A few notes on London.
Last night we had dinner at Wagamama with John, Karla, and Chris Bennion. (John was/is my mentor professor at BYU/life.) It was lovely to see them. I don't even know how to say how lovely it was. Sam made John laugh. That was what I hoped would happen. And it made me happy. I talked with Karla as we walked up to Kensington Gardens to see a performance of Peter Pan. They built this special venue for it that consisted of a big cone-shaped white tent, with a theater in-the-round inside. I can't say it was stellar acting, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's hard to explain this part, but they did stuff with projecting up on the top of the tent, so when Wendy, Peter, Tink and crew took off to fly to Neverland, not only were they were really suspended in the air, but it looked like they were flying over London--THE London, with parks and the National Gallery and St Paul's, etc. I couldn't catch my breath during that part; I felt like I would weep; I felt like a little kid. A very happy little kid with some of my dearest friends in the world.
Speaking of little kid, there was an exhibit at the Tate Modern that made me giggle. It was just a plain room with an enormous table and set of four chairs in it. Can you picture that? (I was this close to getting a picture when a security guard scolded me.) It was sort of like when we were all very small children and we could walk under the table, but we weren't very small children. We were adults with car payments and aching feet and complicated relationships and allergies and friends who died too young and everything else grown-uppy, walking around in this room where an everyday object positively dwarfed us again. It was wonderful. Almost everyone who wandered in smiled. And that is when I love the art: when it arrests us, knocks us silly, makes us see something we haven't really seen in a long time.
None of this is in chronological order, so now is as good a time as any to show you this de-licious butternut squash "burger" I had. Check out that avocado. The thing is, for the most part I find vegetarian fare so much more interesting than meat. Could a regular old chicken sandwich hold a candle to this beast? No sir.
Here's Sam walking away from the Tate on the Millennium Bridge, towards St. Paul's Cathedral. This, this bridge between two of my favorite places, is perhaps my favorite spot in all of London.
What else should I tell you? Oh, we went to Portabello Road market on Saturday because we didn't feel like going far. I expected both of us to hate it because it's crazy-crowded and hot, but we actually enjoyed ourselves. We found the perfect gift for my friend who graduated med school, and bought a couple little matted old photographs. One was of children being evacuated from London during WWII. They look, for the most part, like they have no idea what's going on. They all have nametags in case they get lost, and pretty little boxes tied with string that look like they have strawberry tarts in them. Turns out, according to the man who sold us the photo, those pretty boxes have gas masks in them. He would know, since he lived through the war, since he was a kid that got evacuated, too. That was part of why we bought the picture, because he was so kind and interesting.
I've re-learned something here: people like to talk, and I like to talk to them. I'm so afraid of people, even people I know. But I'm especially afraid of strangers. On Friday we stopped at the laundromat so Sam could drop off a few shirts. He had to run back to the flat to get one he forgot, and I stayed behind to put stain-remover on the others. While he was gone, I was alone with the lady running the place, a serious-seeming older woman. After a few minutes, I said, simply, "How are you?" It was so easy! And she answered! And we had a nice chat. And when I said we were on our way to Florence next week, she said, "That's my name! Florence." And I liked her.
One other thing we got at Portabello. I'm not sure it will make any sense, and my picture won't do it justice, but we're so excited about it. It's a set of printing press letters. Well, not a true set, because it's pulled from a bunch of different sets, so it's in all different fonts and it looks super cool. A lot of the letters are slightly red or orange or green because they were used to print posters. Can you tell at all what it is? Probably not. Come to my house and I will show you. We're pleased with it anyway. The perfect writerly souvenir.
One more something to tell you. It's personal and kind of long, by way of warning.
For one reason and another (getting home late from the show, Sam's phone ringing at 1 a.m., a 1:30 snacktime involving toast and strawberry jam, looking at apartments for next year on craigslist, etc), we didn't sleep much last night. So when the alarm went off at 7:30 to make it to 9 a.m. church across town, it wasn't hard to decide I would shoot for the single's ward at 1. Sam woke up craving a full English breakfast, so I took a quick shower and met him at a greasy spoon on Queensway. I was sitting there, watching the white bread of my toast turn to glue from the bean-sauce (I ordered beans on toast), thinking about Sundays, about how it feels like it's been a long time since I had a really quiet, peaceful one, the kind we Mormons are supposed to aim for. I was feeling bad about it, feeling like I should have bought breakfast stuff Sam was interested in so we could eat at home today, wondering what it means to "keep the sabbath day holy" when I'm married to someone who doesn't believe what I believe, when I'm traveling, etc. At home I try hard and do fine for the most part, but out here, how do I balance the need to spend time with my husband and the need to worship? I'm crummy at it now, still figuring it out. I don't know any other Mormons married to Catholics, so there don't seem to be any guidebooks for me. I'm making this up as I go along.
Anyway, so off we dashed to church. Sam planned to sit in a little cafe and write while I went in for Sacrament meeting, then we'd hit some free museums. Only, the church website had the times wrong. I got there a half hour into the Spanish branch meeting, and about two hours away from the YSA meeting. I was devastated, surprisingly so. I called Sam and told him come back, and when he got there I was weeping, my lower lip pouted out, close to sobbing. I stood there on a corner of Exhibition Road, saying over and over again, "I'm a bad kid." I said, "I think God thinks I'm a bad kid." This is my biggest fear: that God doesn't like me, that lately He finds me to be a lazy, worthless, whiny thing. I thought I blew it, that it wasn't fair to make Sam wait another 3 hours to do what we had planned, that I should have just got up and made it to the dang 9 a.m. meeting.
Sam, bless his heart, held me. "Deja," he said, "You need the sacrament. You need to be fed." (We've been talking about the metaphor of "spiritual food" lately--how apt it is.) He held my shoulders and looked right at me: "You're not a bad kid. This has nothing to do with you being a bad kid. You just need to take the sacrament. We'll wait as long as we need to so you can." And so we did.
And so I did. And so I felt much better. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful, lovely days we've had so far.
I talked to John and Karla last night about marriage as an institution, how odd it can be, how it's such a blend of the sacred and the profane.
That moment, right there on the corner of Exhibition Road, that was the sacred part.