We have returned to Vermont and I have caught a bad case of nostalgia.
My symptoms are obvious. I walk around sighing deeply my phone at the ready to capture images of things I remember. Something is wrong with my vision because I only see in sepia tones. As my son eats his creemee I see him in triplicate. He is a toddler and a young child and here his is now, on the same bench under the same tree with the same country store behind him. He is even giving the same sigh of pleasure as he makes the maple mustache that he never seems to see.
As I type these words I feel that I have written them before. Perhaps even at this table in the corner. Likely at this coffee shop. Certainly in this town.
After dropping Leo off at the field house for soccer camp just as I did four years ago I walk the few blocks to the village center. As I go I want to head down the lane to the carriage house that used to be my office but I pass by, worried about trespassing. It is part of a larger sense of no longer belonging. The sign in the town green says “you are here” but I read it “you were here.” I am a visitor in my own life.
Finally I reach the worn stairs and see the same lovely young mom that I passed each morning many years ago. Now she has three kids but the young ones are echoes of the first born I knew when I lived here. I ask her what she has planned for the day and she tells me “play group and nap.” Her present is my past. There is no more playgroup. There are too few naps. I wonder if the nostalgia I feel is for this place or for the family we were when we live here year-round.
A few weeks ago we were eating lunch in Burlington at Flatbread continuing our tradition of Flatbread Fridays. We are friends of this restaurant, Steve has brewed beer here and the boys know the menu (or their small slice of it) by heart. They sit, like always, in a table in the closed section of the bar with a backdrop of City Hall Park through the picture windows. They are silhouettes in the sun my sons. I see the lemonades in tall glasses that they are now old enough to order from the bar and say please and thank you without prompting. They carry them with confidence to the table and I wouldn’t give it a thought except that I remember the times when this would not have been possible. I am not the only one remembering. Leo asks if they can slide down the stair rail at City Hall “for old times sake” and I wonder if he has caught my case of nostalgia.
When I pick up Leo up from soccer camp I ask him how it went. His eyes are bright “I rescued a frog” he trills. “I knew just how to save him. I put him back in the pond that we went to in Kindergarten.” He goes on “I wonder if it is the same frog?” “Was he sort of brownish, faded around the edges, and did the theme from Wonder Years play when you held him?” I asked. Leo writes off my wistful description with ab arched eyebrow and we drove away, stuck at the same traffic light as always, thinking about frogs and photo filters.
The next day I know Oliver is also suffering. We are at the playground at their old school and the stories are coming quickly. “This is where I fell and hurt my knee, this is where I ran the jog-a-thon, this is where my friends knew how to push me just high enough on the tire swing.” But this last one is not true. The playground is new. There is no tire swing. I try to read his face but it is neutral. Leo has bumped into friends and they are off playing soccer in the field, everyone exclaiming over his short hair. Oliver, now 12, is climbing around the playground alone. He has almost outgrown it. His body is broad and strong. He is in a new setting and for now I see him just as he is. A boy who holds my hand and still also offers the advice of a much older soul.
He walks towards me slowly where I sit on the picnic table which dates back to our years here.
“I am not sure if it is nostalgia” he tells me. “But I don’t like this playground as much as the old one.”
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