Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Moving: Saying Good-Bye to Great Falls

In two months, our family of five will drive away from this sweet home of ours in Great Falls, Virginia, and head west to Washington State. I'm busy preparing for the move, of course, but my mind is flooded with memories and gratitude for the time spent here.

This is the house in which, days after moving into, our first child took her first steps, and to which we brought home our younger two boys after they were born. This is the house of their infancy, babyhood, and early childhood. This is the house at which family and friends brought us dinners when they were newborns, came to celebrate milestones, and shared holiday meals.

They've all learned to pump, catch, hit a ball, and make a snowball in this big yard. They've waded in creeks, look for crawdads, picked up frogs and turtles, jumped from snakes in these woods. They've skinned their knees, gotten mosquito bites, and cried from lack of sharing, apologizing, and turn-taking more times than I can count.

When I drive down the dirt road from our house and turn towards "the village," as the downtown of our suburban town is called, into the broader community of Great Falls, and there is a whole other level of people and places to miss: At the ubiquitous Starbucks where I've had millions of conversations with other moms--gabbing and gossiping, sure, but also sharing insights and swapping heart ache...listening to and understanding each other often better than our spouses can.

At Great Falls park with the waterfall that named our town, I've run hundreds of times up and down the trails, pounding out the frustrations that came with this phase in life. I ran off pregnancy weight and ran through newborn exhaustion. I trained for races or ran for sanity. For some unknown reason, I think of my best friend's ex-husband in one uphill on the River Trail and whenever I run over this spot, I think of how he hurt her by leaving, and I hate him all over again.

At the library, my kids and I have checked out thousands of books and they dove into what I hope is a lifelong joy of reading. My timid middle child learned to play chess in the chess club, my youngest read books to a dog, and my oldest buried herself in whatever topic was burning in her brilliant young mind. The head librarian jokes that circulation will be cut in half after my kids and I move.

This place had been good to me. It's been good for me, and for my family. I'm filled with gratitude for our time here as I slowly pack up our life here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Memory

Memory is such a funny thing. Sometimes, it can unfold like a hug, embrace you in the present, then retreat, leaving you feeling like you've just been soaked in the first warm rays of early Summer.

While walking to preschool this morning, my son started taking big, quick steps to match my bigger, quicker steps. "That's a Ranger walk! That's what GrandDad used to call walking like that." I flashed back to when I was his age, and my Army Ranger Dad would double time on a hike, making me giggle and run to keep up.

 A little while later, I walked out to the paddock in the too-crisp Spring air to get a new horse for my lesson. He is the exact horse that I dreamed about--huge, sweet, gray, forelock falling into his eyes, gentle, his canter eating up the ground. I flashed back to the countless hours I spent doodling a horse that looked like Veron as I circled the currycomb and tacked him up.

But memory can come out of nowhere and smack you in the face, too. It can come out of nowhere, sneaking in from the past, and slap you hard, leaving you feeling like you've been pushed into a cold pool.

Early this morning I asked my husband if he'd like to drive up to a certain city to meet my extended family there for a baseball game. I'd been gently pestering him for a few weeks, dancing in the space between reminding and nagging with my request. Finally, he shot me a nasty look and a cold quip that reminded me that I had hurt him long ago, and that city brought up bad memories I'd forgotten about. I'd done my best to abandon and forget those horrible times--until that moment. BAM.

Sometimes I'd like to be in charge of my memory, to be able to enter my brain and un-remember painful or heartbreaking, ugly or difficult moments. I'd like to just remember the good stuff. Can I run my whole Memory through a strainer, letting the big, happy things remain in the bowl while the heavy other crap drain through, never to be seen or heard or felt again?

Then again, what is life but a mix of it all.