Things have shaken themselves out into our summer schedule. I walk in the evenings just before dark, thinking I’d get more bang for the buck if I utilized my forty-five minutes of time away from my domestic life, my time alone, by running, instead, or with the gym, which is much more efficient.
But let’s be honest. I’ve never been one for either the bang (“too quiet” say certain powers-that-be about my work) or the buck — have I?
Multitask, multitask! sez the world, and what do I do?
Dig in my heels.
I could be more efficient, I could better marshal my forces. But what would I miss then?
The rosy filaments of the mimosa blossoms; the whiff when I walk past them. Of summer nights, of my now 40-years-gone childhood. Bottled up, captured, exactly the same.
Last night, when I passed a particular brick storefront converted into apartments, a door slapped open and out strode a boy with a skateboard. Nobody I knew of course. I’m a middle aged lady. What do I know, about people with skateboards!
Or so I thought, until he stopped and looked at me closely and called me the nickname of my childhood, that 70s-era, plump-and-shy-girl Kathy that always yanks me back.
This happens sometimes. After redoubts and round-abouts and removes across the country, I now live 70 short miles from the place where I spent my childhood. It stands to reason that now and then I run into people from my past: someone I hung with in high school walking up the street I just drove down, a friend-of-a-college roommate waiting in line for peaches at the farmer’s market.
So there I was last night, stopped at the curb as the sky turned tender with dusk and neighbors walked their dogs past. Catching up with someone I’d known in college. What are you up to these days? How many kids? All the while I was trying to remember— what was it my mom had told me a few months back, a snippet of news, the sort she tends to relay in phone calls? Middle-aged, we commiserated. Exhausted! The newborns we had in tow the last time we ran into each other are now elementary-school aged.
And then I remembered.
I’m so sorry about your dad, I blurted.
Yeah, he said frankly. It was terrible.
It was, and it is. Time passes; we grow up; losses accrue.
For most of my youth I felt so stifled by the place where I grew up. People knew too much about me! I was never going to be able to shake free of it!
But nowadays, there’s something consoling these brief reunions, some sense of being known. Even when that knowledge is superficial at best — what does the person I run into have but a visual image of who my parents are, or the house I grew up in? What more than that do I know of him, really?
But they’re our tiny links between then and now. If we were more efficient, if we moved faster, would we have time — to bump into a bit of our lives on the street, so unexpected, so surprising?