Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ain't that Mister Mister on the radio?

"'Well,' said Pooh, 'what I like best,' and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called." --A.A. Milne

The last 50 yards before I was greeted by the Baca family, just past the revolving doors at the Sunport arrivals gate, I remember smiling in anticipation, reveling in that moment just before something really really good. It's one of my favorite things, that moment. And this one didn't let me down.

Let me backtrack a little. I've been, blessed enough to have gotten to know the Bacas over the last six months or so, first via goodnaturedly-sarcasm-soaked Twitter @replies and eventually email, text, chats, phone calls, and mail. Somehow, in all the stilted communication that is characteristic of this digital world, there was some connection. We made friends. For weeks, we talked visits until I finally opted to purchase a plane ticket good for one long weekend at Casa de Baca. I think the countdown was just over 30 days at that point...not that I was counting.

The last few days before the trip were the hardest...I could hardly concentrate on anything but being excited to finally hug my friends. In the middle of all of it though, there was the convincing others and myself that I wasn't crazy for flying across the country to visit people I'd never actually met. Would they be like I expected? My mom expressed concern about receiving a phone call asking her to please come to New Mexico to secure my remains. I assured her that was highly unlikely, but it raises the issue--how bold is too bold? Yes, I love and live and play and feel very boldly and fully. I'm a both-feet-at-once kind of girl with a tender heart and an open mind. I'm aware that my decision to practice optimism and believe the best about people whenever possible leaves me vulnerable. And so far, it's been worth it.

Back to the Sunport.

Can I just say that the Bacas are one good-looking bunch? Their photos and videos and likenesses across various social networking interfaces do them no justice. Somehow, I managed nervous hugs as we made our way to their truck, trying not to let my sleep-deprivation-induced tendency to get over-stimulated get the best of me. While PB and I waited for the Mexican take-out lunch we picked up on the way home, he confirmed what I suspected. It was totally fine to just be me. I mean, I knew this, but it was important to me to hear and believe that if any of it was too much--the excitement, the activity--that it was okay to say the word. All of it is a lot to take in, especially after a night of no sleep and lots of travel. I needed to absorb for a while before I settled, and this was okay.

Later that afternoon and into the evening, we went climbing, marathon-session style. I was pleased to find that a) I am not the only one who enjoys marathon climb sessions, b) I am not the only one who frequently forgets meals during said sessions, c) climbers are pretty consistently similar from town to town, and this helps a new girl settle a little, and d) there's nothing quite like spicing up yoga class with a little mischief. The post-climb beers were appreciated, as were more hugs...specifically from the ever-hug-receptive Doni. Needless to say, I slept very well that night.

Briefly the next morning, I fought for lucidity and then was quite happy to realize I was still in New Mexico, with breakfast waiting in the kitchen and tacklehugs in the hall. We took our time getting ready for the day, and I was treated to a tour of the JCC and the local museum, as well as some gallivanting about Old Town, where I fruitlessly tried to convince the Bacas the overcast, slightly chilly weather really wasn't that cold. Sigh, and I come from CA, where we don't exactly have Arctic winters.

We spent a pleasant evening in that night, playing the Wii and chatting and enjoying the company of friends. One of my favorite occurrences of the weekend was late-night chatting with E, the first of which took place after PB and the Chickabiddy had called it a night on Friday.

By Saturday, it was clear that I should have no qualms about frequent and unsolicited hugs, and I didn't. Now, you should know that a KatieBeth requires an inordinate amount of hugs and snuggles, and the Baca family didn't miss a beat. Ah, to be surrounded by equally contact-oriented friends! More climbing gym time ensued that afternoon, with a rushed exit so we could make it to church on time. Church was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend, save for the unfortunate (and literal) run-in I had with a cactus plant on the way home. Lesson learned: do not trip over cactus plants.

Upon arriving home PB & E set to work preparing for the upcoming #woofup of sorts while the Chickabiddy and I took great care in performing intricate medical tests on Bunny and petting the puppycats. Soon, friends arrived and conversations were woven. Hugs were exchanged and stories told. Girl pile snuggles followed late night #tpups, and I couldn't help but feel just utterly blessed and loved and lucky and full.

Sunday, we dragged our very tired selves to yoga, fighting for energy through bouts of sillyness. Sunday afternoon held more climbing and the evening was enjoyably mellow, tinged with the reality that the visit would soon be over. Another late night chatting with and hugging E.

The next morning, I reluctantly packed my belongings as we prepared for one final jaunt through town and up to to the foothills to see the city from up a little higher, as well as a visit to the bookstore. The last hour, spent at the Sunport, was intermittently very joyful and very sad. My visit had turned out even better than I could have planned, and leaving was very very difficult. It hurt. I was glad for my sunglasses as I boarded the plane.

I learned a few things. The vulnerability of loving wholeheartedly and moment-by-moment being happy to be who I am is totally worth it, even if it means making the goodbyes that much harder. It is possible (and even okay) to make friends through unconventional means. Sometimes those friends turn out to be more like family than friends in the way that makes you realize you're unusually blessed. And that is pretty darn awesome.

Thank you, @paukku, @Binkibear, Biddy, @orbiteleven, @emilysusanjones, @dynomightdoni and all the rest for sharing your lives with me for a weekend. You touched this CA girl's heart pretty deeply.

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