Friends Like Apples


 I didn't think it would be a piece of cake or a walk in the park or a walk in a cake to move to Scotland and back again but I was hoping that returning home would feel more triumphant.  I don't remember now what I was expecting when we decided to up and move here to Aberdeen for Adam to continue school.  I know I wanted to come here.  I know I knew it would be magical.  I didn't know what friends I would make.  Nothing had prepared me to be sitting around at a BBQ and look up and see faces that I love surrounding us--not just one or two people that we kind of got to know but a whole family of familiar and loving faces that would come and take us to the hospital in the middle of the night or pick us up at the airport or make us meals if we needed them.
     As I sit here writing about returning to my "real life" in California, I have trouble swallowing a little bit as I think of this family that we'll be leaving.  Somehow I know that I won't find this again.  Sure, I'll have friends.  Sure, I'll have family and kindred spirits and people who like the things I like and love the things I love.  I just won't have these people.  And this is why leaving Scotland will be very hard.

Theologians at play

Everyone singing Happy Birthday to Calvin

Walking on the wall of Tantallon Castle on the cliffs of the Firth of Forth

I love castles.  My family loves castles.  We have been to over sixty castles here in Scotland and we've  been to at least a dozen of those five or six times each.  We love exploring and learning about the deep green and grey history of this rugged land.  I've been to places I know I could live in if it weren't for parents and siblings and loved ones beckoning us home from across the globe.  I've climbed to the tops of towers (calling in a panicked voice to my children to hold someone's hand and go slow), crept into caves and dungeons, and taken boats across rivers and lakes to get to castles, but the thing that I feel as I visit each one for the last time is: these will be here forever and my friends will move on.  I can love a castle and leave it, knowing that it will be there in the rain and the mist for others to find, patiently waiting out the centuries and enduring the turbulent weather and pitter patter of tourist feet as they sit solemnly looking out across their familiar hills.  We are the first to leave of our year. We are the first to turn our faces to another place and a new time.  It hurts because I can look back and see everyone still at a barbeque, still going to study in castles, still meeting at parks in the afternoon sunshine, and I will be on the other side of the planet waiting for the next part of life to move forward.

Me in the middle of Elgin Cathedral

Mercy walking down to Fraser Castle

Calvin walking away from Glamis Castle

Adam and Mercy looking up at what I think is Balvenie Castle

Calvin and Adam looking out over the Scottish countryside next to Auchindoun Castle

I suppose this is made larger in my mind because we are unsure of the next steps at home.  Adam will still have another year to finish his PhD and we will be homeless, insurance-less, and hoping for a future that feels more settled.  I wish I could tell everyone here that California is where they should be but the reality is that everyone will be spread out across the country at the very least. I am entertaining ideas of meeting up with good friends and hope that that can become a reality instead of a faint idea that fades in the face of "real life".

Shall I forget you Scotland? I do not think I can.  You will fade into a story that I tell to those who will listen but I cannot forget you.  You have shaped my life for a few years and I am grateful for it.

I can still remember the day we landed.  I was covered in sweat because Mercy had slept on me for most of the plane ride, I was dirty, and I was tired.  Our new home was unfamiliar and cold and all the switches and plugs and no television or phone made it a lonely island that I wasn't thrilled about.  Something helped, though.  Or rather, someone helped.  The keys to open the front door arrived in the hands of a pretty girl with a cheerful smile and a bubbling personality.  Emily Malone not only found us a place we could call home, she helped make it homey.  There was food in the refrigerator when we arrived and the heaters had been turned on.  I know I didn't make a good first impression as I stood forlornly in the hall trying to smile and not cry but she knows now that I consider her our first blessing in Scotland and a dear friend and so for that day I am forgiven my coldness, which was really all the tired and sad I could muster. 
   Our second and third days got a little better.  A girl knocked on our door and said that Adam had sent her up to me.  She had also just arrived with her family and they were staying at the bed and breakfast down the street.  Christy Sumner was my second friend in this new place.  Adam and I quickly learned that they had been searching for a flat and hadn't found one and their time had run out at the bed and breakfast. My husband and I looked at each other and almost fell over ourselves in asking them to come and stay with us until they found something.  We welcomed the company and the solidarity and even though they had to sleep on the floors and couches, we all seemed happy to be able to figure things out together.  I can still remember Christy and I standing in my kitchen, trying to figure out how the oven worked.  It was pretty funny trying switches and wondering if we were doing things right or about to set the house on fire.  Needless to say as a set of first memories, these were some of the loveliest I could ask for.  Here's the first two friends I met in Scotland with me: we're holding down the branch while the others pick.




