Bicycles and blue skies.
It’s Easter Sunday and I’m thinking of bicycles and blues skies. But mostly I’m thinking of redemption. And I am restless.
The feeling has been growing for a few weeks now, and I suspect it might be the kind of restlessness that starts on a cellular level. Lately, my dreams have been filled with holographic memories of years and years and years before. And some mornings it’s harder to shake off slumber. To pull myself from dreaming to waking and to differentiate between what’s real and what’s story.
I am sitting under the sun awning of a cafe eating a tuna melt and it is delicious. But I am feeling guilty. That I’m eating a sandwich. And then feeling guilty that I’m feeling guilty about eating a sandwich when I haven’t even kept Passover in years. That the only question harder than “where are you from?” for me is the one that asks me to claim a religion.
It’s easiest to tell people I’m a pastor’s kid. But easy doesn’t tell the whole truth. Doesn’t explain the not inconsequential amount of time that I yoked myself to the people who wandered the desert. Doesn’t explain how I got there and why I left. But even I’m not sure that I have answers to those questions. (There are always questions.)
So I shift my focus back to the bicycles and blue skies. It is an abnormally perfect spring day in a string of abnormally perfect spring days and Leeuwarden is quietly buzzing with families riding through the small Dutch city on a holiday afternoon.
Joe asks me what I’m thinking of and I try, but can’t, to explain what it feels like. Now that Mom’s retired and I’m not worried about her wrapping up a Holy Week that will leave her utterly exhausted for the remainder of the month. Now that I’m on the other side of the ocean and don’t have to fake my way through dinner at my aunt’s house where I sit on edge, feeling not quite an outsider but certainly not an insider in my own family. Now that I’m too far away to need to be saved by a friend whose parents don’t seem to mind one extra face at Table 12 in the back dining room of their country club. I try, but can’t, to explain what it feels like. To be here and not there.
My mind wanders again and I think of a story I’m pretty sure I once heard. About a time long ago when my grandfather walked out to his car after work to find a shiny, red, boy’s bicycle inside. An unsigned, but perhaps not entirely anonymous gift, for the first and only son of a man who had done so much for the community. That my grandfather had offhandedly mentioned wanting to find a bike for my uncle and had been looking for a much-needed deal. That the bike had been a source of both freedom and frustration. I wonder if the details of the story would be less fuzzy if I had heard it more than once — if perhaps my memory of a transmitted memory isn’t entirely accurate. I wonder too, what the ratio of joy and heartache and exhaustion is when one is raising a special needs child.
Our waiter comes to clear our plates and I am amazed — but probably shouldn’t be — as he carefully yet skillfully navigates the English needed to ask us if we’d like dessert. I catch enough of his Dutch to understand as he explains to a colleague that he is speaking English with us and I hear the pride in his voice. I wonder what the ratio of joy and heartache and exhaustion his parents had in raising him. And I wonder if they too, worry about what will happen when they are gone.
Joe and I sort of stumbled onto Brownies & DownieS during our recent trip to Leeuwarden. We had seen a sidewalk sign advertising Easter opening hours but were entirely sold after learning more about the Dutch chain, which employs people with intellectual disabilities, on our Leeuwarden With a Local Tour. The cafe serves a nice selection of sandwiches, soups and salads along with coffees and desserts. The prices are reasonable and the friendly service absolutely can’t be beat. Brownies & DownieS has more than 40 locations including one in Belgium (Baarle-Hertog) and one in South Africa.