How can six days and eight hundred miles of driving make it so hard to get back on schedule? My brain is too full and my body is weary. The temperature is dropping, the wind is blowing and leaves are falling. It’s time for a reset.
What’s going on with us?
I wish I knew, Lily. Lily is my inner fourteen-year-old. She came with me on a recent trip to our home town, Port Townsend, WA.
I was there too!
Yes you were, 9. 9, as you might guess, is my inner 9-year-old. The three of us drove off last Thursday and came back this Tuesday. It was the visit we’d planned for April, delayed due to travel restrictions and the constantly changing rules of what can and can’t be done during the world-wide public health crisis.
The purpose of the trip was to provide relief for two essential workers who just happen to be my sister and my niece. Both of them are teachers and were required to return to in-classroom instruction early in September, which, given the way things usually seem to work out, coincided with family issues that required extra attention. So. I went. To help. From my Phase Two county to their Phase Two county.
I have a nagging feeling that I was out of compliance with current travel restrictions. It was surreal, driving through three Phase One counties and three Phase Three counties to get there and back, like the state suddenly isn’t a state anymore, just a bunch of loosely related components. Most people were masked at rest stops but those who weren’t seemed defiantly so. The coming election made it worse, with red, white and blue signage spewed along the highways, violently shoving my emotions up and down. As a friend recently said, I’m tired of living in a Mad Max movie.
We were all pretty tense.
And they took out the high school track!
Change is always a danger when you go back home, 9. We fit in a half-hour walk while we were in Port Townsend, our route the one we used to take to school and back. 9 is especially fond of the high school track because that’s where she made her best friend in fourth grade.
But not at first. It’s kind of complicated.
She was a girl who lived in our neighborhood. We were both in Mrs. