I always think of my college roommate on Valentine’s Day. Today, she must have thought of me, because she sent me a little message about heart-shaped pizza. We shared a heart-shaped pizza at a restaurant on Greek Row as college freshman on what, to many, is a day of great romance and candlelight.
Underneath the candles, I have found the real light.
Lynne and I were seated at a cozy table with love-struck couples at every angle. The pizza was perfect; the company, somehow, even better. The stars aligned to deliver me the perfect roommate (with whom over the years, I indulged in many more pizzas) when I was an innocent and vulnerable just-turned-eighteen-year-old. My perfect roommate had come to the university just days after suffering an unthinkable loss, one that made her among the most courageous people I have ever met. I am pretty sure that in my selfish oblivion, I had no idea the depth of her grief, and how she would comfort me over the years as she carried around her heavy suitcase, one that nobody could actually see. Those were such formative years for me; great blessings, indeed.
I want to fly, away from the part that hurts, but still into what I am now, never changing or passing with time.
Dan and I moved our young family back to DeKalb in 2000.
From my journal, dated 1-22-01: “As I was walking past the river on an afternoon…, I again realized that DeKalb is the most beautiful place on earth. The Kish(waukee River), yet to be frozen, was running northerly, broken up in some spots by very white balls of smooth, snowy ice. All was still, and the university very, very quiet. Never, ever will there…be any regret for choosing this place. This is our home. The smallest reasons are the strongest confirmations.”
I have always loved cookies. Lynne and I shared our passion for antiques: we would visit the dusty back rooms of whatever doors were open, it seemed, in search of Fiesta ware and vintage cookie jars.
I had ordered a plate of decorated cookies from the student catering building. On Valentine’s Day, 2008, I ventured onto campus for the first time in perhaps over a year. With my three-month-old foster baby in tow, I collected the sparkly heart-shaped gems and stopped at Record Revolution to share some with an old friend. The baby was safely in his seat (I think he was actually sleeping, which did not happen often in those early days) as I crossed the alley at the back of the parking lot which edges the campus. I was taken aback by a student running, cell phone in hand, from the direction of the theater building and Cole Hall. As a wild animal runs to escape its hunter, so perhaps a dozen frantic-looking students followed suit of the first. Curious, I thought, as I pulled through the alley and drove down the street to get a coffee before picking up the elementary school set. Was this some sort of scavenger race? Maybe an acting class? It was, after all, near the Stevens Building.
As I left the drive-through, latte in hand, my ears were flooded with sirens. First one police car, then many. Rescue vehicles and frenzy filled my usually peaceful university. Reports were coming across the radio by now. I just needed to pick up my kids.
It wasn’t until I was safely home that I realized how close I had been to the horrific, the absolutely unthinkable. Innocent people were breathing their last breaths as I passed by, as I was enjoying what may have been the most decadent butter cookie imaginable.
We are these people.
Clear the thoughts…rub your eyes…it’s almost time to fly, fly.
Today, I am eternally grateful for my rich and deep blessings: my dear husband, my beloved children; my extended family; my deep and sustained friendships; my spirituality; my precious kitty, Juliet; my cookie jars; and, of course, pizza, heart-shaped or not.