Right before the pandemic shut down the world two years ago, I drove with my youngest daughter to the New Hampshire village when I had spent ten years of my childhood. My family no longer lives there. An old high school flame had contacted me around that time, and I was half-thinking I might look him up some day. My daughter and I parked at the end of the street where I had walked with my siblings countless times, and then past the house where we lived and into the library when I had spent so many hours, dreaming of my life to come.
In a strange, almost sepia-toned kind of way, I felt I had been able to step into that past and see again the sweetness of it — something that seems so often lost in memory.
There’s that famous line from Tom Wolfe that you can’t ever go home again, but these days I’m wondering if that’s because you can’t ever really leave your home. I read that novel in high school, in that beloved library, a great big novel that I devoured with such enthusiasm.
Twenty-five years ago, a young woman driving a Subaru Justy ran into my VW Rabbit in a sudden snow squall, just like the one above. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and somehow miraculously survived wholly intact. The young woman sat in her car, crying, in the middle of the highway, and I stood outside her car, begging her to get out. “I’ve killed you,” she wept. I kept insisting I was fine. I was wearing a blue sweater my mother had knit me, and I spread my arms out wide. “I’m alive.”
Her insurance company gave me three thousand dollars, which my husband and I used to start a sugaring business. Much later, I sold pieces of that business and bought a house in the village. I’m still carrying that squall and that woman with me. I never saw her again. I hope she’s well.