Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pilgrim Place: hijackings, history . . .

[written March 14th; looked at again March 15th and sent out almost as is with just a couple more lines at the bottom, plus this.]

And where am I now? At Pilgrim Place, in Claremont, California, about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Last night I had supper with a friend of my parents' who was in the world's first hijacking, from Greece to Yugoslavia, in 1947. I've known Lois here for years, and we've hung out in the pool, and had meals together, and talked about things, but the hijacking story was news to me. 

Pilgrim Place, aside from being the place where my parents have lived since 1998, is a "senior community for those serving in religious or charitable organizations." A lot of the people here were Christian missionaries in other countries, as my parents were. Others were pastors in the U.S., or seminary professors, or worked in religious education. One friend of my parents was a lifelong executive for the YWCA; another resident here worked at Pilgrim Place itself and then retired here. I think there are about 350 people who live here; 8 of them, including my parents, were American Baptist missionaries in Congo / Zaire, which means that they have known me, and I have known them, all my life. 

Everybody in the whole community, which includes stand-alone houses and apartments as well as assisted-living apartments and a nursing home, eats their noon meal communally; those who live in the assisted-living apartments, which has included my parents for the last 14 months or so, also have an additional meal together. 

So at dinner yesterday (the bigger noon meal) we sat with Uncle Phil and Aunt Virginia and Bob and Anelise. None of these people are my biological aunts and uncles but they were the family we knew best growing up; somehow I've graduated myself to leaving off the "Aunt" and "Uncle" with Bob and Anelise and even sometimes with Virginia (used to be known as "Aunt Ginny Nick") and Phil. But they're family still, anyway. Aunt Virginia retold me a story yesterday she's told me before but I never mind hearing again, about how, at the age of three months, I would be perched on my father's shoulder facing backwards at morning chapel at Vanga (a mission station in Congo, where Virginia was a nurse and my parents were teachers then) and beam at the people behind my father's back. 

Uncle Phil and his family (Aunt Rose, who died here at Pilgrim Place eleven years ago; and Kristi, their youngest daughter [the others were out of the house]) lived on the mission compound with us in Kinshasa for a number of years; I inherited lots of Kristi's clothes but she was a lot svelter than I was and I remember wearing her very cool purple hiphugger bellbottoms but feeling the pinch horribly at my waist. When I was in 8th grade, they all lived upstairs from us in the same house; we'd have waffle suppers and Scrabble games together, and Uncle Phil and Aunt Rose would tease my parents for being teetotalers, and Kristi would think it was cool that Ruthy and I got to wash dishes on the weekends. And then they moved away to Haiti and we got Santa, their beautifully behaved and loving tan dog who was ancient and had belonged to at least eight families already.

(Uncle) Bob and Uncle Phil each had missionary parents of their own and grew up in Congo themselves. Anelise was a missionary to Japan before she married Bob and came to live and work in Congo instead.

[I wrote all the above yesterday and meant to keep going - but there's too much to write if I try to be that encyclopedic - I'll send this off and do a today's post a little more episodically.]

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