I grew up in that swing state.
This past weekend was a historic moment for several reasons. My college roommate, friend of 18 years, got married. She happens to be from Remlap, Alabama. This was a state I had not previously visited. She, however, has made countless trips back and forth over the last 8 years to see me and our growing family.
“When you get married,” I said to her years ago, “I’ll come to Alabama.”
Cue July 11, 2015.
The day was hot, reminiscent of the desert where we normally live, upwards of 100 degrees. The bride was beautiful, her skin like alabaster.
And I was the only non-white person in attendance. I had mentally prepared for this possibility. The reality of the sea of white faces reminded me of the seven other weddings I had been in. My Indian features stood out each time I stood up for my friends across various churches in North Carolina.
“I am the brownest thing here,” I said to the wedding coordinator.
She surprised me by sharing the story of her sister’s adoption of a bi-racial boy.
“When I go into stores with him, I can see people see me differently,” she said in that southern drawl I found enchanting. “It makes me sad.”
In the age of police abuse and debates about the legacy of southern states, this small conversation helped frame for me that the only way around these divisions is through our relationships with one another.
Have you had any uncomfortable encounters?
We bumped down the road, a friend’s custom designed home receding in the background, and I said: “I can’t find my phone.”
On the first Friday of the new year, we were on a road trip, racing back through North Carolina to dinner with another set of friends in Virginia.
In the last three weeks there had been a 14 hour flight home for Christmas, a jaunt into Rhode Island for New Year’s, and two book events.
Did I mention two children under the age of 5 were in tow?
The tail lights of my friend’s car were receding through the country lanes, guiding us to I-85.
“Tell them!” My husband, in the height of playoff season, glued to his screen, said in alarm. “This is crazy. What will do you without your phone?”
“They’ll mail it to me,” I said. A zen-like calm descended on me. He didn’t have their number, so we had no way of contacting them, even as our cars sped apart on the highway.
I have been phone free for a week and three days to the amazement of friends and colleagues.
“How are you coping?” A friend asked at the party. Her raised eyebrows signaled that I spent more time on phone while around other people than perhaps talking to them.
“I feel great!” I said. I wasn’t lying. No more reaching for the device in the middle of the night, even at 4am when the kiddos were up with jet lag. Instead I spent an hour practicing mindfulness.
Rather than ruminating on email messages or scrolling through Facebook, my mind was like a wind tunnel.
“What about the kids?” A mommy friend asked.
“I told the nursery to call his father.” And it felt great to share the responsibility.
“How can I reach you?” A friend posted on Facebook.
“Old school,” I replied. “Email me.”
This bubble can’t last. The semester is picking up and life will become increasingly hectic. There may be car accidents and spikes in fever, emergency requests for information, or bank SMS that need replies.
So I ordered a new phone, saying a farewell to the other one, wherever s/he may be: crammed in the corner of the rental car? Under the carpet in the glass paneled living room?
Next time, I’ll be sure to turn on the Find My Phone app while the battery is still on. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the chance to order a new phone.
And to prove to my friends and family that I am not glued to my screen.