It was a week full of such delightful encounters that I almost want to become an extrovert. First, a too rare gathering of my entire family for a weekend in Wisconsin, where we reminisced about the exhaustion of raising produce, ate delicious food, and spent time singing together. My brother William and my husband talked about spreadsheets for about five hours (I think this is a conservative estimate). Several of us sat on the back deck of the AirBnB and watched a thrilling meteor shower above the dark woods. We played Kubb, a Scandinavian game with wooden blocks and batons that I had never played before. Marnell showed his artificial leg to the younger crowd, who were shocked and fascinated as usual. I guess I did also maintain my introvert status by reading an entire book over the weekend, a sailing story I had asked my brother to bring.
(New software here: I apologize if the photos are askew.)
It was great fun, and I was refreshed by the blessing of family.
Marnell and I then turned the bow of our ship toward Chicago (see comments below on new obsession) and sailed in late Monday afternoon. We spent time on Promontory Point, bought baklava from Nazareth Sweets, and ate brisket and pulled pork at Earl’s Barbecue, as we had on our honeymoon.
The next day, Marnell had business in Naperville, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, so we stayed in Naperville for the night. I planned to take the Metra into the city to the Chicago Maritime Museum, to further expand my scant knowledge of ships. (I’ve taken on a writing project that involves a sea captain, so pardon my obsession.) If I took the train to Halsted Street, I would have 1.5 miles to walk, which seemed reasonable. The train ride would take over an hour per our research online, and my walk would get me to the museum a little after it opened.
Marnell dropped me off at the Naperville Metra station and went to park the car. We didn’t expect the train for 15 minutes, but I went to buy my ticket, hoping to have it bought so I could wait on the train with Marnell. As I was standing in line, a loudspeaker announced the arrival of the next train, and the train itself roared in outside the glass windows of the ticket counter.
“Will it wait?” I stupidly asked the lady behind the counter.
“No,” she said.
“I need a ticket to Halsted,” I said. I suppose this would have been the time to ask if there was another train coming in fifteen minutes, but the sudden appearance of the train had me in a small panic.
I inserted my card, and she stuck a ticket under the glass.
I was afraid Marnell would not make it back before I left, but as I stepped on to the platform and watched the last of the passengers boarding the train, he walked up. We had a quick kiss on the platform–not the first time we’ve kissed on a train platform, as you might recall–and I climbed onto the train.
I guess it should have occurred to me that the train was moving fast, and we weren’t stopping at any station. As we pulled into Union Station, I realized it was an express. The speed was fine, having arrived in about half an hour, but as I exited the train, I found by GPS that I was 3.5 miles from the museum.
I briefly debated untangling the bus routes or calling for an Uber driver, but those things required both money and concentration, and I opted for a long walk. I adjusted my backpack and set off down Canal Street.
I had gone a few blocks when a voice behind me said, “Miss! Are you Mennonite?”
“I am,” I replied.
He caught up beside me, a tall dark-skinned man with a brightly colored shirt.
“I noticed the veiling on your head,” he said. “I’ve been studying the Bible and doing some writing about this practice, wishing my own denomination would take it up. Where is the closest Mennonite church to here?”
I informed him that I was only visiting and that we lived two hours away.
He told me about his writing and recounted to me various Bible verses. He spoke about Isaac and Rebekah, Christ and the Church, and First Corinthians 11, with a familiarity that surpassed my own. He told me his denomination felt strongly the need to follow the Bible and he couldn’t understand why such a large section of verses would be ignored.
I told him I would like to see his document, and that I do a little writing myself. I admitted that I might not have a lot of time to evaluate his writing since I had a writing project myself.
“How long is it?” I asked.
“Five hundred pages,” he said, almost apologetically.
After a few blocks, we came to his stop. I invited him to visit our church in Elkhart, and to send me his document. We exchanged email addresses.
“I guess I forgot to ask your name!” I said.
“Mat,” he said.
We parted, both encouraged.
I arrived at the museum, my feet sore, and descended into it. At the bottom of the stairs, I was met by an anchor taller than myself.
I had a nice time studying ship models and viewing a sample piece of a ship’s shroud, the tar-covered lines that served as a ladder to the masts of a ship. I purchased a knot-tying kit with colored rope and a few other items to further my education. I had just enough time to purchase a coconut milk iced latte from a nearby coffee house and practice tying a few knots around my straw before Marnell pulled in.
After Italian food and more knots, we got home, and unpacked. We then put our guest room in order, since my dear friends Kevin and Rosetta Byers and their son Asher would be staying with us Thursday and Friday nights. As you might recall, these are the friends who took me across the middle east to visit the refugee camps. Rosetta took the photos for our book, Faces of Syria.
We have had hardly any company since we got married, so I was hoping we could help them feel at home successfully after having just arrived home from a trip. We also both had to work the next two days, so we did our best to get their room in order ahead of time.
Wednesday night, we both rushed home from work for “garden night”. We sat down to grab a bite to eat and rest for a moment before going out to harvest and weed.
“Norrell just called,” Marnell said. “He’s driving a bus-load of Amish and was wondering if he could stay at our place tonight.”
For people who have had basically no guests in 8 months, this was a bit humorous. However, our guest room was ready to go. The house was not, but Marnell assured me that his brother would not mind the chaos of unwashed dishes or unfinished laundry. We went out for garden night. On a side note, Bill met his fate, since he was producing nothing at all and merely choking the porch with mildewed leaves.
It turned out that Norrell needed a place to stay for two nights. He cheerfully offered to sleep on the couch, having slept on it in the past when it was at Marnell’s house. So by Thursday night, we had two parties of guests in our house, who of course had never met each other. However, everyone chatted like old friends. Marnell dropped both Norrell and Kevin off at their destinations on his way to work Friday morning.
That day, Mat of the 500 page document emailed to say that this weekend would work out fine for him to come visit. Since Marnell had a Saturday meeting in Illinois, he thought he could pick Mat up on his return trip Saturday night, and Mat could return to Chicago Sunday evening by train.
I forwarded the email to Marnell with the words, officially a hotel.
So, we’ll see if Marnell and Mat make their connection and get back to the Brady Street Hotel tonight. Either way, I can say with sincerity that despite the sudden end to our “guest fast”, I thoroughly enjoyed having extra people in the house Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and now apparently Saturday.
Does anyone need a place to stay Sunday night? It looks like our guest room will be open again!