13 July 2010

First Stop


1991. 3rd grade.

It was probably a Saturday morning. Open skate at the skating rink. The lights were dim and the disco ball was reflecting the colored spotlights. I was gliding (term used loosely) backwards, both my hands held in the hands of my boyfriend, Justin Todd, who was skating forward. This is called couple skating, for those of you who missed elementary school open skates.

Around and around we went, moving together in perfect unison (phrase used loosely) around the hardwood oval. It was just me, Justin and Lee Greenwood.

Wait, who?

You know… the I’m Proud to be an American’ guy.

Sing the chorus with me…
And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
And I'll gladly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.

Every kid there (okay, so it wasn’t just us) knew all the words and when the “And I’ll gladly stand UP next to you…” line came I could feel my spine straighten and I’d skate a bit taller. Really. I did. I remember. I’d feel the patriotism rising up in my heart. Or maybe I was just feeling dramatic. Or maybe I was just weird.


Aaaand then my mind would wander to “Is he gonna kiss me at the end of the song?”

“And there ain’t no doubt I love this land… God bless the U. S. A…”

… Smooch.

Yup. Sometimes he would.

*young heart fluttering*

I was 9. My mind was mostly occupied with thoughts of surprise notes in my cubby hole during lunch time, if I should run for student council, whether or not I could still wear my favorite white-washed jeans even though I just fell in gym class and ripped a big hole in the knee and what I was gonna be for Halloween (a Pilgrim, if you want to know… which oddly enough fits in with the patriotic theme of this post so far.)

Where am I going with this?


I continue.

The reason that song was playing was because people in the REAL world knew that our country was in the midst of Desert Storm. I had a cousin in the army who was deployed at the time. That made it real. Especially when I saw his younger brother wearing camo in support of him when we gathered for Thanksgiving. I would make friendship bracelets using those same desert camouflage colors during my long bus rides each day and sell them to my friends for a quarter. Ten cents if it was a simple braid.

We were at war and I knew it. Even my friendship-bracelet-floss-box showed it.

Feels strange to think about it… that the extent of my experience of Desert Storm consisted of an increase of patriotic songs listened to on the radio, a cousin wearing camo and my choice of colors for bracelets. This was relevance in my world. As shallow as it may have been. Or then again maybe it was just right for a young girl.

So while I was worrying about how many pairs of socks I should layer or that I didn’t have a pair of real Keds, stuff was going down in the Middle East. In Kuwait.

And where am I going with this?


We are going there. To Kuwait. Myself, my husband, and my two small children. Tomorrow. A place I neeeeveeer thought I’d see. As a child, Kuwait sounded so distant. Scary. Unknown. Strange. And pretty much entirely irrelevant to my own life (aside from the fact that I had a cousin risking his life in the region). It was someplace I’d never really even think about. I didn’t even know what to think. And honestly, I probably didn't care either. But now we’re going as tourists. You know… just for fun.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since 1991. A lot has changed in the world, yes. And a lot has changed in me (duh). Specifically that the Middle East is no longer illusive to me. It’s not scary or unknown or strange. It’s part of me. I am part of it.

So, we’re off to see Kuwait. As a child I would have been able to picture only oil drills and bombs but now I have a better idea of what I’m about to see. Riches. Extravagance. Prosperity. It’s no wonder their neighbor wanted their oil… It’s made them extremely wealthy and they have a lot to show for it.

I don’t know how we’ll fit in. I expect to feel kinda grubby visiting their land of affluence. I live in Africa… my clothes have holes. My feet aren’t smooth. My arms have hair on them (gasp!). I don’t have any stilettos or a Chanel handbag. But I do have an adventurous spirit, much less self-consciousness than I did four years ago and an excited, grateful heart.

So here we go on a red-eye flight…

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