Wednesday, October 3, 2012

it was then, it is now.

It was then. It was then in that sticky, red glow of the summer twilight that we would walk. It was those walks that I would look forward to everyday. We never had anything to do, except watch T.V., read, and listen to music. Almost anything we did seemed like a desperate attempt to pass time, to get through the monotony of the absolute freedom that summer brings. Everything, except those walks. We would meet in front of the door where we lived, and stroll through the fields to the garden. We followed the cement path, asking each other about our days, our lives, anything. Distracted by each other and putting too much trust into the cement we followed, we were always mislead. The path took us to this hill that was impossible to walk down. Every time, we would laugh and she would exclaim "Why do we always do this?"
We would smile at each other, trying to walk down the hill and ending up in a run that was more of a pull than anything. The hill was much stronger than we were. We would gather ourselves at the bottom, still smiling, and continue on with the walk. Walking past the baseball field, cutting through suburban backyards, and up to the garden, we let the warmth of the summer night wash over us, as we continue to talk playfully about love, family, the past, present and future.
Then we were there. We reached the garden, promisingly lush, we would admire it for a second, until we remembered the fruit was just ripe enough that impatience and gluttony were appropriate. She would see the blueberry bushes, and pick off all the ones that looked good enough to eat, occasionally tossing a few my way. Once all of the ripe berries were gone, I would lead the way to the water pump to get the hose set up. Following behind me, she would say "Wait!"
Pulling up on the old fashioned pump's handle, she would adjust it so the water pressure was a little less threatening. First with one hand, she would eventually realize that she needed two, I would smile and offer help. Looking up at me, her eyes cheerfully indignant, she would pronounce that she could get it. Leaning down, brushing her curly blonde ponytail to one side, she would drink. She would stand back up, face flushed, wipe her mouth and sigh deeply. I would realize, I too was thirsty, and I would take a drink. Then we would get the hose set up, which usually meant disconnecting the hose from the sprinkler. I would go over and take care of loosening the hose, I would struggle and fumble about, because for some reason it never occurred to either of us that having the water on would make setting the hose up far more difficult than it should have been. In an uncharacteristic fit of masculinity, I would take off my shirt and use it to undo the hose from the sprinkler. I was always hyper aware of my shirtless, wet torso with her off in the distance. She was usually waiting by the water pump for some kind of signal for her to come over, or absentmindedly sitting at a nearby picnic table.
 After putting my soaked shirt back on, I would call her over. Dragging the hose behind me, we would make our way to our little section of the garden. As maternal as is possible with plants, she would straighten the plants up, exclaiming about how proud she was of them. We even had a running joke about the plants being like our children. Kneeling down next to the plot, she would look up at me when she had put in just the right amount of care, and say "Okay, go ahead and water them." I would silently oblige, walking around and around the plot for several minutes watering the plants, never acknowledging her. Or at least, not until the end, where I would mistakenly misfire the hose, ending with her covered in water from her stomach down. She would just shout "Hey!" and turn away from me. I would stop, smiling at her sheepishly. Turning back to me, her red cheeks more pronounced even more than was usual against her pale skin, she would begrudgingly allow herself to grin. I would drop the hose, and we would set back on the path for which we came.
Just outside of the garden was a road. Like clockwork, as soon we left the garden and stepped into the road, she would say "Instead of cutting through the field, can we take the road on the way back?" I would laugh. Partly at her predictability, and partly at the innocence in the way she asked. We would follow the road back home, discussing the many possibilities of the inevitable harvest of our garden. With every suggestion, excitement would build until we were just shouting "We could grill them!", "We could make the best salad!", or "We could pickle things!" This would continue for most of the walk home. At some point before we reached our building, we would ask each other what we were doing afterwards. I was always more eager and expectant than she was about this. Then we were home. Sometimes we spent time together after the garden trip, but it was always okay if we didn't. We had taken care of our garden, and that is all I could ask for anyhow.
This happened nearly every night for 8 weeks. At the end of that time, we both had to go home and spend time with our families. We never did get to grill things, make the best salad, or pickle things. With the exception of a few cucumbers, we never even really got to harvest anything. We left our garden when it was still growing, still developing into something fruitful. I have returned to the plot of garden that I had once visited religiously in that summer. It is long since dead. Taken over by the changing of the season and the passing of time, our garden was then. It was then. Although, it is dead, the garden that brought us together in that one summer is not gone. Our garden, whether we know it or not, is still growing. We taste the fruit of our garden everyday. Our garden. It was then. It is now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the back roads.

