This past weekend I attended the ILA Conference in St. Louis. On Sunday evening, eight of us decided to celebrate our last night at the conference by taking in the sights at the Missouri Botanical Garden. They were having a special Chinese Lantern Festival, and the word on the street was that it was spectacular. So even though there was the threat of a thunderstorm, we took the chance that the rain would hold off until later.
Our group arrived in time to see the Chinese Acrobatic Troupe who amazed us with feats of strength and mystery. Afterward, just as the lantern displays were lit, we wandered down paths lined with phlox and zinnias that winked at us from behind clusters of ornamental elephant grass. The larger-than-life lantern displays of silk and steel were truly amazing! At first, the intermittent drops of rain that fell were not enough to intrude on our wonder and quiet conversations. But within a few minutes, the rain became a steady downpour. We were caught. And, by the time we reached a temporary shelter under a small tent, we were soaked.
The truly amazing thing was that none of us wanted to abandon our initial plans to share an evening together. So, we found our way to three different hotels through sheets of pouring rain with the help of navigator Mike (who happened to have a car), and trusty Abdul, our cab driver who answered the call. Within a short time we were together again for a late night dinner, perhaps a little disheveled, but at least dry.
For the next few hours we ate and drank and laughed. We talked about an upcoming family wedding, hiking and biking experiences, spiritual beliefs, skiing adventures, and personal and professional plans. The stories we shared soaked into our hearts and minds like the rain soaking into our skin.
Friends…good friends…and a shared memory we will have forever.