This past weekend a friend (my former pre-school coworker – FPSC) came to visit and being the wanting-my-guest-to-have-a-good-time hostess, I planned our itinerary with great care.
Saturday happened with a few glitches, but still worked well.
Sunday’s plan included church (check), lunch with my mom (check) and a visit to Cantigny for their French Connection Event – this included a French Market (which mostly was Wheaton’s Saturday French Market, transferred down the road to Cantigny) — and a concert by the Air Force band.
Sounded good. We saw the dark clouds hovering overhead, but decided to continue with the plan.
Unique happening #1. We were meandering down the row of tents, looking at the jewelry, kids’ clothes and tubes of cream that promise fantastic results, when we saw a tent crowded with used books – neatly organized in children’s, historical and general sections. The tent was about 8×8 with only about 4×4 space for someone to stand – which would’ve been fine except the space was already crowded with two booksellers and a lady with a quite large stroller holding a happy baby. However, since both FPSC and I like books, this seemed to be the place to stop. I found a book I wanted (a gift for someone whom I will not mention) and was in the process of paying when the rain began with a vengence. Although some of the booths (we later discovered) continued to have people walking in and out, the booksellers immediately closed up the tent as tightly as possible. (Pottery is a good thing to sell in an open air market. Rare books are not.) I understand about closing the tent – but the two booksellers, FPSC and lady with the stroller holding Happy Baby were still inside. The clouds then exploded even more and there was no way the booksellers were going to open the tent to even let us out.
Which was fine because we weren’t particularly interested in getting wet either.
I paid for my book and we jockeyed for a place to stand in the 4×4 space. (Think elevator) Then one of the booksellers started to talk to the lady with the stroller about the baby in the stroller.
At which point we learned.
1. She met her husband online (she was Russian, he was American).
2. He came to Moscow and spent eight days where they had a wonderful, surreal adventure visiting Red Square, the museums, the restaurants.
3. Then they got married.
(Meanwhile, bookseller #2 was frantically picking up books and putting them back on the table as quickly as Happy Baby pulled them off – but oblivious lady kept talking.)
4. She had learned English in school, but British English, so came here knowing nothing.
5. She was a journalist, but here she stayed at home and wouldn’t even watch TV because she didn’t understand anything.
6. Now she has a baby and you can’t do anything when you have a baby, so she’s stuck.
7. She would like to go back to Russia.
And it went on …
As she talked I realized that I was in a never-again-in-my-life situation – trapped in an 8×8 tent with FPSC, two booksellers, a baby, a couple hundred books – and a lady from Russia pouring out her heart.
Not the planned Air Force Band, but still … um … rather fascinating.
Finally the rain dwindled to a drizzle and we ventured out into the aisleway, leaving the lady with the story behind. FPSC was able to get some delicious-looking cinnamon bread for half price because the plastic bags holding the bread were wet, so that was good.
We headed for the gardens, just as the clouds opened enough for a tiny sliver of sun to get through and I was able to get some pictures (seen on this page.)
But skies darkened again and we decided we’d better hurry back to the visitor’s center – which we did – just in time.
Once again, rain dumped from the sky and people huddled under the overhang waiting for an opportunity to run for their cars. (The Air Force Band had decided to fly away, alas, no music.)
Even after fifteen minutes, the rain didn’t lessen but seemed to be coming down with even greater torrential force. So we decided to go back inside and find a place. to sit.
Unique Happening #2. We went into a snack shop area that had several tables and a couple chairs and couch in the corner under a tv which was shouting out weather warnings. We sat on the couch and settled in for the duration. A couple walked over and sat down on the chairs. They seemed nice enough, chatted with each other and then the man got up to go get some ice cream.
The lady asked me to tie a bow on her sleeve (which was in an awkward position for her to tie). It had gotten caught in her umbrella and had come undone. She went back to staring at the rain and FPSC and I continued our ongoing conversation.
Mr. Nice-Enough Couple came back with his ice cream and sat down and started chatting with his wife. I didn’t pay much attention, but I noticed that he was watching me.
Finally he said, “I know I know you.”
Now, I have learned to at least acknowledge such introductions with politeness because I’ve spoken at enough Awana conferences that people remember me (because I’m teaching the workshops), even when I don’t remember them. And this couple looked liked they could be Awana leaders, but still I’m saying inside my brain “I don’t thinnnnkkkkk so” and I could tell his wife was sort of wondering about the whole thing, too.
But Mr. Nice-Enough seemed determined. “What high school did you attend?”
He looked at his wife and they looked at me and he said, “That’s it! We were in the same class.” (He was so sure about it, he didn’t even ask me what class – but he was right.)
He told me his name and I vaguely remembered it. I would not have remembered him or recognized him in a million years. Seriously. So, for the next 20 minutes we talked about high school and some of the people we mutually know. He introduced me to his wife and I introduced him to FPSC and we went on our way. I figured I talked to him twenty times longer than I had ever talked to him in school. He actually transferred as a junior, so the last time he saw me (and we didn’t really KNOW each other), I looked like this – my 16 -year old self.
By this time, the rain had decided NOT to stop – so we headed for the car — and got soaking wet.