Saturday afternoon, we pull into the driveway, park the car. The front of the house looks the same. The same family lives there, but it has become a favorite place for the grandchildren in the past few years.
The old elementary school next to the house hasn’t moved, hasn’t really changed. A few more portable classrooms, maybe a new sign, ramps for wheelchairs. Fifth grade seems so long ago. Twenty-five years equals one-fourth of a century, yet I can’t believe that I’ve known these people for that long; I’ve been on this earth for eleven years beyond that.
Time is linear, they say. Life is planar, with individual experience along the y-axis as a function of time. Varied and numerous interactions yield points on this graph, too, on as many axes as people a person can know. The cosmos of human life holds a volume of countless dimensions and tells volumes of stories that connect us to both ends of eternity.
My mom and I walk inside the house, and most of what we see hasn’t really changed. Piano room, dining room, kitchen, family room. The new sun room is gorgeous. Dark wicker furniture with red cushions. It used to be a simple concrete patio, where I used to play games and have relay races with other friends and the girl who used to live there but now lives in a nice subdivision in Jacksonville proper with her children and husband.
A few ladies I immediately recognize are already sitting and chatting. Shortly, the family room fills with my past. Mothers of friends I met in the late ‘80s, friends from elementary school, teachers from church. It’s been years since I have seen some of them.
We chat and eat. The company and conversation are delightful.
My selves at 10, 12, 15, and 17 years – and 35 years – look at each other with deep nostalgia and wonder. Worlds fold and intertwine.
The women surrounding me helped raise me. They taught by example, they molded strong minds and distinct personalities that became the even more awesome adult versions of my childhood friends. I’m grateful not only to know these friends but to have kept in touch with most of them. My mother’s wisdom encouraged their influence.
Only goodness abides here. As I sit with these friends in this circle of couches and chairs in the family room, as I tell the story of how Reilly and I met, as I cry telling the story our engagement, as they beam with pride and mutual adoration, as we laugh at and admire the lingerie and talk of sex, affection, and nakedness and the protection and happiness Reilly and I provide for each other, I realize that nothing else is quite like the safety and familiarity in this kind of feminine bond.
A single point of love within me contains the love of those who have and will always love me.
The line is a circle. The circle is a sphere; my life, a Borgesian aleph.
A formidable and unforgettable village raised this child, wandering, curious, confident, loved. I pray to keep honoring them.