Back to mix-tapes and day dreams; Garth Brooks.
Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be
Sean had gone to bed and I was dinking around on Facebook. An old friend, one of those people who for a short time blurred the lines between friend and something else, popped up in the chat window. I immediately smiled, remembering the cadence of his speech, the inimitable way he embodied the sort of slacker-stoner dude of the 90’s. We began chatting, joking about babies and parenting, the long road from free-wheeling theatre majors to now: contented, married parents.
He was not a boyfriend, or someone that I had unrequited feelings for, just one of those brief blips of neon in a life far better suited to jewel and earth tones. I looked around as I waited for the next ping of conversation, the floor was strewn with pinks and purples, walls and shelves lined with cherished tomes, mementoes and photographs. It felt odd to suddenly have this gateway, almost a wrinkle in time, connecting parts of my life that I never consider together.
We live near the area where Sean grew up. It’s strange sometimes, this experience of being perched along a history I do not belong to. There have been brushes with things that don’t threaten me, but feel a bit like rubbing against the grain. Knowing shades of something, an ex-this or that, a quick cocked eyebrow from a friend, a sort of, “Is this something we don’t mention?” Nothing sinister or untoward, just natural, if awkward, attempts to buffer the present and past.
I often think how glad I am not to be living where I went to school. I don’t have any great shame, but somehow coming here forgave certain missteps or even allowed me the courage to grow. I am, as always, Amanda, but the there was never a time, not in middle school, high school, or college, when I truly found solid footing. I don’t have life-long friends, no one that I ever stayed connected to. I sometimes envy people who have that, conducting the odd search for names of people I grew up with, people who might have become that had things gone another way.
Here I have my daughters, my husband, the wisps of my mom’s east coast upbringing curling around my life. There is a hint of bygone pride, of striking out and laying claim to a place, building a home and a life. The furnace is humming, it was the first major purchase after our house, barely 2 months after in fact. We used to joke about it, “Hey, wanna see our furnace?” we’d ask guests. The expense was so great for a thing so, well, unimpressive. “How about we add racing stripes to it?” Sean asked late one night as we sipped beers through our plaster-caked lips, sitting on the floor amid strips of ancient, gold shag carpet we’d yanked up. I sighed, phantom aches tickled my shoulders remembering the work.
“Mott,” flashed on the screen, my maiden name. “You look really, really happy in all your pictures. But, Mott. That’s what I thought when I saw your picture, but that’s not you. Weird. You are you now.”
I smiled. Before meeting Sean I’d not given a lot of thought to name changing. I hadn’t imagined taking someone else’s name or being conflicted about losing myself in doing so.
“Wild, right? To love someone so much that you change your name. I’m lucky,” I typed.
Letters flashed on the screen, “My wife is brilliant. She grounds me.” I’m pretty sure we both grinned at that.
We chatted for a while longer before saying good night. I closed the computer and blew out the candle on the mantle, a just because gift from Sean. I don’t imagine we’ll chat again. I enjoyed it and found myself thinking back to Ellensburg, the smells of the town, the rhythm of my life back then, but that was it. A bit like a moth weaving and wending, fast then slow, in pursuit of the light. A quick bump against the window, then again, before pausing and making a straight shot for an amber glow. To Sean, my light.
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life.