Sunday, July 5, 2015

......gathers no moss

Lately I've been introspective.  About time.  Numbers.  Age.  Distance.

The other night my friend Emmalyn flew down to Raleigh from NYC and we went to the Rolling Stones concert.  On the subject of time and distance, I don't even think I lived here the last time I wrote this blog.  But I do now.  Somewhere in that time I moved back to North Carolina. Moved into an apartment downtown Raleigh.  Started a new part-time job at a law school.  Kept flying.  Went to Peru and Easter Island on vacation with friends.  Took smaller domestic trips with other friends.  Finished visiting all 50 states, wrapping it up in Jackson Hole Wyoming.  Mourned the death of my 11 year old gray Kitty, Isaac, who caught cancer and died in my arms.  Adopted a new black Kitty- Sergeant Pepper.  Made a bunch of new friends. Lost touch with some people I was once close to.  Lost a few pounds.  Gained a few pounds.  Repeated that pattern.  Developed a new appreciation for vegan food.  While still continuing to eat plenty of pork and other carnivorous delights.  My cousin Bobby was killed in a car accident.   My grandma fell in the snow, froze to the ground for hours, and miraculously survived without so much as a scratch.  My other grandma fell in the snow and broke her leg and is pretty much as good as new.  We have had some honest-to-goodness miracles in my family. We have had some tears.  And somewhere in that time, I neglected this blog.  Sometimes one gets writer's block.  Sometimes that lasts three years.  But I think I covered the highlights, sad and happy. Back to where we were.......

Do you remember your very first memory?

Think hard.

Do you remember the sounds around you?  What you saw?  Perhaps a taste of something you enjoyed as a child?  The feel of your mother's loving touch?   The sun on your skin?

I have two distinct early memories.  I was about 2 in the first one and about 3 and a half in the second one.

First one:  My mom, my dad, my grandma, my grandad, and I were sitting on the front lawn at my grandma's house.  My brother must have been there too, but he would have been very tiny.  My dad had on bell-bottom jeans, Adidas sneakers, and a shirt with a bright yellow smiley face "Have a Nice Day."  It was summertime.  My grandma had lilacs in her yard and the fragrance took over the air, charming and intoxicating. My mom had a pair of sunglasses that she put on my face.  They were way too big, and kept falling off but I distinctly remember her cooing "Who's that movie star?"  And it was *me*!  I was that movie star!  At least I was that day with those larger-than-life sunglasses falling off my face.

Second early memory:  On New Year's Eve we always went to my Great Aunt Sarah and Uncle Bob's house.  They had a billiards room in their basement, with a pool table and a neon sign "Bob's Billiards".  My cousin Bobby lived there too, at that time and he had a jukebox.  My favorite song was Blondie "The Tide is High" and my second favorite song was Rolling Stones "Satisfaction".  Bobby knew this and would play both of them for me as much as I wanted. There was something so magical about the way the record lifted up, slid over into place, and how the needle went down and the track started to play.  And I bounced.  I didn't really dance, but I bounced.  Up and down.  And I laughed and giggled and enjoyed life.

Bobby had a way with children.  He was probably so sick of those songs, but he never stopped playing them for me.  And he repeated his selfless ways with his own grandchildren much later in life.  Bobby, I think about you often.  I think about the records you played for me as a child and your kind and giving nature.  The boxes you helped me load into my car to move back to North Carolina a couple weeks before your accident.  You are missed.  You spent hours with my grandma while she was lonely at her home, and I am forever grateful for that.  Every time I talk to her she tells me how much she misses you.  Your magnanimous nature was appreciated and never went unnoticed.  You may not even know what that word means, but just trust me :)

That jukebox memory came flooding back to me the other night.  Even though I've heard that song many times since I was three, it didn't really phase me until I heard it again the other night.  It was their encore.  The very last song.  It's an upbeat song, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't teary.  Everyone else was on their feet, singing along, and I stood still.  Reminiscing. No bouncing.  Just thinking.

You know, that memory of the jukebox feels like yesterday.  And it makes me think about how time is meaningless and meaningful all at the same time.  And the same thing is true with age.  Some of my dearest friends are in their 60s.  Some people I've enjoyed spending time with and who make me laugh harder than anyone else are 68 or 4 or 44 or 28 or 33.  It doesn't matter.  My grandmas are BOTH in their mid-nineties and still both brilliant.  And how this ties into the Rolling Stones concert? .....All of those men are in their SEVENTIES, with the exception of Ronny Wood, who is in his late 60s.  And you would be amiss if you didn't agree that they performed every number in their set  with the spunk, energy, and gusto of a band in their 20s.  Nary a dull moment. Nary a shift in vivacity.

The lyrics, the songs, the memories, the melodies, the chords.....they are irrefrangible.  Uncompromising.  Relentless.

Last week I turned 39.  (And what a great year this must be!  Many folks over 40 often lie and say they are 39, but I am the realnobullshit 39.  And I've got to believe if this many people use this age as their big fat lie, then I can't be in all that bad of a place.)  Admittedly, I have been a little melancholy lately.  Not because of the number itself, but because I see my friends who have had babies (plural), bought homes (plural), had marriages (sadly plural), and accoplished all of these milestones that you are supposed to have already accomplished by the time you are 39.  While I celebrate with them and very genuinely love sharing in their joy, I relentlessly guilt myself and harass my soul about why I haven't accomplished any of these things.   And then my loved ones remind me that I have a masters degree, and I've sailed around the world by ship, and I've lived in NYC for the bulk of my adult life (in apartments with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and then the Empire State building for cryingoutloud!), and I've visited all 50 states, and I've got a career where I can get on a plane and fly away for free.  They are right.  I do have all of that.  And my birthday was special.  My travel companion took me to Asheville, tucked away in the mountains and we ate and laughed and drank and kissed and didn't really think about 39.  (Except for once- we heard the track by Queen on the radio on the way there, appropriately titled "39".  It is a folksy song, a little sad, yet joyful.  Go listen to it if you haven't heard it before.  It is very fitting with the theme of this blog- it's about time and space travel.  A sweet melody with cheerful lyrics.  Different style from any other Queen song you've ever heard.)

So what is the take-away from all of this?  I guess it's to keep living.  Sometimes the death of a loved one sneaks up on us when we don't see it coming.  Sometimes we are 39 when we thought we were just 3 and a half the other day.  Sometimes we let three years escape before writing.  Sometimes our 11 year old pet gets sick and there is nothing we can do about it.  Sometimes we fret over milestones that haven't been met, when we could spend that time being grateful for the wonderful gifts that we do have to celebrate in our lives.  Sometimes love isn't always clean and pretty.  It's strange.  It's infrequent.  It's far away.  But maybe the other day I had a reminder to keep on rolling, instead of staying in one place and growing bitter.   Because, after all, you know what they say about a rolling stone.......

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