What Do You Miss?

waves-crashing-the-rocks-in-ireland-anne-norskogI woke up at 4:00am with my contacts plastered to my eyeballs, which means I fell asleep last night with the girls. I instinctively groped around for my glasses before forcing myself to go back to a sleep.

Yesterday after work, I went to Northampton to get a haircut. Elise respectfully discouraged me from a full-on Pixie cut, suggesting we build a little trust first before going the hairdresser’s equivalent of all the way on the first date. She asked me what I miss about Vermont.

My response came later, in unsettling dreams just before dawn. The ones you swim in without a life jacket, tossed by the erratic currents of memory. The ones about death, the ones about the places you left and the people who live there now, the old neighbors and in-laws, the things you knew you’d miss.

In one of them, the people who bought our house had renovated the (non-existent) third floor into a huge piano, like the one Tom Hanks plays on in “Big” at FAO Schwarz. It had a floor as shiny as something out of Versailles.

Then there was a cinematic panorama of the backyards that bleed together, where my kids used to disappear for hours to play with their friends up the street. The boy next door was perched in a sleeping loft with the windows open playing a soothing xylophone song. I saw the turbulent waves of Lake Champlain crashing against the rocks. I saw poets who’ve lived through many wars. I avoided uncomfortable conversations as I waited for my ride, contemplating the wooden fence enclosing a new badminton net in my old backyard

At 5:45, I got up, slipping quietly out of my room, grateful for the subdued rainy morning and the automatic timer on the coffee maker. I zipped up my coat and slid open the door to the deck, the dog ahead of me eager for a walk. We crossed the train tracks, big raindrops anointing us from newly sprung tree buds. We both peed in the woods, marking our new territory, glad to be awake. Leaving the past behind–where it really lives–once again.

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