I just finished reading a book called Photographs Not Taken, a compilation of essays by photographers about shots they missed or chose not to take for various reasons. As I’m getting ready to leave Houston in less than two months, I find myself seeing the city through an imaginary camera lens – snapping shots of scenes I want to carry with me to Detroit and Kenya and beyond. And often I’m looking through an actual camera lens, especially when I’m with friends. There have been lots of celebrations lately – my engagement, others’ birthdays and baby showers. I want to capture these last moments with people I love, with people I’ve been developing relationships with over the course of the past two or six or nine years.
This weekend was one such weekend that was full of friends. I had my camera with me the whole time but somehow only managed to take it out on Friday night at Kelly’s 30th birthday dinner at the hibachi grill. I’ve got the images to prove the laughter and the flames and the sparkler on the “special moment package” and the sake bombs. The rest of the weekend was captured in my mind:
-Edna looking gorgeous in her long blue dress, basketball belly sticking out. A year ago I was at her wedding. Now they’re welcoming their first baby. It was only two years ago that Edna and I had conversations about the guys we were interested in in California and Michigan and our anticipation of visits with them. It was two years ago that we woke up early, early on Saturday mornings to drive before the sun rose to destinations outside of the city to ride our bikes in training for the MS150. That’s how we met and got to know each other. We laughed months later when we saw each other for the first time in non-bike gear, and I thought, “Edna looks different with her hair down,” and she said, “You wear glasses?” We haven’t ridden together since that MS150 since she was planning a wedding last year, and I’m planning a wedding this year, and she’s pregnant. But we continue to catch up every couple months for a meal (or a baby shower as it were!).
- Connecting with Lija and Lindsay and Dena at the shower. I’ve known Lija since my early days in Houston, before she and her husband started dating. She was at the shower with Baby #2. Talking to Lindsay, I remembered how much I enjoy her and our connections over Africa. And it’s been too long since I’ve seen Dena. She’s one of my Houston friends that I don’t really know how I know…maybe through her sister who goes to my church…maybe through Lija and Edna…maybe she visited my small group one time? I loved catching up and laughing with these girls.
- I snapped a picture in my mind of eight of us bouncing around a bouncy castle at Kelly’s 30th birthday party (not to be confused with her birthday dinner the night before). We bounced then sat and talked then bounced some more and threw a ball around then sat and talked some more. I felt like I was back in middle school – but the fun parts, not the awkward parts because we’re all adults now and confident in who we are. So this time was just playtime – eight people, some of us long-time friends, some of us meeting for the first time last night.
- I went to the 1pm service at my church today and sat at the end of a row. There was a couple sitting several chairs away from me, but I never know anyone at the services, so I didn’t look. When it was time to greet one another, I looked over and realized it was my good friend Julie and her husband. They’ve never been to my church but decided to visit today. Julie and I haven’t seen each other in awhile but had just texted earlier today to make plans for dinner this week. Julie is one of my first friends from Houston, and we’ve connected over the years on so many things: same age, both interested in foreign missions, both in education, both overseas at the same time and struggling with singleness versus missions. She got married a year ago to a wonderful man, and her wedding was the most beautiful I’ve ever been to.
- While I was talking to Julie and Marcos after the service I noticed a man I haven’t seen in years. I met David at a mission training in Chicago about ten years ago. We kept in touch via email for a little while but lost touch many years ago. I knew he had been in Lake Jackson, about an hour south of Houston, but have not seen him since I’ve been here. There he was at my church with his wife and child. They’ve been making the commute from Lake Jackson to my church for awhile, but we’ve never crossed paths with all the services we have. Until today.
A month ago, a weekend like this would have made me sad and anxious about moving to Detroit: I don’t want to say good-bye! This weekend I just felt grateful for the relationships I have, grateful for the memories my friends and I have created, grateful that I know I’ll stay connected to many of these people. I still don’t want to say good-bye, but I’m ready for the next stage. I’m still filling up my Houston photo albums – the tangible ones and the ones I get to flip through in my mind. I am so thankful that I get to take those pictures.