Anyone who knows me well knows that I love my solitude. Before he became my husband, before he even became my boyfriend, Steve understood that without time alone, considerable chunks of time alone, I turn into a shrew, useless, and mean-spirited. So when my complaints outnumber my compliments, when my silence speaks louder than my speeches, then it's time for me to head off for some time alone.
A couple of weekends ago, I went away for the weekend with my son. He had a tennis tournament in Winson-Salem, so I went with him. Just the two of us. I was looking forward to some time with him to talk and eat and watch NBA games at night in our hotel room and get to know each other again. Well, before we even reached our hotel, he had made plans to get together with two other tennis players to hang out. (Sometimes I really want to confiscate that boy's Droid!) Then he wanted to stay for dinner. Then he wanted to hang out after dinner. So I ended up going to dinner alone that Friday night. A lovely meal at a lovely Thai restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem.
Just me, my journal, my cell phone, my plum wine, and a lovely view of a handful of central North Carolina's finest skyscrapers. Dinner arrived quickly, and I tucked into it with gusto. All alone. Lovely.
The following morning, we got up early, had a quick breakfast, and headed off to the tennis courts. I had barely driven the van into the parking break before he leaped out and spent as much time as he could hanging out with his tennis player friends. What? And there I was thinking that I was going to have so much quality time with my son. All he wanted was either time on the tennis courts or in the company of his tennis friends.
So I pulled out the book I've been nursing for a few weeks, a fruit and nut mix I am especially partial to, and my cell phone - just in case my darling son changed his mind and suddenly felt the desperate urge to talk to me or text me or, better yet, come sit with me in the car. No luck. So there I was again. All alone.
I sat in the comfort of my car and watched my son play his heart out and his legs off. All alone.
Yesterday, I did the same thing: went with him to a tennis tournament - just the two of us alone. And he did exactly the same thing he'd done weeks earlier - upon our arrival, he abandoned me in the parking lot and ran off to meet people who seem to mean more to him than I do at the moment.
Later as I sat and watched him play, my eyes began to wander away from his majestic strokes and impeccable strategy - no bias here - and I took a few minutes to notice and create a mental list of a few of the things around me. Suddenly it became clear that, although no one was sitting anywhere nearby, I was not alone. I had not arrived at the Charlotte Country Club parking lot alone, nor would I leave alone. I was surrounded by so many people - or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I was surrounded by the phantom presence of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Their handiwork was abundantly evident everywhere I looked.
Here's what I wrote in my journal as I sat there:
Here I sit. Surrounded. Trees. Bushes. Flowers. Grass.
Court lights. Traffic lights. Brake lights. Cars.
Streets. Stop Signs. A parking lot. Lines. Islands.
Tennis players, officials, family members, friends.
A thermos, chair, umbrella.
Tennis courts, fences, plants, score cards, nets, lines, clay, chairs.
Electrical poles, a court watering system, mulch, concrete, asphalt, chains.
Racquets, shoes, balls, clothes, hats, strings.
Houses, pools, clubhouse.
Water, gatorade, ice.
So many people. So many stories. So much overlap.
How did we all end up here? Today?
Who am I to deserve all this?
Awe. Reverence. Curiosity.
I have been reminded often lately that the world is getting smaller. Countless life stories overlap more and more often. Tennis players and their family members come down from the mountains and up from the valleys to compete at the same tournaments as Daniel. Tennis officials leave their lives and livelihoods behind to oversee junior tennis tournaments. Chefs prepare food for the players and others. Club employees tend to the courts and the equipment. I am always curious to know their stories - how did they end up there on that day for that match? Factories around the world produce the racquets and strings and balls and bags and tennis shoes. Pilots fly those products across continents and oceans and truck drivers deliver them and store clerks sell them. Closer to home, Steve works hard to earn the money to pay for all of Daniel's tennis stuff and Kristiana's camera and piano lessons and art supplies and food and books and and clothes and the electricity to power the wireless network that allows me to post this blog and the cell phone service that allows me to talk to and text with the ones I love most. All of which reminds me that I am never really alone. Someone's story intersects with mine at every intersection of my life.
Again, I wonder, how did we all end up living this way? In this place? On this day?
And who am I to deserve all this?
This I do know: I am grateful. So very grateful.
Thanks be to God.