The past is another country

And old blog from many months ago…

-May 16 –

The plague has hit our house in full force these last two weeks, but somehow, somewhere between Matt not being able to get off the couch for three days, and Em and O spewing their innards out of every orifice, we managed to have one well day to head to the beach. We had been invited weeks earlier by our friends, to bless the birth of their fourth child – seaside. When we made the plans, I thought we would make a weekend of it – stay overnight at Matty’s dad’s or somewhere on the North Shore to make the travel worth it, but when the time came, Matt was sick, and I had agreed to work the night before we left. That night, after work, the last thing I felt like doing was driving all the way across the state and back in one day. I wanted to have the day to clean my house, and get some things done. But our friends chose us to be there to help usher this new being down to earth safely with our well wishes, and I knew I was going – with or without my incapacitated husband.

And then we woke up to sun shining into our lives – literally and figuratively. Matt was feeling great in the morning, and for some reason packing two kids up for a day at the beach seemed a lot easier than it usually does. And then we were out, on the open road, with sun shining through the windows, and the radio on.

One thing I am blessed with is children who love road-trips as much as me. We don’t have whiners, and we don’t have DVDs. We sometimes play road games if we’re on a long trip, but on this trip, like many others, Emerson just sits back and listens to music. (And Matt and I get an uninterrupted period of time to talk – we’ve made a lot of momentous decisions and plans in the car) Right now, Emerson is bonkers about the Beatles – namely their greatest hits album (the red one – 1962-66 I think) so that dominated our ride. (As it dominates our life right now – she’ll sing sentences to the tune of Paperback Writer, or Nowhere Man). The resurrection of great albums is one of the many good things about having children, in my mind. I remember listening to that same album when I was a child, a little older than Emerson, having no idea what the lyrics meant, but loving it all the same. And although I had moved on to more “mature” Beatles music by junior high, and had discarded them altogether by high school, there was one song I was always partial to, and I was glad to be able to play it a few times during the ride.

There are places I remember,
All my life, though some have changed.
Some forever not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments,
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life, I’ve loved them all.

As we drove towards Gloucester, I was taken backwards not only by the memories of the songs, but by the visual memories of the North Shore area itself. I’d lived there for six months after I graduated college, which seems like such a short time on paper, but feels like a long journey in the archives of my mind. As we drove east, I was flooded by recollections: friends, lovers, work, drinking, drugs, boats, fishing, fried clams, dollar draughts, laughing, swimming, sand, sea. That time in my life was so full of the paradoxes of being in my early twenties. The dirty beauty and the pure beauty. The fun of being around tons of crazy, debaucherous friends, and the experience of living by myself for the first time in my life. Of being able to drive up the shore if I needed reflection. Of being able to jump in the freezing ocean in the morning on my way to work, after a long night out, and wash my sins away. It was such a great, fun, FULL time in my life. Like so many times I can think of, and as I drove along, listening to the Beatles, I felt so lucky to have had these moments, these places, these friends and lovers. And I did love them all.

I hadn’t written down directions to get to the beach in Gloucester because I’d been there so many times before, and I was sure I’d remember it. And sure enough, although we were the lead in our three car caravan, we were the last to arrive, thanks to a few too many wrong turns. Nothing looked the same after more than a decade. The beach didn’t even look the same. It’s funny what the mind can recreate. But there was my present life waiting for me, and I was happy to have arrived.
There’s Lynn, looking beautiful with that belly on the beach. (And behind her is the beach house we sat on the shore and coveted…)

We got down to business right away, digging a hole to place some candles in,

setting up flowers, tuning guitars,
The birth blessing was beautiful. Very simple and honest. Nancy said a few words and sang a song,
(I know she thought I was laughing at her singing voice, but really I was laughing at the two ladies in bathing suits, pumped full of high fructose corn syrup, walking past us)

Walter sang “You Are My Sunshine,” because it’s his favorite song, and Arden read a poem and did some singing too.
Afterward, we each lit a candle while saying our personal blessing for the baby’s passage into the world. We put all the candles in the middle, and each cut off a piece of one long cord to wear as a bracelet until the baby is born. The baby is tied to all of us now, and we are all giving him or her energy and strength on the way to earth. (Someone recently asked me if it was a Kabbalah bracelet…)

So yeah, for a little while, we were the weird hippie people on the beach. Those people that my former self would have walked by and thought “what the hell are they doing?” And it was awesome, and beautiful, and I felt so lucky to be there.
I tried really hard to get a photo of the entire family, but it was tricky considering Claire was on my lap. Here’s her hat.

Here she is in her entirety. And then the beach blessing was over, and we spent the rest of that day hanging out at the beach, (Emerson in her underwear because it’s MAY – I packed long underwear and sweatshirts in case it was too cold and windy, not swimsuits in case we decided to swim) much like I would have hung out at the beach back in the day, but better. Better because I’m older and I know more. Better because I’ve added more layers to the memories that have come before. Better because I know myself, and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Better because I have woven these people to the tapestry of my life. Better because it’s now and not then. Just better.

Someone said it once, and I firmly believe that it’s true. The past really IS another country – this Gloucester, through changes not only in myself, but also in the people who live here, or don’t, who come and go and change themselves, through houses that go up and down, through the people who move in and out, through the tides that push and pull on the earth, changing the rocks and sand. This Gloucester is a new place, in a way that every place is a new place after you have been gone for many years. This Gloucester is not the one of my past – that is only a memory in my mind, a memory that is a part of me, and that I love, but not as much as I love the here and now.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection,
For people and things that went before.
I know I’ll often stop and think about them,
In my life, I love you more.

(And please slap me if you hear these words come out of my mouth ever again “The beach is such a long way for a day trip, and I have things I could do around the house…”)

And as a post-note, baby William was born on June 20 – Father’s Day – and I was lucky enough to be there for the birth!


One thought on “The past is another country

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s