Friend #32: Beth (and James)

I didn’t even notice until 2 days later that I only posted the picture on this post.  Eesh.  I need to rest.  I arrived into Minneapolis after driving through the very American corn and bean fields of the northern Midwest on the 4th of July.  Beth and James had been camping over the weekend, and wondered whether they might be too tired to get together, but due to my packed Twin Cities schedule, they generously agreed to push through their fatigue and hang out.  It’s a good thing it was a short drive from Orange City, Iowa to Twin Cities and I didn’t have to use the bathroom because ALL of the rest stops were closed.  And all of the state parks and campgrounds were, too, which significantly altered Beth and James’ holiday weekend camping plans.  Apparently the state government had reached a stalemate on approving the budget, so they closed rest areas and state parks.  If I didn’t accomplish a significant job task for 6 months, I think I’d be fired, but what do I know?

Beth and I were bunk mates at the summer camp for college kids where I worked in 2002 (see Danielle).  Her family and my family are from the same small town in Western Illinois—who knows, we might be distant cousins.  During that summer, James came to camp to work for 2 weeks, which is when he and Beth met.  He proceeded to write her letters over the next year.  They eventually got married and actually lived and worked at the camp before moving to Minneapolis.

The girls at camp and I worked through a lot of inner personal struggles that summer.  I remember Beth being a consistently bright spot of levity, helping me to take my deep processing tendencies less seriously.  She is burned in my memory from that summer with grubby camp clothes on, hair pulled back and messy, a smile from ear to ear, and a loud, boisterous laugh.

It was great to see how well Beth and James complement each other, too, especially since I only saw them when the beginning inklings of a relationship were percolating.  They are both passionate, but Beth’s bleeding-heart compassion is tempered by James’ logic.  Her idealism countered by his northern Michigan practicality.  They barely knew each other when I last saw them, and now they know each other’s strengths and habits so well.  They’re one of those couples where it makes total sense for them to be together.

What characterized my conversations with Beth and James during our visit was justice.  Beth worked at the history museum and learned a lot of the local history, especially concerning Native Americans.  They also visited New Orleans and knew the stories that led to the formation of the 9th ward, which experienced the most significant damage after Hurricane Katrina.  Apparently a historical battlefield sits adjacent to the 9th ward.  I can’t remember all of the details, but many people used to live on the site of the battlefield, and when the government wanted to turn that land into a historical site, those people were kicked off their land for a meager sum and moved into the 9th ward.   I loved that our conversation meandered in that direction.  And I loved the Indian food we had for dinner.

Our goodbye was a little hard.  I really like Beth and James, and we have a lot in common.  We would be great friends if we lived in the same place.  I haven’t seen them in awhile.  And I probably won’t see them again for awhile.  And that fact was clear to both of us as we said goodbye.  I didn’t anticipate how difficult that aspect of this trip would be.  Reconnecting with people that I was once good friends with, who I would still be good friends with if our life circumstances brought us into closer proximity.  I really like the people I’ve known in my life.  And I wish there were a way to transport them all to the same place.  Perhaps that is some of the illusion that social networking affords, that you can maintain relationships with 200 or 600 or 900 people.  And to some extent you can.  But there is a large discrepancy between what I wish I could maintain and what I actually do maintain, which usually leaves me sad.  Maybe I can become employed as a professional friend.

Beth and James and me at the Indian restaurant where we had a delightful dinner. They model the menu here after Ghandi's diet.


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