I’m back, firmly ensconced in my cottage in the hills after a week downstate. (I never thought I’d ever get to use a term like ‘downstate’, though I’m sorry to say that last week when I told people I’d have to go there I got nods and grave little smiles, as if I’d told them I was about to undergo some medical test that marked my passage into middle age.)
While I had a good time, it was a strange week. Monday morning found me driving to work along the highway I rode when I was single, living at home with my mom. Route 295 is a yard sale of memories for me; 11A, the exit for my high school. Exit 10, the overpass under which I experienced my first kiss from a boy with so much metal in his mouth he’d never pass the rigors of Post 9-11 airport security. Exit 4, where my sister’s last boyfriend lived and where I once sang ‘Chain of Fools’ before a garage full of appreciative bikers. By the time I reached the Delaware Memorial Bridge I’d had a good 20 miles worth of dwelling on various triumphs and indelicacies of my youth and I was actually glad to be heading into Delaware.
Something about going home makes me stare uneasily at my own reflection. When did I get this old? Suddenly the life checklist starts to tick off in my mind. Are there things I ‘should have done’ by now? I fumble over accomplishments like someone searching in multiple pockets for their keys and wallet. Oh, yes, that’s there. And I have this. Okay. I’m okay. Time seems to impose its obligations much more sharply when I look back at the miles already traveled.
I’m back in my own house now, my Christmas tree is up, and I’m looking forward to this week’s snow storm with indifference since the shuffle from my bedroom to my office does not require a plow. Even my tree is a small museum of memories, ornaments from childhood to “Our First Christmas” adorn this small tree that lists slightly to starboard. What has been and will be sways gently, reflecting soft white light. I remember that for all our fuss and worry our lives unfold, and new chapters begin, not one moment too soon or too late. Every moment we spend straining to see into the future we rob from the present. There is no restitution for such a theft.
Here’s to a season of love and wonder in the present.