Judah misses China; Dad, Pizza Hut.


Yesterday, all day, Judah missed his home, China. He missed his teachers, his friends, his room, his house, and his neighborhood. From the moment he got up to well after he should have been asleep, China was on his mind. He even asked if we would consider moving back, "Because it's home," he explained, "And it's better than America."

So, naturally, I asked if I could take his picture. "Why?" he asked.

"Because I think it's good to remember the hard times too." Then, we spent the evening writing old friends and reminiscing about our days in China. Judah said it all just felt like one long dream. 

Then today, things were better, but I couldn't stop thinking about some of our discussions and how, within a few months, Judah's memory of China had changed so much. It wasn't that he ever hated China, it was just that he was so excited to be here, in America, with green grass, beautiful skies, and several planned camping adventures.

So, out of curiosity, I looked up how many days he and I have been back in the US: 87. Then, I looked up day 87 on my "Last Hundred Days of China" countdown. 

Here's what I found:

Day 87 : Days like this

When it's not always raining there'll be days like this
When there's no one complaining there'll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there'll be days like this

This evening, when I sat down to write, these lyrics, "There'll be days like, there'll be days like this" ran through my head and I had to look it up. I didn't know it was a Van Morrison song, but I recognized the tune. The lyrics also seemed appropriate.
Working and living in a small community, at times, is like living in a crawl space; it's confining, dark, and it stinks. There aren't many days like this, but when there are, like a thick blanket of pollution that steals away the joy of the sun, they're suffocating. 
When everyone is up front and they're not playing tricks
When you don't have no freeloaders out to get their kicks
When it's nobody's business the way that you wanna live
I just have to remember there'll be days like this
I've been wrestling with several ideas this past week, ideas about unity and thoughtful disagreements and how to be promotors of the Faith through mindful discussions, but very limited time to actually write them out. I've also been wanting to document my final days in this country I've loved and lived and worked in for just under five years. I've been trying to find a balance between working hard, leaving well, having a baby, loving my kids, finding a job, serving my wife, and maintaining my sanity; I've been trying not to check out early (as I am often prone to do) and be present, to keep investing. 
When no one steps on my dreams there'll be days like this
When people understand what I mean there'll be days like this
When you ring out the changes of how everything is
Well my mama told me there'll be days like this
But days like these have me wanting to pack my bags and leave it all behind (minus the baby, kids, and Momma of course . . . and perhaps a few books).
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Oh my mama told me
There'll be days like this
Days like this. I want to remind myself of days like this because, as much as I love China and my job and the people I work with and the people I meet on the streets, I also want the last 100 days of me being here to be appropriately represented, not fabricated or dishonest. I want it to be a true goodbye.
Right now, Josey and I are battling the tendency of accidentally making America heaven. The "Just wait till we get to America," or, "In America we'll . . ." but they come without warning and bring great devastation because America isn't the promised land, and our baggage and weaknesses and faults will hop on the plane with us. We will still have days like this.
But I also don't want to look back and read through this blog and think, "Wow, in China, there was no hurt, no struggles, and no broken relationships. It was heaven!" Because it isn't. 
Leaving well, I think, also means leaving honest. It means reconciling what can be, affirming those we'll miss, and nodding at the things we won't, with a sort of, "It's okay, really, but goodbye" sort of understanding and a no-hard-feelings handshake. Literally, and metaphorically.
I'm not there yet, ready to say goodbye with a good attitude, but I hope to be. That's even why I started this 100 Days thing . . . to walk through the process of saying goodbye, and to one day be able to look back and remember. All of it. 
The beauty and the pain. The joys and the sorrow. The triumphs. The disappointments. 
The days like this.

Reading it again today was encouraging, but also enlightening. Especially when compared to a small posting by Retro Ramblings and their remembrance of "When eating at Pizza Hut was an experience."

I miss the “glory days” of Pizza Hut.  That magical time in the 80’s and early 90’s when it was a destination, and not just somewhere to eat.  I’ve found recently that those days of yore are long gone, and what is left is what seems like a company struggling to hang on . . .
From the moment you walked in the place, you knew it was something special. You knew this was going to be something you’d remember, and it all started with the decor. The interior didn’t look like a fast food joint with it’s huge, sprawling windows, and cheap looking walls, or tiled floors. When you walked in, you were greeted by brick walls, with smaller windows, that had thick red fabric curtains pulled back, and a carpeted floor. It just felt higher-class than walking into McDonalds or Burger King.
The booths were high-backed, with thick padded vinyl seats and back rests. The high backs was also different from your usual eating out experience. These high backs gave you a sense of privacy, which was great for a date night. Also great for a date night were the candles on the tables. Those little red glass candles that were on every table, and were lit when you got to your seat. It was a little thing, but when added to everything else, it was quite the contribution. Your silverware was wrapped in a thick, cloth napkin that beat the heck out of the paper napkins everyone else was using at the time. And you could always count on the table being covered by a nice, red and white, checkered table cloth.

Exactly. For me Pizza Hut was one of the first places I was allowed to go to without parents, which meant traveling a few miles away from home and entering the dark adult world where my friends and I could get lost in those high-backed benches and our own personal-panned pizzas. Remember those? How you could earn a free one just for reading a few books? I never read any but I sure had more than a few free four-sliced pizzas. 

Also, there was this: "The arcade game they featured at my local Pizza Hut, and I believe most of them is kind of iconic in it’s own way.  It was a machine that featured two games.  Mrs. Pac-Man and Galaga.  The unique feature was that it was a sit down cabinet, with a chair on each side in which you and a partner / opponent could both sit comfortably and play."

It's easy, I think, to look back on the "glory days" of years past and remember how great it was, mainly because we tend to forget how shitty it was. 

It's also easy to always want and anticipate what's next because, like America from China, it can't be anything but perfect. 

Yet, we allow both to completely steal from the now.

In a recounting of the time she almost cheated on her husband and ruined her marriage, Jane Green has this to say about life in the past, present, and future.

"The grass isn't always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it."

It's always good to remember those we've known and loved and the places we've seen and miss. It's also important to dream, to know where you want to go, and to strive and work at achieving those goals. But spinning the record too fast will bring us to the end too soon. 

Today, I've been given right now, and although there's pain and sadness and longings for things past and things to come, the music playing is still pretty damn good. And whenever I stop long enough to actually listen it, pretty quickly I realize the song that is playing is actually really, really good. 

I just need to turn up the volume.