Even though Maria and I packed lightly for our train ride to Oregon, there were two items we made room for... a pillow from her bed, and a comforting, crocheted blanket from mine. I am glad we carried them. The train is kept cold, and in strange places, resting your head on a familiar pillow is reassuring, good.
It was reassuring and good, too, to be in my mother's home, surrounded by familiar things, family faces, tokens of a life I knew. 'Things' don't matter, or so we are told. But sometimes I am reminded that things can, at least, recall stories, people, moments, parts of our past that may have slipped our memories. And so it is that books and pictures, pieces of jewelry, or a vase, a painting, or shelf, bring me to my past, to the family I grew up with, to stories we told often, to ideas we kept between us, threads that we wove and made us, that family I knew.
I miss that family. We are so far away. I never imagined a time when my own children, wouldn't know their cousins, their uncles and aunts, when only visits would give them an inkling, small, brief glimpses of the world I once lived in.
Life holds surprises, change, shifts. All that grown-up, reality stuff, still catches me off guard. Oregon is a new chapter, like others. And the distances between us, my mother, my grandmother, aunts, uncles, siblings... that catches me off guard, too. Growing up, even when we began to move in different directions, I thought I knew where our stories might lead, I believed I could read the foreshadowing, but I could not. I believed that we would stay familiar, close. More has changed than I ever knew could, more than I can understand, now.
Some things make remembering bittersweet. I miss that family.
This life is good, and I marvel at the blessings I enjoy, things I could not have imagined enjoying, but I admit I no longer imagine that I can predict, or trust, what's coming, and I feel far less certain of what the future holds. It makes me almost afraid to hope, to believe. It makes me cherish the moment. Life holds surprises, good and bad, changes and shifts, all manner of grown-up, reality stuff. If my own children read these words, I hope it makes them cherish the here and now. I hope it doesn't make them feel anxious, the way I do.
I like who I am when I am traveling... it feels like the only time when I can manage my life. We pack the essentials, and I can keep it all in order, tidy, presentable. I have to. There is a schedule, and there is an expectation of seeing and doing new things, of surprises. I rehearse, in my mind, for setbacks, delays, lost items, and I face them, well. I like feeling prepared and resourceful. I like carrying my essentials, on my back, or in my car. I like being able to let go, or take on more, as needed. I like the views, the newness, the familiar, too. I could travel the 1, the 101, and the 5, over and over again, because some roads, some places, have become to me like visiting a family home, like being in touch with threads that made me. Beyond the well known paths, I can rise, and adapt; the challenge is invigorating, it helps me grow. If my own children read these words, I hope they will recall all of our travels, all of the small and great trips we have made together, I hope that they will feel that they learned from me something of resourcefulness, and growing. I hope it makes them feel capable, curious, connected, the way I have felt.
Aunt Becky, Grandma Jones... dear, familiar women. I am so glad Maria and I made it to Oregon, again, to see them, and Ron, and Delia, and Debbie. I am so glad we have the resources, and made the time. This is a good life, and I love these moments.
It was a real pleasure to water the garden, to watch some of the Olympics, to look for flashlights when the power when out... I like home things, everyday moments, with family, or friends. With loved ones.
When we rode home together on the train, we slept on the same bottom bunk, together under the crocheted blanket from home, and we carried new memories, and moments, more connections, those threads we weave to make us part of something more than ourselves. It was comforting, and good.