Religion Magazine

36 Years

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard

It’s been 36 years.

36 years since we shared the same bedroom, louvred windows bringing the sounds of mountain breezes and birds indoors. Metal beds – their personalities showing only through the bed-clothes. Crowded dressers – 6 drawers each, dresser space shared with those special knickknacks that defined ‘us’.

36 years since we dated Tim and Skip, when walks to and from the small village chai shop were full of hope and longing; holding hands until the lights from an oncoming car would sever the chemistry that raced through our bodies. 36 years since Friday morning chapel and afternoon tea, trips to the town of Murree for shopping and late night conversations.

36 years since we were young and life seemed simpler, wrapped up in our third culture belonging that held us tight.

But junior year she left – and I stayed. She went back to Small Town USA and I stayed in Pakistan, experiencing all the things that senior year brought. Senior Skip Day (weekend really), Banquet, being the oldest in the small school that we called home. And finally the pinnacle of our time at Murree – Graduation with all its pomp, circumstance, speeches, musical numbers, and finally tears that included the entire missionary community.

A lot of life happens in 36 years. A lot of good and a lot of hard. But to meet my beautiful friend outside a chain restaurant in the middle of Central Massachusetts? That was a whole lot of good.

The bonds forged during those early years in Pakistan are strong like steel: hard to  bend, impossible to break. Politics, religious beliefs, lifestyles – none of that matters as you hug your friend and right there you’re back in Murree, laughing over monkey turds and gross milk, crying over stupid boys and our mandatory greenie gym uniforms, designed to be so ugly that no American or Pakistani would look twice.

We hug tight and I want to take a picture right away. The picture turns out terrible and she assures me her husband will take more later.

36 Years
36 Years

And it’s all so natural. So easy. We don’t have to explain stuff. We go straight to the ‘hard’, the easy small talk doesn’t work.

We don’t have to explain boarding school or Pakistan;plane rides or missionary parents; bazaar bargaining or why we love a part of the world that is only bad news in the media. We don’t have to search for words to describe ‘re-entry’ and ‘adjustment’; pain of the search to belong or being ‘other’. It’s all a part of our ‘tribal’ language, our shared experience.

Too soon it’s time to leave. But I’m lucky. I have her in the area for a couple more years. There will be more time. More stories. More life.

Third culture kid reunions. They are like no other. I leave full, the ride home a ride of hope and nostalgia. And I reenter my world utterly thankful for my past and rejoicing in my present. 

“I cling to the heritage I have, the people who have modeled and loved and walked beside me and the recognition that memorials are made of stone or steel or granite and real life is made of flesh and blood, tears and smiles, sorrow and joy.

I am indeed full.”from I am Full

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