Late afternoon on a Friday, I take a winter road trip north, nearly to Canada, along Route 14 so rutted with frost heaves my little Toyota bounces. The pavement and passing cars are bleached with road salt — rust, pernicious rust, I keep thinking, apprising the mortality of my vehicle.
My daughter and I return in the dark from her concert. It’s 8:30 pm, but might as well be midnight. No one’s on the road but a tractor with blinking lights before a barn. This is farming country. The few gas stations and general stores in the small towns we pass through have all snapped off their lights, shut up, gone home.
Even in the dark, this highway is familiar, although we rarely drive this way anymore. In the dark car, eating crackers, we swap stories. My daughter tells me about the high school she just visited and its long locker room. I point out the state’s largest landfill. Whoo-hoo, my daughter says. A claim to fame. We pass a farm where she once believed Santa’s reindeer lived. I was so sure of that! She tells me about a tiny turtle on Lake Memphramagog I’d forgotten. She repeats the story with precise details; in a flash, I remember that brilliant April morning, the black and white checked dress she wore and loved.
Listening to her, at age 13, I hear her imagining a different life. What would it be like to live here? I think of her as so young, but I’m wholly wrong. Her stories keep flowing. Along this road we hardly ever travel, she has a whole history already, a detailed map of her past.
What an age 13 is: so full of wonder, of mystery: which direction will I steer my life?
To move, stay put, say the Buddhists. To see, stop looking. Don’t imagine paradise in the sky. Make paradise in the kitchen.
— Kate Inglis, A Field Guide to Grief: Notes for the Everlost