07 January, 2018

A precious shared memory

This morning, out of the blue, a friend asked, "Are you going to the JEMA prayer meeting?"
"Yes," I said. "Where is it this year?"
"Higashi Tokorozawa, I think...," she replied.
"Ah, better than going to Mitaka in the snow on buses..." I said. And we laughed.
Tokyo streets generally aren't cleared by
the government when it snows. Local
citizens or the weather (i.e. it warms up)
do the job.

Strange conversation? Actually no. As you might imagine, there's a story behind this (that I'll get to in a minute).

One of the things you miss when you live a life full of transition are people who've known you a long time. "History" in a friendship has a lot of value. This short exchange this morning reminded me of this.

When you first arrive in a new place, you have no history. If you can't speak the language you have an even greater barrier to overcome. No one knows you. All your conversations are of the "getting to know you" or "how do you do such and such" variety. Or they are very much based in the present.

There are no fun memories, no shared history, no nuanced conversations like the above.

It is only after you've "done some time" with others that you start to build up the sort of history that you can take for granted in long-term relationships.

But in our type of transitional community the challenges don't end here. Those people who you build new history with will probably not be around in your life for all that long and when they go, they take the memories and history with them. You can tell the stories to the new folk who take their place, but they don't have the same joy and the new people might not even be interested in your stories. You have to start from scratch—build new history with new people.

That's challenging enough for a married person like myself, but much worse for a single person. At least I have a husband who I've done all my major transitions with, and a nuclear family with whom I have a lot of history. I suspect families like ours are a lot "tighter" because of the shared memories that we hold as a unit and because we don't share them all with anyone else, not even close. Our shared memories are scattered all over the globe.

But this morning I had a short time with a shared memory and it was precious.

A few years back I had been offered a lift in someone's van to an annual winter prayer meeting with other missionary women. But the day before the prayer meeting it snowed . . . and snowed and snowed! Our lift cancelled and most of those who had been going in the van couldn't because school was cancelled also. 

That left me and this friend I talked with this morning. We weren't sure what the best alternative way was to get there: by bus or train. There were a lot of back and forth texts, and we finally decided to go by bus, thinking they were most likely to be reliable (Tokyo train lines are a bit fickle with adverse weather conditions).

The next morning I dressed appropriately and managed to get to the arranged meeting point. The snow had already melted a bit and then frozen and so there was lots of scary ice around, it wasn't fun walking. We hopped on a bus, a bus route we were both unfamiliar with, and off we went. It was a veritable tour of the nearby cities! Traffic was slow and lots of people were on the buses.

But we finally arrived at the place we had to get off. Little did we know that the most difficult part of our journey had not yet began.

We walked, and walked, and consulted Google maps, and walked. Eventually we conceded that we'd probably walked too far and we really didn't know either where we were or where we should go next. So we rang the one person we knew who should be able to help: the lady running the prayer meeting who happened to know the local area well because it was her mission's headquarters who were hosting the prayer meeting. 

Our angst at this point was amplified by the fact that I was supposed to be playing the piano for the worship times of the meeting and we were already an hour late!

It was surprisingly hard to establish where we were and, it turned out, the "pin" we had on Google maps for our destination was incorrect. We eventually found a convenience store and asked for directions to the convenience store near our destination, by which time the leader of the meeting had walked out to see if she could find us. (This was 2013, I just found part of the story on my blog here.) We arrived two hours late. 

But just like the snow camp memories that our family holds and periodically take out to enjoy, this friend and I have this shared memory of the time we got lost in the snow looking for a prayer meeting in Tokyo.


1 comment:

Alan Potts said...

Nice post. I enjoyed reading it.