The man who drove me to the airport on my way out of Saudi could take me at 6 am or 10 am. From 6:30 to 10 he was responsible for delivering his mother, grandmother, and sisters to work and college. On alternating week days, he delivered his brothers and nephews to school and his sister-in-law to the university. He returned them all home each afternoon from 2:30 to late evening depending. The rest of the time, he was free to deliver a variety of expats to their jobs, their homes, their doctors appointments.
I took the six o’clock car. He regaled me with stories of my now former colleagues. While his sisters will all obtain drivers’ licenses, his days won’t change much. The family can only afford two cars and he’d miss hearing about their days and what it’s like to work. He’s practicing his English, demanding new vocabulary from every English teacher he encounters. One day, he says, he’ll be able to use his nursing degree at one of the expat hospitals. One day, he says, all Saudis, men and women, will have work.
So, yes. I finally got off the blowup mattress when I heard the conversation turn. How does a typical American not meet a Mormon until they reach graduate school?
The Mystery was solved by the time I had had my coffee.
If you grow up in a community of only a particular type of Christians, then go to private particular type of Christian school, then go to a a particular type of private Christian college, you may never meet a Mormon.
The same is true if you grow up in an all white community. The same is true if you grow up in a community that has only English speakers.
So, you know, if you hate Muslims or are afraid of them, maybe you should try meeting some.
If you’re afraid of Mideast or Gulf nationals, maybe you should try meeting some.
So here we are-past forty, approaching forty-and I’m on the floor with a blow up bed, alone for a change. So here we are in a house in the northeast, and we are one to a sleeping spot. So here we are, reality check, our successes are multitude. But we are chased by debt and desire and what we prepared for life to be. One of us has the child we all desired. One of us has the book we all desired. One of us has the tenure track position we all desired. All of us are tired, underpaid, unsure of our future. Three of us have the advantage of citizenship. One of us is doing what she swore she’d never do-applying for jobs in a place she cannot drive because there she will be guaranteed healthcare. We are all smaller than the people we wanted to be. There are more of us far-flung and close to our meeting spot. But we are smaller than we meant to be-unless you hear our students. A bit of each of us has made the young people, the millennials who will rise from the ashes. None of us wants to be the ashes.
It’s this that finally forces me off the dining room floor.
“I didn’t meet a Mormon until college.”
“It was grad school for me.”
Part of me thinks that we’re too old for this. Four of us having managed to converge in one place at one time. Sleeping arrangements have one of us on the sofa, one on a futon, one on the dining room floor, one in the spare bedroom. We’re not good at being quiet and terrible at going to bed at a reasonable hour.
Still, during those years up North. No really, UP NORTH! We spent years together 175 miles from the Arctic Circle. Still during those years up North, we often found ourselves three to a futon, four on the ground, two to the bed, two more on the ground, and occasionally someone in the bathtub. Crashed out far too late after ridiculous conversation or in depth discussion or that time we had to watch that terrible film for class that they tell me I finally just fast forwarded through–on VHS. That it was VHS should tell you a bit about why I think we might be too old for crashing at a three in the morning on a friend’s floor.
The last time we gathered, two of us quietly admitted that we were unemployed. You know, like people with advanced degrees who couldn’t get a job, or people with advanced degrees who were between gigs, or people with advanced degrees who just, just, just….
This time though we’re more settled. All of us are on the job market, but we’re also all working. We didn’t expect to be facing our forties just short of the end of a nasty recession. I, and may more of us, can see the millennials as beacons of hope. They keep going where I feel stalled. They see equality, where I see difficulty. They see, and I do not.