Thursday, August 20, 2009
I'm interrupting my vacation silence because --
It occurred to me last night, as Ruby, Abe and I were driving south along I-91 in Vermont, that there is no way I could have done that two years ago: I could never have taken two kids from northwestern Connecticut to Vermont for two days, and back, by myself. I could never have left at dusk with a 3 hour drive ahead with conflicting navigational instructions, by myself. I certainly could never have followed those curvy Connecticut roads, names changing every 2 miles or so, in the dark, by myself.
Two years ago I was suffering from debilitating anxiety, provoked by the stresses of having a child with PWS, a demanding toddler, and some unexplained but persistent dizziness. No task was small. A trip to the pool was overwhelming, as was making dinner, or even a night out with friends.
So last night, as the sun was setting and a gentle summer rain just starting, I noticed that I felt hopeful and strong, not anxious, as I set out from my friends' verdant and peaceful Vermont home, towards Connecticut where I'd left Oscar with my inlaws just the day before. It was an easy trip and we were treated to a near-full rainbow and views of rolling hills and leafy trees painted in the deepest summer greens. We sang along to the Weepies and the Indigo Girls and the kids each took a nap. I joked with Abe that 18 years ago when I used to make this trip routinely to visit Paul in graduate school I didn't have mapquest directions, let alone a GPS or an iPhone. And yet, last night, I was using all three to help me navigate the last hour of dark and twisty backroads. I chose my route after consulting all three sources because it was fun and staved off fatigue.
It was a bit of an experiment for me to stay east while Paul returned to Berkeley for work. (Again, no way I would have volunteered to make the cross country flight solo with three kids, 2 years ago). The experiment is going well. Abe and Ruby loved our side trip north and it was very satisfying to me to share Dartmouth with them. The campus is so different from anything Abe has seen before -- so small, so contained, and so beautiful. We played frisbee on the green -- that large rectangle of grass crisscrossed by gravel paths in the center of campus where Paul and I played many an afternoon during our sophomore summer. We visited my dorm, and then Paul's and bought t-shirts at the co-op.
At my friends B and D's house, Abe and Ruby got to experience rural life. B and D have created a wonderful retreat-like home on 26 acres of Vermont land -- a spacious, airy, and light-filled house perched above their outdoor ice rink and, farther down the hill, their pond. My two kids romped and wrestled on the grassy lawn with their three girls with no worries of cars or other urban menaces. They raced off to the garden to pick bright orange carrots and sweet blueberries. We donned swimsuits and made the short trek down to the pond with its soft sandy shore. Ruby delighted in the newts and frogs they caught while Abe kept up a never-ending game of chase with an ever-changing fraction of the remaining girls.
This side trip is just a small segment of our vacation, sandwiched between time at the Jersey shore with my family and time at the lake in Connecticut with Paul's. And yet it stands out to me because the last time I was back east in the summer I was just starting to recover from those six disorienting and often disabling months of dizziness and anxiety. Last time I was here I was still fragile, and cautious. B once noted that I use the places I've lived to keep track of my life. Having moved so much as a child, place became a natural way to remember the small as well as significant events in my life. Now, living in one location as I have for so many years (14 years in Berkeley, 8 years in this house), it is harder to keep track of what happened when. Being east in the summer again has triggered this memory of anxious times and I remembered last night, that two years ago, when I was last here, I would not have been driving down I-91 with two kids in the dark and rain, alone.
And, even if I had, I would not have been singing loudly and enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and my children like I was last night.