Tonight (which starts at 4:18 because we live in Vermont and it is almost the Soltice) is the first night of Hannukah and the beginning of our trek to Michigan for the holidays.
For a variety of reasons ($, flexibility, no really good travel alternatives) we are driving. DRIVING. Until I met Steve the longest road trip I had ever taken was 6 hours. Evidently midwesterners will drive 6 hours for a club hockey game. People from Boston, however will fly to the Cape. (12 minutes in air, 2 hours at Logan, net time door to door equal to the drive, but skipping the Bourne bridge = priceless.) So a month after our wedding Steve proposed that we drive to see his family and I actually thought he was joking.
I made it through that 18 hour trip with a laptop and many seasons of West Wing (or so it seemed). It is a great show for the driver too, b/c most of it involves exposition. I was fooled into thinking I could do this drive. That last hour we got punchy. Singing nonsense songs, spilling snacks. I had changed into PJ like travel clothes. These days I call them yoga clothes, but back then, they were threadbare stretchy things. It was almost fun. Then we pulled into his driveway.
The arrival 2003
Or would have pulled in but the driveway was full. Because his parents were having a surprise wedding party for us. SUR-PRISE.
Welcome to our house, 18 hours on the road. Punchy, and filthy. No problem. Please meet 45 of our closets friends. Whats that? thought that counts?
Recalling that drive and that arrival I want them both back.
Remember- first night of Hannukah. What did I get the boys? A DS. that’s right. ONE DS. Can any of the parents out there begin to imagine what I have done?
Here was my thinking at the time:
- These things are more expensive than I expected.
- We already have an ipad which they share
- Now we will have an ipad and a ds, both lovely portable devices, if they can work out the ipad it will be even easier for them to work out the ipad AND the DS
- Two just feels like one (or two) too many.
The arrival 2012
Will not have a party.
Vera (Steve’s mom) will greet us alone for the first time.
She has waited for us to put up the tree, so we will do that together. I’ve never put together an artificial tree, being Jewish and from a state with real firs tempting you from every gas station, and town green I went from no tree to chari-tree, selecting which local organization should receive their portion of our $35 dollars.
I’m trying to imagine how the house will look and sound with just her in it. Has she gotten used to it yet? What will it feel like for Steve? I remember heading to our cape house 4 months after my dad’s death feeling very excited. After taking a quick lap through the house I felt compressed. Physically as if I couldn’t breathe or stand. I realized that my subconscious had explained my dad’s absence by putting him at the cape house. I had expected to find him there, wearing crazy specs, using his dremmel on driftwood, sculpting it into a rock formation while listening to sports talk. But he was really gone.
Will it be like that for Steve? Do we all do that? Steve saw his dad take his last breathe. Does that keep your mind from creating stories about having them live on, in real contexts, just out of your normal life? Or is that a protective mechanism that we all have. Maybe Steve’s mom imagines mowing some impossibly infinite golf green, unable to come home until the job is done. Eager to help her put up the tree.
I’m not sure I would really trade drives. That West Wing drive went quickly, but by missing the bickering I would be missing the boys. I’m pretty sure we can’t trade arrivals. We will bring the party. Little boys, wrapped gifts, wine and coffee, crooked kid art, and open ears to revisit the other years.