earlier this fall, i made a pretty quick decision. not quite hasty, but certainly not calculated, this decision came about as i considered my surroundings: the last gasps of summer reminded me of something from my childhood; my childhood beckoned me back to where i felt most at home; home delightfully overwhelmed me of those whom i feel most grateful to have in my life. so i opened an extra tab on my work computer, made a few clicks, and gladly paid a little extra for the aisle seat. i was going home.
my childhood had annual traditions that certainly make me succumb to sentimentality. a summer weekend trip to maine, where martha, my mother’s best friend, always welcomed my siblings and me with love, laughter and kayaks. her home on thompson lake was the highlight of my year. it was there that i was introduced to baking (delicious, berry-filled pies), to the boogieman (a hide-and-seek bedtime tradition), and to the joys of skinny dipping. visiting martha and dipping into the lake would be the first leg of my journey. to help celebrate her and my mother’s birthdays, skinny dip and cozy were given just before dinner. they shared the moment of reunion between the three of us: best friends, mother and son, and son and not-quite-but-nearly aunt.
the next leg of the journey was to the town where i did the majority of my growing up. the drive to new hampshire was marked by the colors of my childhood: leaves that i would spend hours raking, then jumping into, saturated the rolling hills with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. dinner awaited me in my hometown, by a good friend who had recently gotten married. the two of them welcomed me into their newly-purchased home with a guilty confession: “we often eat our dessert before dinner.” the cookie sandwich that they had baked together earlier that day proved to be the most delicious appetizer i’ve ever had. we celebrated their new life together with another glassybaby: skinny dip, again! such a lovely hue deserves to be given at least twice.
i surprised a few high school teachers and coaches the next morning, when i showed up in my glassybaby jersey to join them in the new england half marathon. hugs were shared as we all laughed at the next pre-race ritual: vaseline, globs of it, to defend ourselves from the most wretched result of friction. the surprise, the hilarity of the scene, and the gorgeousness of the fall morning helped calm all of our pre-race nerves. awaiting at the finish line was miss new hampshire, who, when we posed for our post-race photo together, smiled wide despite having her personal space overcome by sweaty, exhausted and sour-smelling me!
after high-fives and recovery was another dinner, and another friend: this time my college advisor and his wife. i knew the two-hour drive by heart, after four years of back-and-forths. in tow was yet another glassybaby, hide & seek, that ultimately shared the dinner table with us as we reflected on stories of learning and growing: he my greatest teacher, and now my most trusted mentor. also an avid gardener, we spent the next morning exploring his collection of daylilies, then worked together to move mulch. there i was again – his student – and there he was again – my professor. instead of books, we were surrounded by his plants, and i couldn’t help but make the comparison that he will always be the master grower, inspiring me to lead a richer life.
finally, my trip was coming to its end. the backseat of my rental car, where my glassybaby bag once held five gifts of kindness, was down to one. there was still one friend to see, and despite there being very little time, this friendship was one that i truly wished to physically sustain. two hours later, i surprised her at work, and after a hug of disbelief, we shared ten joyful minutes together, catching up in person, sharing details of the previous year, and of good things to come. i looked to my watch and realized that my flight was not going to wait for me, so before i made my hasty exit, i gave her friendship.
many of us share in this feeling that, no matter how much technology has helped us all remain close in contact with loved ones, there comes a time when being “in touch” loses out to the distance that separates us from family and friends. i first thought it was “fear” that makes us feel this way: a fear that a loved one has changed, or that you have changed, and somehow the love you shared has faded over time. but consider this perspective: to fear change is to fear what it means to be human. we all are constantly growing, we all are continually learning what it means to be human. indeed, change is constant, but so, too, is love: there will always be the time you shared together, and the affect you both had on one another.