I won't start reciting all first encounters nor best and worst memories in this post, but I will say that there was a moment when Christy and Emily and I were laughing hysterically while trying to get the apples off Emily's apple tree in the back yard still stands out as one of my favorite memories of Scotland.  Who could ask for these friends like apples, their love and help so numerous it weighs the boughs of the trees till they touch the ground?

Moms at the park: Emily, Joy, Christy, Angie, and Bethany

Bethany and her youngest Ian 

I think it's hilarious that Emily could spot Bethany across the street and just ask her if she was American and get to know her from walking up to her.  I love seeing Abel's enthusiasm and Ian's cuteness and just enjoying Bethany's company and seeing her and her husband Aaron at any crazy AWF events we muster up.  She is one of those people you hope you can be friends with because they are the kind of people you wish you were all the time--someone with a great deal of grace and love who is smart and unpretentious.  Thank you Lord for a friend such as this.

It's hard to feel you've gotten to know Angie right away because she is surrounded by a sea of boys and when I first met her, two in that sea were her twin little dudes who were still quite babies.  However, after we moved closer to the school her eldest and second sons Elijah and Brady respectively became my son's closest friends.  They play together at least three times a week at each others houses.  I love that they speak with accents though my son is very Californian and Angie's brood is from Canada.  I'm so glad we moved closer to the school.  I have enjoyed becoming friends with Angie and her family and I wistfully wish that they were considering moving to the US somewhere so that perhaps our families could stay in touch.
Melissa and her cutie pies Jamie and Callie are pictured above at our Easter egg hunt with Angie and her twins.  We have loved getting to know the Stratis clan better and hanging out when we can.  Melissa is another good friend I have enjoyed getting to know here in Aberdeen.

I have made many other friends here that I love for so many different reasons and I will miss them so dearly that there is a little ache in my heart that will not leave no matter what I put before it to confuse it and pretend that I am not going away in a week.  Thank you especially to the ladies of the AWF (Aberdeen Women's Fellowship) for your love, company, delicious goodies, and friendship.  I'm going to get in trouble (of the long-winded variety) if I go on reciting friends and moments I've spent with special girls whom I'll be sorry to leave.  I'll leave with a few pictures of friends and places I've come to regard as home here and hope that I'll be forgiven writing blurbs about everyone and everything.  Needless to say I want to send a special thank you to Melissa, Joy, Jenna, Shalle, Kate, Katrina, Sharon, Stephanie, Meg, Leah, Joyce, and Rachel Ann (and anyone I've left out on accident) for lovely Scottish moments.

Joy, Angie, and Katrina

Christy and Emily

me, Jenna, Rachel Ann, and Joyce

Shalle and Bethany
Some of our little 'uns eating lunch at the train park:
Joshua, Abigail, Augustine, Matty and Jesse

Mercy and Rebekah on our back step in their dress up clothes

Halloween 2010 Adults: Bethany, Christy, me, and Emily
Kids: Abel, Abigail, Joshua, Mercy, Rebekah, and Luke

Melissa with Jamie and Callie

Monica, Joy, Angela, Christy, Chelsea, Jenna, and Melissa

Mercy with Meg

Joe holding Ewan while he and Emily laugh though Rebekah seems concerned

Christy, Emily, Darren (costume excellence) and Bethany as we head out to trick or treat

