When my eyes open, I see the silhouette of my reclining form on the wall – shoulder, neck and head, like the topography of a distant mountain ridge – outlined from the faint light cast by the alarm clock on the bedside table. Oh. I’m back. I’m not asleep as I was a moment ago. Not in my bed, either. I’m in my son’s bed. I recall why. He’d hadn’t wanted to be alone and had asked me to stay. A superimposed image of my dream somehow hangs in between the wall and me, and when I turn my attention to it for a final remembrance, it disappears from existence like a soap bubble. I’m really back now. The dream has plopped me down in a bed of mild nostalgia and longing. In my dream I’d been, as so often I am in my dreams, back in my hometown, back in an era in which I was young and beautiful, an era in which I was surrounded by my young and beautiful friends, an era in which life was all yet before us, as if nothing else was yet to come outside and beyond our perfect, constant now….
It’s not that I live in the past, or that I despise my current life. No, not so. As middle life goes, this is a fine chapter. I have all I need (until the heating oil runs out, but that’s just a temporary discomfort) and there’s much to do these days, much to look forward to. Yeah, and there’a a lot yet to do. A lot. Just earlier in the day Elihu and I had been thinking more closely about time, and how life changes. It became known at our party the night before, that Zac and Stephanie are expecting their fourth child, and that set in motion a new examination of things…. Of how things, right now, seeming as if they might always be thus, will truly not be; of how the landscape of our lives will change in ways we, in this current moment, can’t possibly anticipate. My son’s used to hearing the nonstop yapping that grownups are always doing about how children grow like weeds, and how they’re gone before you know it… But to stop and really internalize that, for child or adult, it really catches ones attention. So there we sat, chins resting in our hands on the kitchen island, just thinking. Imagining all nine children on the field as teenagers, twenty-somethings. Imagining the first serious relationship that Elihu would one day have. Imagining me as an old woman, Elihu, his wife and three children coming to grandma’s house for a visit… My own mother having been long gone herself…
In the silence of the kitchen we sink deeper into our visions. One of us suggests another detail, the other accepts it with a nod, or a far off answer of ‘yeah, yeah….’ and then silence follows. We two are in deep, forward-looking dreams. The Studio buzzes along somewhere in the backdrop of the scene, kids coming and going, instruments on backs, scooting down the driveway on atvs to lessons and rehearsals… Cars come and go down the long driveway, cuz there’s always something going on, someone’s always stopping by the Hillhouse to say hello… Elihu’s flying his Calypso in Crow Field, and now his own little ones are running next door to see if Ryan is home and can he come play? By then Ryan will be a young man. He won’t be little any more. It takes some committed daydreaming to make this all real, if even for a minute. And when the vision does come, it’s a bit shocking. Better that things don’t do all that changing overnight in real life.
For years Elihu has insisted to me that he will have three kids. And that he – unlike me, as he emphasized – will be ‘settled’ and ‘ready’ with all three kids on board by the ‘time he’s thirty-two’. And I tend to think he might be right. We’re very similar in many ways, my son and I, but with regard to this visualizing of the future possibilities of one’s life – he’s light years ahead of me. Hell, by my Junior year in high school I still had no idea where – or if – I’d be going to college. Yeah, I don’t tend to see much past next year. But Elihu? Apparently he spends a lot of time visualizing how it’ll all look. (Vietnam is part of that discussion too. He is adamant. He wants to live in Vietnam. I’ve heard this many, many times. !) So with the time spent visualizing our futures, we’ve also had a little experience thinking about the possible scene around my death one day. My tall, quite possibly bald and grown son will have my hand in his, and his three beautiful children – just when did these tiny ones become so big? – will all be around, some crying, one smiling gently down at me… my son’s wife will come and take my other hand, and so there we six will be, witnessing together a huge moment of personal change…. But it’s not the death thing I’m concerned with here in this visualization. Naw – I’m far more intrigued that there are four new family members I’ve yet to meet here in this intimate scene. I’ve yet to meet them, I’ve yet to get to know them, to love them, to argue or agree with them – it’s all yet before me here in December of two thousand and fourteen, and still I haven’t got a clue who they’ve yet to be! And Elihu’s future mate is out there somewhere, on this very day that we sit here dreaming… But where? Does Elihu’s future wife live somewhere nearby in upstate New York? Is she growing up right now somewhere in Europe? ….Or, just perhaps, does she live somewhere in Vietnam? It’s possible. So many scenarios are possible. Really, considering it all can make one dizzy.
You know, it sounds kinda crazy right now, but one day all the neighborhood kids will be teenagers, I tell my son. And that’s a whole different thing. And me as a grandma – me? Uh, yeah, that’s a different thing too. But it’ll all come to pass. Crazy, right? Still sitting at the kitchen table, Elihu’s face remained blank with thought before he began to smile. “Yeah, it’s amazing.” In a second my thoughts flashed to the daughter of musician friends of mine with whom I’d been in a band for years – their adorable, tiny daughter had taken my glamorous head shot and pinned it up outside in her fort in the garage. For a window in time, I was her Cinderella, I was her Queen….Now she herself is a grown and gorgeous woman with her own musical career, and it almost hurts to recall such a tender expression of that tiny girl, because that wee one is long gone now. Which is as it should be. But still….
Elihu and I are ready for this ninth new child to join the gang; we’re excited to meet him or her, come Spring. We’re dug in deep into this current chapter of our life, and we’re both enjoying every moment of it. I will remember and enjoy every chapter too, no matter how long ago in my life, because each one was a joyful, unique time which brought me its own little treasures. And I happily bring my past along with me as I march into each new chapter. Cuz as much as I’m happy to be here, I was once just as happy to be there, and it feels good to recall those memories and the feelings unique to their particular time. Most of the folks I miss from my old life can be summoned easily enough through a quick greeting by Facebook or email. And that quells the nostalgic longing. Sure, some old friends are gone now, and that sting remains – it softens to a dull ache in time – but nonetheless, the absences are part of it all too.
Ebb and flow, come and go. To everything its season. All is as it should be. There are many adventures behind us, and there are many adventures yet before us too. Mundane surprises, like the new location for next year’s garden, as well as the unexpected big ones – they’re all ahead. No doubt there’ll be those few and fearful events that catch us off guard along the way, but we just gotta be there for each other as best we can to keep the fallout to a minimum. We’re just going to have to love each other as best we can, even when we feel cranky and under-rested. We’ll need to be good neighbors and friends to each other as we all move forward into the memories that we’ve yet to make. Chapters are good for re-reading, but skipping ahead isn’t ever as satisfying. You end up missing all the details…
What will the following chapters bring? I’ve got my ideas, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. Never hurts to hold a vision for the best possible outcome, but it’s also a good idea to just make the best of whatever it is that the next chapter presents… Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and a lot of time it’s more interesting, too. I’m eager to keep reading….
Post Script: After some 514 posts I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before; last night, a good dozen edits before I was finished with this piece, I hit the ‘publish’ button instead of the ‘save’ button. I had the presence of mind to change the status of the post to private, but the damage had already been done. To my extreme horror and embarrassment, many people ended up reading a piece I deemed to be unfit and unfinished. Ich. So I have to just let it go and move on… Regardless of its polish or lack thereof, I see it’s been approved by a couple of friends with their WP icons… So thank you for that, I appreciate it. But still…