I had never been a bridesmaid before, so when Natalie called and asked me to be in her wedding, I was super excited. I wanted to do a really good job, so I made sure to get my dress and matching shoes months in advance and I bought my plane ticket to be there a few days early so I could help with all the wedding preparation.
Everything went great all week. We tied bubbles to programs and put tablecloths on tables and stuck roses into green foam. I practiced my Spanish a lot with Natalie's patient inlaws. We even threw Natalie a legitimately fun bachelorette party.
The big day finally came, and all the bridesmaids got together to get ready. This was the part of the wedding I was mostly nervous about. I don't have many skills when it comes to hair and make up. Natalie had this vision for our hair including braids and baby's breath, and I wasn't sure that I could see the same vision. So I asked Kimmi to do my hair for me - she's a nice girl, and seemed like she might have some potential as a beautician.
I sat down in front of Kimmi and she started pulling back my hair. Suddenly I heard her gasp.
"Maranatha, come here!" Kimmi said in a strangely panicked voice. I wondered what was wrong. Were my split ends really that bad?
Maranatha walked over and inspected the back of my head.
"Amanda...your head is covered in lice."
I thought immediately of our lice scare at camp this summer. We thought the girl just really needed to wash her hair, but she must have actually had lice...and I had caught it from her.
The rest of the bridesmaids crowded around my chair. I could see their horrified faces reflected in the mirror.
"Maybe it's just really bad dandruff?" one of them asked hesitantly. I think this was supposed to make me feel better.
"I just saw one move!" squealed another bridesmaid.
I don't know if I've ever been so mortified. I couldn't think of a worse bridesmaid scenario. But before the shame killed me, I woke up.
I was not wearing my bridesmaid's dress; I was in my pj's. Maranatha was not combing through my hair; she was sleeping next to me on our twin-sized inflatable mattress. I don't know that I've ever been so relieved to find that I had been living a dream.
It only took 2 hours or so before my itching head allowed me to go back to sleep.
They say home is where the heart is. If that’s true, it’s no wonder I feel like I have homes all over the place. There’s my parents’ home in California. I’ve never actually lived there, but your family’s house is always home. Then there’s Tennessee, of course. Elisa’s house is like my vacation home. And camp is kind of my summer home.
But when people ask where I’m from, I’m starting to say Michigan. I’m driving to this home today. My organized inner self is itching to unpack. Oh to have a closet and dresser drawers! I’ve only been living out of a suitcase for 3 ½ months.
I think back to when I first made this drive, 355 days ago exactly. I stayed as long as I possibly could in Collegedale, and by the time I tore myself away, I was a wreck. I think I cried all the way to Nashville and tried to drown my sorrows in the bitter taste of CRUNK!!! I called as many friends as I could, just to make sure they still loved me. I listened to “The Wheel has Turned” by Aaron Roche on repeat at least 15 times, trying to accept that I would be okay going my own way.
Today is different. I leave as early as I can in the day so I can have time to catch up with Jamie when I get to Michigan. I listen to Switchfoot and N*SYNC and Mika, lots of happy sing-along music. I’m looking for my favorite landmarks along the way – the store that sells hundreds of lampposts and the giant yellow rocking chair big enough for Goliath's grandma. I think I’ll go to the beach tomorrow after I hear Dwight bring the word. Maybe I can pick some fruit on Sunday…I wonder if the blueberries are still in season. And peaches I bet!
As I cross the border into Michigan and start counting down the miles to Exit 15A, I am surprised to feel the same burst of excitement and anticipation that I get when I round the bend on 24 and see Chattanooga spread before me.
Why is this trip so different than it was a year ago? The friends I’ve left behind are only dearer to me now. There are still lots of unknowns up here, except now I know what it’s like to get frozen inside your own car.
I guess what’s different is that now I am coming to the place where I belong. In all my other homes, I will always be a visiting member of the family, but this is my spot. Not just because I pay rent and utilities here, but because this is where I have a purpose outside of my selfish need to love and be loved. This is where I chase my dream via a master’s. This is where I help students go do mission work. This is where I get paid to teach people how to talk and write.
I think I’ve been fighting belonging here. It hurts a little to have your heart in so many different places, and I didn’t want to invest in another. It seemed like to much work, too much risk.
But maybe a little heart stretching is good now and then.