‘I think I prefer to live at the level of what the British call muddle. Muddle with occasional squinting at something that might be called clarity in the distance, so as not to despair.’ From Carlene Bauer’s “Frances and Bernard”
Our weeks are too full, like stemless wineglasses that froth and overflow. Most days are spent nose to the wheel, working, cooking, cleaning; making lists and getting things done. We are keen to focus on the highlights sprinkled here and there, moments to anticipate, to look forward to with a secret fervor. We had promised T for weeks that we would take him out to eat at our new favorite place. We would celebrate the end of midterms and his acceptance into several circus camps this summer.
The menu there is spare and simple– they serve burgers and fries. It is somehow unpretentious and New York wannabe all at once. Because of the winter weather and our crazy schedules we’ve had to postpone the trip more than once. When we finally stepped through the doors, we all felt a sense of relief at finally having arrived. I think we collectively exhaled. We made our way to the menus, which are posted on the chalkboards, mounted on several walls. They give the space a timeless and yet contemporary feel. Knowing that they write out the menus by hand, and that they use local ingredients, you instantly sense there is a level of engagement and involvement you wouldn’t find at any eatery; as if the moment you sat at the bar they would greet you by name. When we moved here 13 years ago, I never in a million years imagined we would have a place like this so close to home.
As they took our order one of the cooks stepped out to admire T’s style of dress, his vest and pocket watch. He told me later that when two nerds meet, it’s magical. And so it was.
I wanted it to be a magical evening, but talk turned to grades and expectations. And the butterfly I should have been gingerly holding, was crushed from the weight of parental concern. I tried to take a few pictures, photos to sum up the evening to be revisited later. And while my subjects (almost) willingly obliged, T harped about wanting to enjoy the moment, not smothering it with my camera.
But these are the moments I want to capture; the quiet celebrations, the food and drink we shared. I want to wrap my arms around them like a blanket, holding them close to me. For I know these days won’t last, I know someday I will wish to partake in the busyness of life instead of being pushed to the outer edges. It seems an impossibility, though it is inevitable. I can’t predict the future but if I squint I often catch a glimpse.
I see myself much in the same way Clare ends her days in the “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” (Not that I should be envisioning my life in the manner of a fictional character, but it’s one of the hazards of the job, a cost to spending so much time in and around books.) That last scene where Henry has gone forward and Clare has been patiently waiting for him, a long braid faded to a dull peach color hanging down her back. She has been staring out the window wrapped in a shawl to keep off the chill. My recounting of their reunion may seem sad and maudlin, but there is something to be admired in her dedication and steadfastedness. Love and the possibility have been a comfort to her.
I imagine at the end my many memories will keep me company. I want to read, and knit, perhaps keep my whole family in scarves, mittens, socks and shawls. There will be a rocker whose seat has conformed to mine and the steady back-and-forth will provide its own sense of comfort. I will think back to days in the past, those quiet celebrations with a young son looking dapper in a vest and bow tie; a husband whose glances still make me melt but whose arms envelop me in warmth and safety—often when I need it most.
Looking up from my visions, I find we are still busy with school, jobs, maintenance of one kind or another. It doesn’t ever seem to lessen, they demand our constant attention. Still, writing helps, taking pictures helps. They preserve, we persevere. Most days we’re just trying to get through to make it home again to a warm embrace. Some days it’s that thought, that hope, that carries me.