I Still Think About Hungary
I’ve lived long enough to know that good things sometimes end, and inevitably fade into the background of our minds. I can remember vividly sitting in that seventh floor flat, sipping red wine at that kitchen table, trying to comprehend being thousands of miles away from everything familiar, how hauntingly exciting that was. I remember being aware that somehow, someday, the present experience would be remembered as just that – an experience, a temporary season; almost, dareisay, a trip.
We ran into an old friend the other day, and after catching up, he said, “I’d love to hear about the Hungary trip!” He corrected himself quickly: “I know it wasn’t a trip…” Still, sometimes it feels like it was just a trip when given time and perspective.
The two years we spent living and teaching in Hungary get a bit jumbled, now that we’ve lived back in the US for 15 months; some smaller memories not captured by blogging, journaling and picture-taking even get forgotten. But I still think about Hungary.
I think about Hungary when I drive by the Beckwith school. It was here, Grand Rapids’ public school for adult English as a Second Language, where I first volunteered to get certified to teach. Every time I pass that building, I give thanks and remember that’s where it all began for me.
I think about Hungary when I read through my dad’s Twitter feed and I see a photo of one of my middle school English teachers, Mrs. Berryman, receiving an award. It was Mrs. Berryman who, on the first day of seventh grade, sternly warned me and my classmates, “I’m your teacher, not your friend.” Despite the anxiety and fear that gave me, I grew to love her and learn immense lessons in that classroom. I told my seventh graders those same words on my first day, and did my best to teach with love and truth, with grace and discipline, and show the students that I really did care about them. I have Mrs. Berryman, among others, to thank for the ability and courage to do that.
I think about Hungary when I talk with my friends about traveling Europe. Kendahl and I talk about our trips, about train rides and midnight buses and old churches and photo-taking and the ample amounts of Brits who bought us drinks all over the continent (they’re really nice people, those Brits).
I think about Hungary when I sit in the classroom that now welcomes me as a student, and wonder about my former students. If they’re doing well, if they have good English teachers, if high school is great, if they know how loved they are.
Our pastor said something interesting this past weekend: “we can visit the past, but don’t camp out there.” That’s been a tough one for me throughout the years, partially because I’ve been fortunate enough to have so many incredible experiences and work with so many amazing people and my emotions and sensitivity make it difficult for me to move on. So as I grow older, I learn to move on and embrace the magic at my doorstep.
But I still think about Hungary. I camp there on occasion, and the view is always incredible.