Roaming

Hard up for reading material, I get my 15-year-old to drive to Craftsbury, where I raid the free book pile on the porch.

In this village, we see no one, not a single human soul, only two geese flying overhead. It’s late Saturday afternoon, and she keeps driving on the dirt roads, heading by the Outdoor Center where I worked many years ago, and then by the summer camp where she spent happy summer weeks.

The road crests by the old farmhouse where our friends lived for years, and where we spent so many happy hours. She slows, and we look carefully. The house has been freshly painted and glows a pale yellow on that green hillside.

In one of those strange twists of fate, my former husband and I had also considered buying this house before our friends — who were not yet our friends — did. At that time, the farmhouse hadn’t been inhabited for a few years. A couple with two children had lived there, divorced, and the house had been snarled in the divorce.

In one bedroom, in place of a headboard, pillows had been stapled to the wall. I remember thinking, Who would ever think that’s a good idea?

I ask her to pull over on the side of the road. I get out for a moment and walk into the field where I stand looking at the ridge of mountains in the distance, the house on the hillside, and all that sky overhead.

A pickup pulls up beside my daughter, speaks to her, and drives off. I walk back to the car and asked what happened.

She says, He asked if I needed help. I told him it was just my mother.

She puts the car in gear, and we roll forward, picking up speed along the road. She glances at me sideways and says, I didn’t tell him you wanted to see how far along the tree buds are. That would just be weird.

 Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of ‘psst’ that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.

David Foster Wallace

Teen World

This blog has been jammed with soccer, soccer and even more soccer all fall — a little odd, from a woman who ducks every time the soccer ball heads even anywhere near me along the sidelines.

But the soccer field and the locker room and the school bus is the terrain of my teenage daughter this year. The night of the game under the lights I walked across the field afterward — in a coat and hat and scarf, the first snowflakes tiny glitters — and realized I was treading in her familiar space.

It’s such a cliché — the days crawl and the years fly — but there’s truth in all these clichés, too. When she was an infant, I realized — busy as I was then with another child and that relentless maple syrup business — that this was all I was going to get in this life. Just this second time around of being a new mother. That sentiment has carried all through her life, crazy and jumbled as it’s been, defined as a single parent household. And yet here she is, on a soccer field, laughing and happy with girls and their ponytails. I can’t help but wonder curiously, Where will all these running steps on those soccer fields around Vermont carry her in this life?

We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…

— Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

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Family Lore

My father, visiting, tells the story of his parents driving from Michigan to California, in the fall of 1941. I imagine my father, 4-years-old in the backseat with his much older sister, his parents driving an American-made car on innumerable two-lane highways, in the time when cars were made with tank-quality metal.

Decades before blue jeans and seatbelts, his parents — both Romanian immigrants — must have been on the immigrant road again, traveling not for leisure but to size up the Golden State: could they make a living in this land of sunshine?

They returned with the intention to sell their business and property and move. That early winter, however, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. With the country at war, moving was no longer an option.

In the blue predawn, I lie awake, thinking of the journey of these people, a grandfather I never met, my grandmother and aunt, now long dead. How this terrible war ended the California dream of my grandparents, but made their grocery business; how my dad enrolled in the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he met my mother; and that his sister lived her adult life in southern California.

All a mystery, perhaps, that journey cloaked in the murky past — and yet not, the consequences of those years still unwinding in my life — and my daughters’ lives.

I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation — a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here… Nearly every American hungers to move.

— John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

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Postcard from Hardwick, swimming, 2018