Coming Full Circle, Sort Of..

My sister and brother-in-law are in the midst of moving into their recently renovated house.  It’s been the longest labor and delivery – literally and figuratively.  And now that they have their little parcel of joy (so to speak), I hope they love and enjoy it and make it their own.  Needless to say I can’t wait to see the new addition to the family (I know that was a groaner, but I couldn’t resist).

There is a gentle irony in her move to this house.  Although we didn’t grow up there, it’s proximate to where my parents lived (they bought their house when my sister and I were already in college.  I used to say that had we moved to the suburbs before I finished high school, my graduation gift would have been way better than a Panasonic stereo).  It is where I remember them at their happiest.  And it became home – because it was where they were,  where my children crawled and toddled and ran – where so many memories were made.    My sons always reference this house when remembering their grandparents – the backyard with apple trees as bases and dad throwing pitch after pitch after pitch, looking for shells down at the dock, creating innumerable ways to take indoor soccer to new levels of hilarity.  It’s where Andy and I got married.

I can’t wait to visit my sister and yet, when I think about driving up 95 and getting on the Hutch, my eyes cloud with tears and there are no words.  No words.  Perhaps because my heart is too full.  There are some things that time doesn’t temper.  There are some moments that may  change in hue or shading, but remain the same in form and substance.

This sentimentality is heightened by another serendipitous experience.  My parents had a circle of friends (all European but for our dad)  that was arguably too close, too intimate, too ‘Mad Men’.  They were known as “The Group” – they had their children within months of each other,  summered together in the Catskills, wintered together at each other’s houses.  As their offspring, we identified with each other in so many unspoken ways.  All first generation Americans (again, dad being the exception), all growing up with a European perspective of child-rearing, all connected by an emotional cord tied by our parents.  Until it unraveled when we were young adults.

You know where this is going – Deb and three of these women have picked up that cord once more.  They had dinner together recently, and she described it as warm and loving.  They will see each other again; I’m hoping to join them.  And slowly I feel the ground shift, the angles inherent to any journey smoothing and perhaps unresolved elements coming full circle.  I find myself gravitating to these memories and holding myself back, venturing forward with some reluctance.  I need to protect the little girl who is in my care; she still has hurt along with the delight.  She’s never been very good at self-protection.

So I sit here in the silence that arrives with snowfall, recognizing the wonder in the nexus of these moments, their undeniable connection to the past and their inextricable relevance to the present.  As to the future?  It’s not mine to predict – I just know that it makes me smile, albeit with one tear.

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Crazy Little Thing Called Love

I had lunch today with a woman who was a camper of mine 35+ years ago (yeah, makes my mouth drop open too).   She ‘found’ me on Facebook,  which had a small cascading effect of other people who remembered me from my days as a camp counselor.  The exchange of memories is arguably a topic in and of itself  -  how some remember so acutely, while others remember through a murkier lens.  But to go there, is to digress dramatically from where I think I want to go (and anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a flair for tangential thought – oh look!  A chicken!)

I recognized her immediately – she is no longer a little girl, yet the features of the little girl I thoroughly loved for multiple summers remain the same.  Love.  I loved these girls for eight weeks every summer for years – from the time I was 15 through my freshman year in college (sophomore?  - I’m one of those murky lens people).   These summers informed so much of my personal and professional narrative – the good and the less-than-good.

Summer camps sell dreams for kids – and perhaps even more so for their parents.  Eight weeks out of the city, sylvan settings (outside of the bunks that is – ‘pristine’ is not the adjective that comes to mind while girls throw wet towels on the floor rushing to get enough hair dryer time before short circuiting the system) instant camaraderie, songs, playful athletic competition, instruction in gazillion sports, kids walking arm in arm in that “Laverne & Shirley” way.  To a large extent, it’s all accurate.  What isn’t mentioned is that each child – boy or girl – is entering this fantasy land already toting some of the emotional luggage they are going to carry for the rest of their lives.  And that makes the experience remarkably unique for each person as well as remarkably similar.

I was not popular with people my age.  Don’t misunderstand – I was well-known, I was ‘ok’, but I was never going to be cool enough to hang with the people in my peer group.  My saving graces included singing, being really committed to the kids and not pushing the social limits of a system I didn’t fully understand.  I’d sneak cigarettes behind the bunks with one girl, keep the secrets of a lot of people and outwardly accept that I was available at the behest of anyone who needed to talk.  As much as I loved those kids, I remember feeling pretty lonely most of the time and looked forward to being “On Duty” at night, for that way I didn’t have to go up to the canteen and realize that while people were in various stages of hooking up, I’d have no one to talk to.

There’s the backdrop – metaphorically great weather but for when the rains of adolescence pounded my skin.  And here’s the gift of the epilogue – I sat with one of my ‘campers’ who is now a peer.  I could have talked with her for hours.  She is an amazing human being, with a full and colorful life, enormous talent and an adored partner.  And her memories of me were of how much I cared, the perception she and others share that I was ‘there’ for those kids and that my presence was genuine.  She never saw my bungling and awkwardness – how could she?  Though I was convinced everyone saw my clumsy efforts at inclusion, she viewed me  through the filter of her little girl vulnerabilities and insecurities – and she felt love.  I have said before that we don’t see ourselves as others do.  What a gift it is when others see you with far kinder eyes than you could ever imagine yourself.  I think that is the beauty of ‘old love’ – it doesn’t try to impress, it doesn’t hyperventilate at the mention of a name.  Old love graces you with an air-brushed portrait of your best self.  It is comfortable with who you are, because it is so sure of who you were – and the distinction between the two are not as stark as you think.  I love L for giving me that today.  Old love – I think I’ll take it.