Ah, St. Louis.
It was perfect. It was amazing.
We left on Tuesday around 5:30 and after stopping to pick up a broken laptop from Alex (Ellen’s boyfriend) along the way, we made it to Ellen’s around 11. What did I find there (besides jumping dogs)? Cheese. My family sent me cheese–what a classic wisco gift. It was amazing. We went to bed shortly after and woke up late the next day around noon.
After a quick breakfast, we drove downtown to the arch! It was amazing–being in the city, seeing the museum, being a tourist, being surrounded by people who I will never see again–I love that feeling. We went up in the arch at 1:30. The pods were insanely small and I was freaking out the whole time so of course Beka was stomping on the ground and joking about us getting stuck. Ellen’s mom informed me that there was stairs I could climb down if need be. That didn’t make me stop from repeating “I can’t breathe” over and over again. The climb was worth it though–the view was so awesome! Plus a Finn was the main engineer on the arch so I was proud of my Finnish connections for making such an amazing thing;) Beka scared me from behind a handful of times, jumped on the whole thing, shaking it and pretend to throw my wallet out the window. Oh goodness, I love that girl.
After spending about 30 minutes up there, we took our pod back down and went into the museum for a while. Beka read every sign which resulted in the 3 of us sitting and chatting for a while. I love Ellen’s mom. For some reason, it was so easy for me to have conversations with her. She is an amazing woman and she cares greatly about her daughters and their friends. She treated Beka and I with more kindness than I have been drowned in in a long time and it made me feel so incredibly welcome. The world needs more people like her.
After a stop at the gift shop, we attempted to go geo-caching but couldn’t figure out the directions so we just ended up at a sculpture park in downtown St. Louis. It was beautiful. After dinner at Imos, where Beka and I had TOASTED RAVIOLI (so good!) we went to the mall for pictures. Beka and I panicked due to culture shock and excitement and then after a long wait, we had a blast taking photos. We were all wearing Cottey gear (Ellen’s mom is an alum) and we did cute pictures that had not only us but the photographer laughing. After more waiting, we were out of the store after it and the mall closed around 11. Tired, we went to bed.
The next day we got up and went to a light lunch at Steak n Shake. Then we walked around Wal-mart to scout out the Black Friday deals. After that, we went over to Ellen’s uncle’s for Thanksgiving dinner. Her family was amazing and very welcoming. Stuffed, we left around 8 and departed for the opening of Target at 9.
Somebody ran into the fire extinguisher and it exploded. Needless to say, our Black Friday shopping began with a bang. Beka and I had full on panic attacks due to excitement that we were in Target. We stood in the line for 45 minutes. We then went to the mall and stood in more lines, the longest being the line at Forever 21 for an hour and 1/2! We got back to Ellen’s at 4am, 7 hours later. I was seeing double but I got so many good deals!
The good friends that Beka and Ellen are, they got up 5 hours later so that we could go meet up with Sophie, who was in town visiting her family! We met up for brunch (very Kneester). It was the strangest thing, seeing her. Ellen’s mom and her sister, Laura had gone ahead to get us a table because Beka was still in the shower and when we got to the restaurant, Beka was still combing her hair so I ran inside and I was scanning the room for Nan and Laura when I saw Sophie out of the corner of my eye. I did a double take and then tackled her. My heart was racing. I love reunions. They make me feel so whole again. It was strange though because my two worlds collided. Sophie got along with everyone swimmingly and we discussed this and that but I felt for a heartbeat when I wasn’t thinking quite straight that I was at home and that I was going to go back with Sophie to my house after we were done eating. I told Beka, Ellen and Sophie this and we talked a bit about it all. About missing the people you love. About how you can have so many different worlds. Despite it all, seeing her made me feel so much better about everything.
We went to the movies after Sophie’s dad picked her up–to Breaking Dawn Part 2. I laughed so hard and was screaming at the screen so much the girl in front of me yelled at me for being too loud. It was worth it though. That move was so bad it was the funniest thing I have seen in months.
We went to Ellen’s grandparents after that to celebrate Ellen and Laura’s birthdays and then back to the mall to pick up the pictures and….shop some more. We stayed at Forever 21 so long they shut the store on us and the lights turned off.
Saturday we spent mostly with Ellen’s dad. We went to Panera and forced Beka to eat her first ever bagel (!!!) and then to his house to watch a Hitchcock movie, which I really liked. Then we went to the Pasta House with Laura and Ellen’s mom (so good!) before we went to the wolf howl. The wold howl was the most amazing thing in the world. I love being outside at night and being able to hear the wolves howl on top of that? I got the chills.
Sunday we spent packing and at Culvers (!!!!) with Ellen’s grandpa before we left.
So as you can see, there was a lot of eating and a lot of shopping but there was so much laughter. I couldn’t breath for half the trip I was laughing so hard. I was so incredibly welcomed and so at home there with Ellen and her mom and Laura and Beka. There was so many laughs and so much happiness and so many late night heart to hearts and so much love. I am so grateful for them all.
And all at the same time, none of it felt right without Iida. I was leaning on Ellen’s mom’s bed the last morning we were there, stuck in the corner on the ground, half awake, half asleep as I waited for Beka and Ellen to pack and–it all came back to me. Christmas was one of the hardest times for Iida to be here, to be away from her family and I wanted her to feel okay so very badly. I remember it all. And as I spent time with Beka and Ellen and her family, I watched Christmas appear. I did Christmas things like putting up lights and shopping and listening to Christmas music and none of it seemed right without Iida.
I hate the constant battle between missing and well, everything else.
But at the same time, I am so used to it, it’s just a heartbeat in the back of my mind.
Love surrounds me. It takes all the bad away.