Shower of Dimensions and Generations

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.

Twenty-five years.

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.

Not Too Shabby

I just got home. I saw New Moon at 4pm today. It was okay.

But people, I just got home!

Tonight was the first time this extremely long month that I’ve actually felt … alive. I don’t know if it was the old faces or the adults who have seen a fair amount of life and can relate to each other or the sarcasm or cussing Mormons, but I haven’t felt this comfortable in a long time. The past three hours were so stimulating, yet relaxing. I laughed heaps tonight. Harder and more than … I don’t remember when. It felt so good. It felt like home. On my way to the car from my friends’ home, I nearly cried, I felt so grateful and so … uplifted.

Maybe part of it is I’m a bit surer of myself than when these people last saw me. Maybe part of it is that these people have known me since I was 10 years old. Maybe part of it is I’m one of the coolest things that has ever returned to this town. Maybe it’s a bunch of things.

All I know is I liked it.

I loved it.

Just for You

I attended my childhood ward today for church. A friendly, familiar face recalled one Sunday School class  she taught that I attended, and she opened the lesson by asking the class what the speed of sound is. She told me that I knew the answer, and that she asked the question knowing full well I’d confidently raise my hand with the correct response.

I don’t remember this. Go figure.

Song on Repeat: “Hometown Glory” by Adele


This song speaks to me on so many levels. First, musically. Listen to the way Adele phrases each line, each word, parts of each word. Listen to the combination of the piano and strings, how it enhances and not overwhelms Adele’s amazing voice. Feel the emotion of the song. Consider the lyrics, bring up old memories of way back when; they’re probably still quite vivid, as if they didn’t happen all that long ago.

According to my facebook profile, my hometown is Jacksonville, Florida, and my current city is New York, New York. I tell people I’m from Jacksonville because not very many would recognize the town of Middleburg, which I hear has turned into quite the suburb. Orange Park has spilled over into the little town where I grew up. It now has a fancy Publix and a Home Depot and a Super Wal-Mart. Housing subdivisions are everywhere, especially down the road where I lived my senior year of high school. Old Jennings Road. Traffic is ridiculous on all arteries leading to and from Blanding Boulevard and Branan Field Road. It has developed into your run-of-the-mill, organized, cookie-cutter chaos. I’ve been back to that part of town, driving around, seeing how Middleburg now very directly connects to Jacksonville, so Jacksonville is also overflowing into my little Middleburg without filtering through Orange Park. The sign indicating the town limit reads in large letters, “MIDDLEBURG,” then in smaller letters below it, “Unincorporated.” That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

It would seem almost everything about my childhood, at least the last eight years of it, has been corrupted. Maybe not. If you drive further south and west, the landscape looks just about the same. Head west on State Road 218 and cross Mimosa Road and you’ll see the same dirt roads and mobile homes and less crowded land. You’ll see untended weeds and stray dogs and horse stalls and chicken coops. You’ll see my junior high school, and if you drive far enough, my elementary school. One noticeable change is a big, obnoxious gas station at Mallard Road.

Once, probably five years ago on a home visit (which had become Jacksonville), I drove to Middleburg. I turned north on Mimosa Road for a few miles, then west on Johns Cemetery Road, which becomes Plankton Avenue. The grass was higher. The brush was thicker. The acre plot of land where I lived from 1987 to 1993 had grown over with indigenous foliage, as well as a bunch of rubbish. The neighboring plots looked very much the same. The Roenisches lived next to me. Becky Fraser lived over on Foxtail Avenue, maybe a mile away. Her cousin, Stephanie Cardone, lived closer, on the corner of Johns Cemetery and Parsley. Jackie Anderson and Lynn Reed lived on Parsley. Mike and Trent McKay lived on Kay Road.

These friends don’t live there anymore. My generation, my peers. That realm – the era, the location – was carved out specifically for that part of my childhood, and no more. I watched in my rear view mirror the cloud of dust the car kicked up as I made my way back to the paved road. This was a part of town everyone shrugged off, ignored, abandoned; purpose served. And that part of town seems perfectly okay with it. Unincorporated, it is.

Seems I needed to revisit, if not geographically, then at least in my mind. Turns out I have similar thoughts here. Those memories of way back when we keep rather close to the surface. We don’t really bury them, after all.

I’ve been walking in the same way as I did
And missing out the cracks in the pavement
And tutting my heel and strutting my feet
“Is there anything I can do for you dear? Is there anyone I could call?
No, and thank you, please madam, I ain’t lost, just wandering”

Round my hometown, memories are fresh
Round my hometown, ooh, the people I’ve met
Are the wonders of my world, are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of this world, are the wonders and now

I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love it to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides

Shows that we ain’t gonna stand [ – ]
Shows that we are united
Shows that we ain’t gonna take it
Shows that we ain’t gonna stand [ – ]
Shows that we are united

Round my hometown, memories are fresh
Round my hometown, ooh, the people I’ve met

Are the wonders of my world, are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of this world, are the wonders of my world
Of my world, yeah, of my world, of my world, yeah