Kat, when we were co-workers at a youth hostel in Amsterdam.  I, direct from college, had never before left the U.S. before getting on a plane to the Netherlands.  Kat, a few years older, had spent most of her life abroad.

She taught me about funky hairstyles and Henry James novels.  She also taught me how to ride double on an Amsterdam-style bike: side-saddle on the back rack, ankles crossed, hold on and lean back to balance.  We biked from the city center to the Jordaan that way one night - across the arched bridges over the canals, dodging tram tracks and pedestrians, the city lit up and whirring by fast, probably too fast.  I remember thinking, "Don't ever tell your parents you did this," and also, "Don't ever forget this moment."  It's still one of my favorite Amsterdam memories.

Several years later I moved to New York, and discovered that Kat also lived here.  We reconnected, and she introduced me to the back room of an East Village bar that felt like a speak-easy, where a jazz band played every Wednesday night and people got up for impromptu swing dancing between the tiny tables.  One Wednesday we were joined by other hostel-alumni, reuniting a thousand miles from where we all first met.  We stayed out too late; after the jazz let up we all wandered over to Veselka at two in the morning and split a couple orders of pierogies.  Another favorite memory.

And so, one year ago, I sat reflecting on how we had all got there to that midtown studio space. The road that Kat had traveled to meet her love - not the road nor the timing she expected, but apparently the one God had designed.  And my own road, to Amsterdam and to New York, also not what I had expected.  But I was so, so grateful that God had given me these experiences and memories, and allowed mine and Kat's roads to intersect not once, but twice.

Sometimes my time in Amsterdam feels like a dream, another lifetime.  It's so far removed from my current reality.  But Kat's friendship lets me draw near to that time, to those Amsterdam memories, and reminds me they're real, not imagined.  That was/is my story.

The evening of her wedding, another jazz band played in that midtown studio space, and I let Kat's brother, a naval officer, twirl me across the dance floor.  There were candles and cupcakes; an overtired nephew, proud parents, laughing guests, and a bride and groom looking so happy.  And I thought, "Remember this moment."

One year later, I definitely do.

K&C - thanks for the memories.  Happy Anniversary!

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