Friday, September 2, 2011

at the end, ruminating, random memories

Labor Day weekend is here and the end of summer. The end of summer is always hard for me. I think a lot of has to do with the fact that as a child I loved my months of freedom. All I had to do was read, swim, play. My world shrunk down and expanded. My skin darkened, I always smelled like chlorine and my body was indented with the lines of the hammock I read in. There was always a road trip somewhere with my family. My mom would pack the minivan at night and sometime before dawn my father would carry my sisters and me from our beds, still asleep, and put us in a nest of blankets and pillows in the backseats of the van. I would always wake up in time to watch the sunrise. My parents would be talking quietly and I would watch the day begin, always awed at the sight since it was something I rarely witnessed.

The beginning of the school year was always incredibly bittersweet. I loved learning, and still do. I loved how the classrooms smelled of glue and books. The water at the drinking fountains was slightly sweet with the fluoride they added. The desks were polished and I would arrive in some girly outfit my mom had picked out. She was old-school from New York. You dressed up for your first day of school, to make an impression on the teacher and everyone else. I think she wanted me to dress up all year long but I was exhausting when it came to clothes and probably still am. I was always nervous and excited. I couldn't wait to start learning again but I dreaded being around other kids my age.

It was the hellish beginning of nine months of social awkwardness and deep loneliness. Recess spent in the library because I had no one to play with. Having students whisper behind my back because I always had the answer and was proud to show it, they called me a "smack," whatever that means. I retreated into books. I retreated into fantasy. I longed for summer, the time of year I wasn't an awkward nerd, emotionally raw from wanting what wasn't being offered to me, friendship and acceptance. But even when I tried to talk to the kids my age, they bored me. Even then I wanted substance in conversation.

Summers now aren't anything special. It means I wear shorts to work. I don't use my oven as much. I always entertain these great ideas about what I'm going to do; go to the beach, go camping, take a road-trip, go hiking, and I do none of it. My work is tiring, especially in the heat of summer. I love it but I also love my rest. Yet here I am, super blue at the end of summer because I didn't do anything. I suppose that isn't true. I've done many things for myself, I've expanded my business. I've taken care of my body more than I ever have before. Forest, trees, blah blah blah.

Six year ago yesterday I was on a train from Paris to Madrid. It was one of the best days of my life. I look back on my adult life and I love the woman I was on that train. I had taken a crazy risk for an adventure and it had paid off. I was radiant, at the beginning of falling in love, I was traveling. It was on that train I first read my favorite Rilke essay on Worpswede. I remember sitting alone, practically inebriated on the ideas Rilke was offering me on the role of the artist. The train passed through fields of sunflowers, their heads were heavy with seed and as the train passed it was almost as if they were nodding in acknowledgement. Cheesy, yes. Also, I had never been as happy. I began writing, madly. The poems I started on that train eventually were the seeds for my chapbook, half life of memory.

When I got to Spain it was oven-hot. I went to Valencia to visit an old friend. We were at his parent's house, trying to cool off in the pool. His mother came out. She was beautiful in a faded glory kind of way, still voluptuous and sultry but with a sadness I saw as someone trying to hold on to a youth that wasn't there anymore. She was wearing a robe and when she came to the edge of the pool she tossed off, almost defiantly and stood naked in front of us. My friend was unfazed by her drama and I pretended there was nothing weird about seeing my friend's naked mom, wearing make-up that would have been more suited for an opera star. She stared at me and asked me how old I was. I told her, 26. She was surprised, she thought I was younger for some reason. She got into the pool and floated for a bit then said to me "You're a woman, not a young girl, don't forget that." Then she went into the house. Very dramatic but it was the reason that I started thinking of myself as a woman. That was my last really good summer.

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