The pre-Christmas drive back to Chicago was without incident. I committed a rare act of wisdom and took the southern Kansas-Missouri-diagonal-thru-Illinois route, which was dry and sunny, with snow and treachery appearing later, at about Bloomington, IL, only 2 hours from my destination. All told, this decision added 140 miles to my trip, but was totally justified given the cold and snowy roads on my usual northerly route.
Arriving home, the first order of business was – well, to eat. A lot. You cannot understand the fervor with which my mom feeds guests in her home, especially when it comes to her sons, and – as I can only imagine – even moreso when it comes to her 1000-mile-away son. Simply amazing and wonderful, yet at the same time numbingly dangerous and sinful, technically.
At any rate, the intended first order of business was to finish some revisions to a paper draft I’d been working on, which happened over the course of two mornings at local strip mall coffeeshops. Remember folks, this is the Chicago suburbs. Then there was the Christmas shopping I’d yet to do, and more strip malls. All purchasing was executed within the famed four corners of 75th and Main/Lemont in Darien, IL. The hairiest of it involved the acquisition of materials for a crafty shadow box thing I made for my nephew, involving 1) the shadow box, 2) a bunch of scrapbooking and calligraphy items I dare not mention, 3) a blank CD and 3) a song I’d written for the little guy, recorded with my band here in Denver, backed with an alternate, jangly, acoustic version featuring myself and singers Emily and Jenn, all in a real studio with a real engineer. Spent an entire evening on the final, physical product, mostly on perfecting my penmanship.
Christmas Eve was tame. Now that my brother has a family of his own, we get a full house only on Christmas Day. So the night before, it’s me and my folks bumming around, watching James Bond movies. Kind of nice, in that slovenly, gluttonous kind of way. On Christmas Day proper arrived my fantastic 20-month-old nephew, as well as my younger cousins. Pretty golden and blissful, albeit eye-opening in terms of life events and the family dynamic. I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on issues related to the family, and my role in it – as it is easy for me to blow off such things given the geographic distance I place between us. I’m learning, clumsily, that there is yet much room for kindness and understanding – especially when such brief visits home demand that I make things really count while I’m there. Far too easy to fall back into the trappings of adolescent detachment and disdain, back in that old house, sleeping in that same old bedroom. How lame.
But there’s also a joyful side to being reminded of oneself. On this trip, I had my own car, meaning I was completely mobile and able to roam Greater Chicagoland freely. Uncharacteristically seizing the opportunity, I set out for drinks with a cast that spanned my entire adolescence and adulthood: in the city with my junior high best friend; in the suburbs with high school folks I’d not seen in years, as well as the ones I usually keep track of; and then all over to see old college roommates and our associated cohorts and comrades. Kee-rist, I even drove down to Indianapolis to spend an evening catching up with a dear grad school friend, with whom I’d lost all contact since leaving there 7 years ago. In turn, each of these fine people afforded me glimpses of myself in more optimistic and innocent times. Yet, I am still very much the person they knew back in the day, and in these reconnections are glints of my own optimism and innocence, still vibrant and true. Renewal.
Often I’ll get to thinking that I’ve managed to spread myself too thin, without having much to show for it in the way of…well, accomplishments. While others have taken what they had going for them, and dived into one tidepool or another, I’ve chosen instead to comb the long shoreline, knowing that the sea exists, but failing to recognize it. Has the lustre of youth given way to a dull and silent agnosia? And is this confusion merely the logical outcome of an elegant self-sabotage?
But that’s the good thing about renewal: such questions are rendered meaningless. What, really, did I learn my from my visit home? Not sure, but perhaps it’s better to talk about the things that I really liked about it: that I was reminded of myself, perfect in my many flaws, and that I am indeed alive, which means anything’s possible.
A new year is about to start, and it’s looking like I’ll welcome it alone. But I’ll do so feeling a bit more whole than I have in recent times. I begin to remember myself, just as the ignorant beachcomber is reminded of the living sea beneath his nose. And maybe – this fine, new year – maybe someone shall love me for it.