And we’re back.
Sometimes you return from vacation with a suitcase stuffed with souvenirs and musty-smelling clothing that spills sand all over your laundry room floor when you finally get around to tackling it.
It feels good to be back, but strange, and even stranger, nothing seems to have changed in your absence. You look around at your coffee pot and the withered plant on the windowsill, and it’s like you never left. In a week, after getting back into your commute and your routine, get up, shower, coffee, brush teeth, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, it is as though you never left at all. You sit, sifting through those pictures (surreal) and that suitcase (now empty, but for a few sandy stragglers) and it feels like it never happened. It feels like you never left at all.
Other times, however, on those rare one-off vacations, you come back exploded.
Everything suddenly looks foreign and it’s as though you have been away for months or years, and you sit, uncomfortable within the walls of your old life that now feels like a sweater two sizes too small, thinking, “Really? This is what I was doing? How? And why?”
This trip, for me, has been the latter.
And I’m still trying to pick up the pieces.
Family is a strange animal. Everything about it is savage, in the best way. Really. The way they love, the way they push, the way they swing wide the curtain of polite interaction to poke you and prod you, examine you like open-heart surgeons who love what they see.
Overnight you are invaded and colonized by these intimate strangers, these people who claim to know you better than you know yourself. These people who are familiar with your moods because they have weathered them since you were eight. These people who call you on your bullshit and soothe your rough edges and know when to push and when to pull and also, when to simply let go and watch.
I crave this. I ache for it and crave it and miss it savagely when it’s gone. But when I am in it, amidst the intertwined feet and rapport quick as gunfire I find myself inexplicably running. Seeking refuge in books or bathrooms, thanking god that still I nurse Olive to sleep because those little snippets of time, three or four times a day, are just what I needed to continue craving. To return.
I always feel guilty for this escape. What kind of persons counts down the days and then runs? Who hides from a chaos that they tried so mightily to create?
Adam would appear in the dusky doorway, whisper-asking if I need help. He offered and offered and at night before we fell asleep he would say, “I can put her to sleep too, you know.”
But I didn’t want to let go. I couldn’t. I needed that darkness and silence and the slow, wam smell of a sleeping baby. It was all that was keeping me up. I would lie there, just Olive and I, listening to voices filtering up through the floorboards and that was, sometimes, in the times when I needed it, better than being there myself.
I could observe and absorb and not have to find retorts as quick as machine guns.
And now we’re back. It’s quiet again and I’m left with a mind still buzzing with resolutions that speak louder than New Year’s.
I should sing more.
I should paint more.
I should begin to paint at all, as a matter of fact.
I need a routine.
But aren’t routines boring? Maybe, are we just not “routine” kinds of people?
Is that okay?
I would be a better person if we had a routine. Wake up, shower, eat. Live by the clock.
I should learn a language.
I should brush up on my French and who cares about my accent, with its tentative rolling r’s and soft j’s.
I should really learn to paint.
My family, we are an entirely left-brained people (with the exception of the oldest, Liam, and the middle, Claire, who somehow aggressively and impressively balance the two halves like spinning plates. To me it seems precarious and impossible but damn, they make it look easy.)
Our gatherings involve guitars and ukuleles and watercolours. We are not great at details and organization and who’s going to be where, when. We wear handmade jewelry and bring out tarot cards to solve problems, because if we miss one train from laughing too hard we can always catch the next one. The ferry will wait. The sun will come out. It will work out, we promise, it will! And if it doesn’t, well that’s simply another adventure to pocket and trasure and polish till it shines.
So we are back, and I’m left here drinking silence like it’s cool water. Sifting through photos and memories like sand.
I have to figure out what to do with all of these shoulds. I need to figure out how, exactly, to become a better person, and what that even looks like, and am I strong enough? Because I’ve made these promises before.
We all have.