One Friday evening, a couple of weeks ago, I attended an event at my husband's school. Teenaged musicians squeaked out Canon in D from the stage and I carried a squirmy baby on my hip around the room's perimeter. The crowd was getting antsy for the spaghetti dinner that would follow and my two-year old kept helping herself to the self-serve jug of iced tea on the beverage table. My husband was still on the job and so was I. Then I looked at my phone:
"Hi! I need your brain for a sec... I'm looking for a word to describe [...]" and what followed was a question and a challenge. A search for the perfect word that meant this but not that, conveyed a lot in just a little, and was quote unquote sassy.
I wish you could feel how my heart responded to this text. It basically began to pound because THIS was so me. And I was so grateful in that moment of complete distraction to have a smart, creative woman in Brooklyn texting me about the diction of a final paper in her Master's program.
I could not focus on this word search at the school and quickly texted back that I would think on it and respond after a while. Ultimately, I'm not sure that the nineteen options I sent back later that night really did provide any solution to her query, but darn if I didn't revel in that hour (yes, probably an hour) that I spent at my desk wracking my brain and clicking through online dictionaries to piece together that list.
Yvonne isn't the only one who has ever put me to work in this way. I edited a handful of my brother's papers when he was an undergrad. I conferred with another friend several months ago about the meaning of a poem she had found. And a few nights before receiving this text message I helped my husband with a graphic design challenge for one of our businesses.
Here is what I love: all of these opportunities remind me of my wholeness--that I am more than the photographer I am known as, more than the breasts and hands that feed my babies, more than the wife who tries not to leave too many piles around the house, more than the friend who listens. My wholeness is more than one single talent or skill or vocation and even though I don't (or couldn't!) excerise all of these pieces of myself every day, life sometimes keeps me from engaging all the parts of my brain and heart as often as I might like to. That's okay, too, though because wouldn't I be a disaster if I had that much time to focus on myself? Wouldn't we all?
That evening in the gym was otherwise consumed with cutting spaghetti into very small pieces to fit into very small mouths and trying to carry on brief, friendly conversations with school parents while (unsuccessfully) willing my toddler not to leave the building by the sheer force of my gaze upon the back of her head. But, as Yvonne reminded me in that moment when I looked at my phone, I also love words and a geeky challenge and brainstorming about writing.
I was grateful for her trust in me, for her faith in my intellect, for the opportunity to think outside of my own mindspace for a little while. Don't misunderstand -- I still read books and the news; I regularly engage in thoughtful conversation with my husband and friends. It's just that at this time in my life, when the most in demand parts of my mind and body are not those that finesse language for a grade, it felt like the highest compliment to have a friend come to me to "borrow" my brain for that purpose.
So thanks, Y. Anytime.
And anytime you want to come visit, I will be happy to borrow your arms and lap again. Because those parts are always in high demand around here. I do believe that coaxing a smile from a baby should also feel like the highest compliment. Of a different sort.
Yvonne and Evangeline, Charlottesville, VA, August 4, 2012.