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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Distraction and Renewal in Wellys

Distraction and Renewal in Wellys

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!

It's Easter Sunday, and I'm standing in a pew at St. John's church – not my St. John's in Spokane, Washington, but St. John's in the City in Wellington, New Zealand. http://www.stjohnsinthecity.org.nz/ The name is about the closest we'll come to our home parish for awhile.

Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

I've sang this hymn ever since I was a kid in junior choir at St. Peter's Episcopal in Ashtabula, Ohio. Maybe you know it, too. Hum a few bars. I'll wait...

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia!

I'm thinking about all the years I've sung this song, and what's happened during those years: marriage, 2 babies, death, grief, hope, and now – renewal. And I'm fighting back tears. "Don't cry," I tell myself. "The mascara's not waterproof. No one wants to see an Easter raccoon. I sure don't." The voice in my head wins – this time. No raccoons in the sanctuary.

One of the priests at the Presbyterian church is praying to Jesus: "Help us to trust your power to create new life and make us new." Make us new. Fiona and Finley probably don't understand that's what this world tour, this interlude, is about. Not only are we making new memories; we're creating new spaces in our brains that allow us to re-imagine our lives. You ask lots of questions away from your normal haunts, outside your usual routine. Questions that start with "What if...?;" "How could we...?" and "Why not...?"

We've been blessed to meet exactly the people we've needed for his journey. We started our day with Amanda (who moved to Wellington with her husband and 4 children a year ago), plus Amanda's Mom, Dad and Uncle. We occupied an entire row at St. John's. We ate lunch together, and Fi and Finn made new friends with Amanda's 7-year-old twins.

Along with the traveling, meeting, greeting and eating, distraction flits around like a butterfly. I grapple with intermittent bursts of compulsive text messaging. I'm like a 17-year-old, minus the lightning-fast fingers. I was proud of myself for ditching my smart phone – the one with Internet, GPS, and a flashlight – the one that did nearly everything but cook dinner – after we left the States. I was hooked on that beeping, ringing, blinking Droid phone, constantly updating Facebook or checking e-mail. Fiona would see me and say, "Mommy, Daddy says get off your phone." I got off the phone quickly after learning it wouldn't work overseas. Addiction licked. I've spent half a year clean and cellular sober – until a couple weeks ago. That's when the object of my affliction (OMA, for short) and I started texting like teenagers. He left for a 2-week holiday, and, well, you want to keep in touch, right? Texting is what you do in New Zealand. Mobile phone service is pretty spendy, so everyone texts. Even businesses text appointment reminders. I have zero appointments this week, but am sending and receiving a couple dozen texts each day. I'm slow on the sending part, because I have an old-fashioned keyboard requiring several button pushes for most letters of the alphabet. Fiona's noticed, too: She'll catch me cradling my phone and say, "Mommy, why are you laughing? No laughing at your phone. Or smiling." You can't get anything past Fiona.

It's not that bad, really. I've plenty of time between messages to visit museums, walk, talk and eat. The kids and I sat for an hour at Plum cafe in downtown Wellington Easter Sunday. Fiona and Finley split a pot of peppermint tea and a cinnamon scone while drawing on sheet after sheet of notebook paper. Fiona drew a picture of me reading the newspaper. The detail's precise, down to the design on my necklace. We made our second trip to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, so I could see the Brian Brake photojournalism exhibit, and Finley could have another crack at the hula hoop at the kids' discovery centre.http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/pages/default.aspx It was a win-win: Finn got to shake his little hips, and I got to see a picture of Pablo Picasso at a bullfight with his young son's fingers in his mouth.

Back at the "ratpacker's" (backpacker's, or hostel), I boiled quick noodles for dinner with a bean soup mix that never got cooked enough – the lentils remained a bit crunchy. Fiona asked, "Are there nuts in here?" Uh, no, honey, just eat it . Finley was distracted (as always), this time by a 20-year-old backpacker making eyes at him from her place on the sofa in the TV lounge. "Mom, she keeps looking at me!" said Finn. I told him, "That's because you're cute. Just eat." (I say 'just eat' a lot...) I sudsed the kids in the shower next to our room on the 5th floor and did a double-take when a large man emerged from a nearby toilet stall. Co-ed bathrooms. Of course.

Between sightseeing, coercing kids to eat, walking and driving, I flick a text message or 12. Not that anyone's noticed. Except Fiona. Stop looking at the phone. Stop looking at the... Oh, wait...gotta go. I have another text message.

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