When I was a kid, I didn't really do much. Especially before my brother was born and it wasn't until he was much older that I would be any different. Very few kids were as low energy as I was at that age. My favorite "activities" were watching TV, specifically Nickelodeon and these two Barney VHS tapes. This one Barney VHS in particular. It was the Christmas one where Barney and an interestingly diverse group of kids that he kidnaps from a suburban neighborhood go up to the north pole to dance and sing with this sparkly snowman and meet Santa Claus at his workshop. It ends with Santa giving the kids the gifts that they always wanted and flying through the air wishing everyone a goodnight. I don't completely understand why this movie was so interesting to me. I didn't even watch it at Christmas time, so it's not like I was being festive. But I liked it, so whatever. I had those tapes until I was about 13 and watched them almost everyday until I was 10. When I wasn't poisoning my mind with obnoxious dancing purple dinosaurs, I would watch people and listen, think about what I saw or didn't see, lay about outside, pee outside (a habit that I have been unable to kick), or talk to myself. That list actually sounds like a pretty average day for me, even now. I was my favorite person to talk to for the first 10 or so years of my life just because it was easy. The only other person I would talk to without being smacked with a wave of anxiety was my mom. Most of the time though, I would be by myself and my mom would be nearby. We were together, but alone. It was perfect for me, I got the security of knowing my mom was there and the comfort of solitude. 

There was the occasional summer day, that either my mom or I would get bored of our usual quiet existence and would want to do something. Usually, my mom would come up to me as I sat doing nothing as per usual, and say "Hey, let's go for a ride." Silently, I would get up from whatever I was doing and follow her out of the house. We would get into the car, where she would turn on 93Q, "the number 1 hit music station", and something that we had listened to a thousand times would pop on. I would always hope that it was this song about jumping that I really liked. Later on I would discover that song was actually "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, a song about suicide that is still a favorite of mine. Whatever the song was my mom and I would sing along right from the time we left our driveway to the time we pulled back in. We would always take the back roads, which made it interesting for me because I always liked to know how to get places in my head. I had already memorized the few main streets in our small town and where they lead. 

My hand out the window, I would either try and hold on to the top of the car like I had seen my dad do so many times, or I would move my hand through the air that passed by in the motion of the "worm" dance. As we passed what seemed to be an endless string of corn fields, I would realize something. For the first and usually only time for the entire ride, I would turn to my mom and say "Mom, where are we going?"

The last few times I have been home from college, I have thought about these rides. I guess there is something nostalgic about having your mom drive you everywhere. One time in particular, we were on the back roads outside of this nearby city heading toward my mom's friend's house. She was asking me about school and what I wanted to do for the upcoming summer. I told her I was going to be doing research at school. The inevitable question in these conversations for all parents, including my mom, is "So, what do you want to do? What does this mean for your career? Where are you going?" I told her that I was thinking about urban planning, because I was at the time. I would also confess that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 

I would stare at my mom with intense wonder, waiting for the answer to where exactly we were going. Stoically, she would stare ahead out into the road. Then she would look at me and let one of her hands drop from the steering wheel and relax her body and say, "Nowhere.We are just driving. Does it matter?" I would consider this for a few minutes and eventually accept our lack of destination. Then we would return to our seemingly natural state of joint solitude. We were together, but alone. 

I can see the worry swell up in mom's eyes when I say things like I have no idea what I am going to be doing and that I want take time to find myself. All of the usual aspirations of a 20 something. But now whenever she asks, I look at her and say to myself "Nowhere. We are just driving. Does it matter?" And when I am driving the back roads on my way to an unknown destination, my mom and I will be together, but alone.