A People-full January 3.

I made a quick trip to Minneapolis for a memorial, and it turned into one of my favorite days of late.  I flew up the morning of January 3 and flew back the morning of January 4. It was bitter cold the entire time, but the whole trip was a sweet adventure from beginning to end.

When I arrived, I got to spend a few hours with my friend Janis. I met Janis on Whidbey Island when I attended a writing workshop years back. She’s a talented writer, but more than that, she’s an energy I adore. We sat for a few hours in her home with her cocker spaniels drinking hot tea and talking about our lives, the world and writing.  The time could only have improved by being longer. If I lived in Minneapolis, no doubt I would darken her door on a regular basis just to be in her presence.  What a gift those few hours with her were.

Then I went to a memorial for a dear friend’s dad, and that experience, too, was a gift. I learned so much about Bill. I had known that he came from a family of dancers and theater lovers, but I hadn’t known that Bill had been a performer himself.  I loved hearing people tell stories about the early shows that he acted in or directed. Dressed in Vikings or Disney apparel, these darling people danced, sang, and spoke about their friend in such a loving way. I kept thinking about my niece. She does musical theater and loves her theater people deeply. I can imagine her as a sixty-five-year-old woman surrounding by her theater friends, remembering old times in a similarly dramatic and sweet way.

While at the memorial, I got to hear my friend, John, pay tribute to his father. And good heavens, if I didn’t already love him, I would have fallen for the boy on the spot. He was genuine, funny, human, and a touch irreverent. He spoke of the man who never put work ahead of family, who provided for every need, and who was best man, not just of his wedding, but of his life. I can imagine Bill listening to John and thinking, “Yes. That’s what I intended. That’s exactly what I intended.”

During the memorial, I also got to talk with my friend Andy, who drove up from Ames, Iowa, in support of his friend. I’m amazed at how much conversation we were able to have in a short time in a room full of people where we regularly left our own conversation to listen to whichever friend or family member of Bill’s had the microphone. I think that ease of conversation is the mark of a dear friend, and this dear friend is firmly planted in my heart, along with his wife and ten children. What a gift that time with him was.

After the memorial, a few of us met for a drink, and I got to spend a few more minutes with John, Andy, John’s mom, and a couple of others close to them. I did not stay long because I was heading to meet Dave’s family for dinner, but I was there long enough to wish deep in my heart that we could all be neighbors – me, Andy and his family, John and his precious girlfriend and kids, and John’s sweet mom. I would love to be able to drop in on them regularly and for any or no reason.

When I left the bar, I headed to dinner with Dave’s cousin, Jared, and Jared’s wife, Michelle. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to spend a handful of evenings with them, particularly because Michelle often works in San Antonio and invites us down when she’s nearby. I’ve enjoyed that time with her and know that we, too, would make great neighbors.  I loved being able to enjoy a warm bowl of vegan chili over good conversation, talk to their charming son, and then nestle with their most adorable beagle.  It was a brief visit, but one during which I felt deeply welcomed by this family who is becoming my family.

I wasn’t sure that flying up to Minnesota on short notice and in frigid temperatures was the best idea, but I’m so glad I went. I wouldn’t have traded my time with Janis, my time at the memorial, or my time with Jared and Michelle for anything. I had a lovely day all around, and I’m trying now to keep the lessons of that day on my heart.

Be with your people. Love your people. Open your home to your people. Really, nothing else matters.

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