Back but Not Backwards

Well, it’s just like old times. I’m sitting on the back deck of my own house at first light, having fallen dead asleep with the girls at 9:30 last night on the futon in the room that used to be my home office. Damp towels and bathing suits strewn over the rail, coffee, crickets.

But the times are new, as they always are, even when Mercury’s retrograde (one more week) and it can feel like time is literally moving backwards. I have moved back–but not backwards–into my house. My six-month perch in the south end of town now re-inhabited by its owners. Greg is off camping for the weekend. Yesterday, as he was getting all of his stuff together, we stood near the doorway for a moment, looking at each other. “Will it ever not be weird?” I asked. “It was a lot of years,” he responded. No reason to expect that it would feel natural to part over and over in this way, wishing each other well for the weekend with a fist bump and then a tender hug. Old, new.

The last week or so has gone by at warp speed. I catapulted from picking Aviva up at camp on Monday right into the work week, where recent staffing changes have had the unexpected byproduct of making me feel that much more focused. It’s a start-up, and resilience could surely be my word of the year.

Have you ever left home for some extended period of time? The kind of trip where you get sick at first as your body adjusts to the water, or the food, or the altitude? Where you go for walks and everything you see seems new, your innate proclivity for noticing sharpened by virtue of being in a place foreign to you? Where after a few weeks, then months, you realize that you’re picking up on the rhythms of this place, learning its language? Where you create new daily habits–a stop at the market in the morning where your broken grammar makes you and the shop-keeper chuckle, a different quality of sleep in a strange bed that becomes a repository of dreams you don’t write down, a little shelf, a cabinet, a jar where you keep the rings you no longer wear? Have you ever disrupted the flow of what you thought your life was, stepping into another time zone, disoriented and displaced but somehow at home? Have you ever risen at daybreak and swore you had just landed in a spaceship and were hearing mourning doves for the first time? Have you ever noticed phlox and black-eyed susans, tasted a blueberry, or moved your limbs through space so slowly you thought the air itself had liquified?

And so it was.

Nearly a full year has passed since the day we sat on this deck and told the girls we were “growing,” and one of the ways we were growing was that we would no longer be living together. A mighty current.

Back home, challah on the counter, a fridge full of groceries after a shopping trip where I swore I’d never bring both kids with me to Hannaford again, all of us touchy and tired after a long week, the last day for Pearl–ever–of preschool, the end of a summer string of camps for Aviva. I was too tired to finish reading Chapter 3 of “When Life Brings You OJ” to her last night, Pearl snoring on my other side, and a college student banging on his drums in the basement of the rental next door, where I had to bang in turn on the ground-level window to get his attention.

At some point soon, I’ll walk over there to introduce myself properly to the new crop of undergrads, offering an annual explanation that this is a family neighborhood with kids and bedtimes. But last night, a brief exchange through a glass pane carried the message, Aviva standing nearby in the colorful fleece robe my mother made for her, waiting, watching me take care of business.

3 thoughts on “Back but Not Backwards

  1. Lindsey says:

    As usual, as always, Jena, your words leave me stunned, breathless at their beauty and their honesty. You convey regular life with a gorgeousness I’ve rarely found anywhere else – its shocking beauty and startling pain both.


  2. Pamela says:

    We move every 2 years so your words hit me in the place that doesn’t like uncertainty. And your brought me comfort. You reminded me that for every time I have to use my GPS to go to the grocery store in a new town, there is also a beautiful find: a field of black-eyed susans or a new morning routine or an unmet friend. You said it so much more eloquently than I ever could have. Thank you.



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