Christy, her kiddos, and Mercy as we trudge to school 

Ben, Elijah, Brady, Calvin, and James on Calvin's birthday this year 2011

Getting ready for our Easter egg Hunt in front of King's College this year 2011

Adam, Calvin, and Mercy wandering in Fraser Castle's courtyard

Here are the kids waiting patiently for a turn at wiffle ball on Easter

King's College where Adam studies

Well, I suppose for more pictures you could go to our facebook page Follow The Nighs and check out our Scottish adventures.  So now all that's left is to say goodbye to friends here that I will make sure I see again.  Thank you for making our time in Scotland better than I could ever have expected.  
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening rest and sleep to meet.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
This seemed appropriate here.


Miss Mommy said...

Good grief, Rachel. I already told you I was having a hard day....and now I know why- we are within a week of your departure and it sucks. I love you madly and will miss you terribly. It will not be the same without you and your family. I am so glad you're going back to a wonderful family who loves you and appreciates you, or this could be really, really hard.

Adam Nigh said...

(sniff) Beautiful (sniff).

Kate said...

You've put to words what I could not when I moved back. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Scotland and our friends there. Praise the Lord for the telephone and Skype video chatting. :)

Becky said...

Hi Rachel,
You don't really know me, but I stumbled on your post via Kate Ellis posting this on FB. My family lived in Scotland before you all arrived and we were the original renters in the Malone's house. Even having been back nearly 3 years, your words renewed the ache that blessedly has dulled with time. The experience that you had and that so many others have had before is unlike anything. It is life-altering, character shaping. We are forever changed, and for that I am eternally grateful. Your words about your first couple of days bring back such vivid memories of those overwhelming, vulnerable first weeks. It is such an intense and beautiful experience from start to finish. I wish you and your family all the best and God's grace as you settle back.
Kind regards,
Becky Holloway

SteveC said...

Very good Rachel. It's part of the ache of the world that we always seem to be saying goodbye. But the promise is, there will come a time when we will never say goodbye again.

Christy said...

Beautiful! The kids are wondering why I'm crying... You and your family have been an amazing and unexpected blessing in our lives here, and we are forever grateful. Thank you for opening up your home (on that second day in Scotland when I showed up on your doorstep) and your lives to us (every day these last two years). I have been encouraged, challenged and ever changed by your friendship. Thank you. You will be desperately missed!

Christy said...

oh wait... "challenged" in our friendship sounds terrible... by that, really meant "inspired to grow." I love you!

R. Nigh said...

I am "challenging" hee. I know what you meant you lovely girl! Thanks all for the kind responses. I appreciate your feedback as well Becky. I know others have gone before and will come after and I think even that is part of the sadness. Dad, I think of Reepicheep bowing at the front of Aslan's country and even though I cry every time at that page, I do love knowing it's there. Thanks again for reading our blog. I'll try to keep it up in the future.

SteveC said...

I'll follow the Nighs all over the world--but I hope I won't have to. I agree about Reepicheep, esp because of how his eyes were shining when he took that boat over the wave

Jon Coutts said...

well done. sad to see you go.

Rachel Owens said...

Wow. I agree with Kate. I think it was exactly one year ago tonight that you guys hosted our goodbye BBQ. And while we were ready to leave, my heart continues to be full with the goodness that was our time and friends in Aberdeen. You are as graceful with words as you are with paint and other such artistic tools. Thanks for sharing your heart and memories.

Anonymous said...

Love the LOTR photo. Wish I could have been there to at least be one of the hobbits

Bobby Grow said...

Well said, Rachel! Leaving friends is no fun . . . I'll be praying your transition is smooth. I'm sure the Lord has exciting things in store for your family. Jeremiah 29:11

Justin said...

Nice job with the sharing of the memories.

Joy said...

will miss you Rachel, I still can hardly come to grips with the fact that you are leaving. we will have to keep in touch for sure.

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