I heard that Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be at the National Cathedral yesterday. And…I…missed her. It was on my calendar for weeks, but I went out to eat chili with my family instead.

You see, we have a lot of meetings this week (and last week, and the week before), and I was missing my family more than I was missing Elizabeth Gilbert. I made the right choice. My very independent, six year old spent the whole meal, practically in my lap. I felt like I was running a three-legged sack race all night. At the end of the day, she didn’t want to let go of my midsection to go to sleep.

It’s strange, living in the D.C. region. We miss so much. A couple months ago, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates were both doing readings. Did I go? No. Barbara Kingsolver? Missed. This month Dave Eggers will be here (okay, there’s no missing that one…I thought he was a recluse…). There’s a free concert every single night at the Kennedy Center, across the street from my church, and I have not gone in a year.

If I were reading this from rural parish, I would either (1) hate the author with a seething fury, or (2) think that she was some sort of moronic cultural misfit. So, to the people who are frustrated in rural areas: You are amazing, you ought to be paid much, much more, and I’m sorry for bringing all of this up. I’ve been there too. If you come to visit D.C., I can tell you where all the great shows, restaurants, authors, and exhibits are. I just may not be able to visit them with you.

I’m not the only one. I remember talking to Jack Stotts, when he left his presidency at McCormick Seminary to become the president at Austin Seminary. He made the move, of course, because Austin (my alma mater) is such a good school. But, he also did it because he had an elderly mother, who was in Texas and she didn’t want to leave Texas. (Is this public knowledge? I hope so….)

I worked for Jack. I was his student assistant, and I did some research and editing for him. I learned so much from him. We often reminisced about Chicago, and he would say, “The thing I miss about Chicago is having the option to do things. I didn’t go to the shows or museums, but I always had the opportunity out there. And that was nice.”

In Chicago, I was younger, and I rarely missed an exhibit or show that was in my price range. But now, fifteen years later, they seem to slip by pretty easily. Brian reads the arts and style sections and says, “Did you know that Shawn Colvin is coming into town?”

And I reply, “Really? I would love to see her again.” But it’s hard to get a babysitter and since we’re both pastors, we’re already gone so many evenings, and it’s just nice to be at home. Or at The Hard Times Cafe, eating chili, with a grown child on my lap.

I almost got frustrated when I tripped over her for the tenth time on the way to the car. But, we were all hungry for affection. And how long will I be able to get a two-hour hug from my daughter? She’ll be growing out of that by next week, and then, the next week, I’ll be sending her off to college. At least that’s how it feels. I don’t want to be a smothering mother, but I also want to savor every last moment of affection, while she’s willing to dish it out.

Jack Stott’s mother died. I bet he never regretted the move from Chicago–even if he missed a few readings.


9 thoughts on “(S)mothering

  1. Rumors of Ms. Gilbert’s appearance were exaggerated… but Ann Patchett was great. Funny. Inspiring.

    I know what you mean though. I am fairly mercenary in limiting evenings at the church, am not married to a pastor, and our babysitters are easier to come by (and free)… but still, lots of stuff passes me by.

  2. I hear you, I’m missing Pat Matheney one of my fav musicians next week because we live in Iowa and no one stops in Iowa on the weekends, only on week nights. This week night happens to be wednesday which is of course a prime church event night!

    More to your point though, it can be difficult for us as a two pastor couple to find the time and energy to find new or even keep up with existing friends as well as to attend events we might like, because we are simply too exhausted and overspent.

    We need all the nights at home or the time together that we can get. And now we’re hoping to add a kid or 2 to the mix, and that scares the pants off us! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. I know it may be harder for a solo pastor or head of staff, but I like to try to kill two birds with one stone: going out instead of going to church in the evening.

    I have learned over the last 12 years that I am not needed at every meeting. They seem to do just fine without me. So…

    …every now and then it’s good to skip (and I don’t mind tellng them why) a meeting and catch a Cubs or Blackhawks game or a band. I remember when two buddies actually picked me up AT the church to go into Chicago and see Rusted Root. Felt pretty good, and I didn’t feel guilty.

  4. Patrick — You’re right. We don’t need to be at everything (she said 15 minutes before she has to leave to teach an evening Bible Study.)

    And I remember those rural days when it was a huge deal when Joey Chitwood was at the county fair. Woo Hoo.

    But we can’t do everything. I’m just glad to catch 1-2 things a year. Good post, C.

  5. One of my favorite channels is BookTV. I usually listen to it from my hotel room when I travel. I love the more rural life, but sometimes I wish I could visit the giant city and bask in the culture and learning!

    Actually, I will be in WashDC later this month on business. I will be there for one night. Last time I was there, I got lost inside the beltway for hours between the airport and the hotel, and was thereafter so terrified of the traffic I never left my hotel room. Any suggestions for this time around?

  6. HIS,

    Oh no. I’m so sorry to hear your story. The traffic here can be nuts. And then, to make matters worse, people honk (so rude). Not just the “Hello! I know you can’t see me, but I’m in this lane” sort of honk. It’s the honk of a Type-A control freak who is suddenly not in control.

    If you’re favorite is Book TV, then you should to go to Politics and Prose. That’s where Updike and Oates were and Eggers will be. And if you’re at a hotel near an airport, well then you can google the directions, and avoid downtown to get there. It’s not a bad drive.

    But don’t avoid downtown completely. It is wonderful. You may want to take the metro (clean, safe). Since you run, if you have a chance in the early morning, you can take a subway to the Smithsonian stop, and run around the mall when the sun’s rising. There’s the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial (depending on how far you go…). It’s very inspiring. We also like to go at night.

    I hope you have a better trip this time! And, you’ll have to stay longer next time.

  7. Pat Matheney? Ouch. That one hurts. That would be really hard to miss.

    Your story reminds me of living in Lincoln, NE. There was a place called the Zoo Bar, and we saw the most amazing acts there. And you’re right–they were always passing through on Thursday. And then there was the county fair…actually, in Lincoln, it was the state fair. And great acts, if you like country. Which I do. I’m sad to report that we never got to see Joey Chitwood though….

    Patrick, You’re going out INSTEAD of going to church? Very good time management! I applaud you. You’re not taking any time away from your family…and you’re empowering your lay leadership. Yes! It’s a win-win!

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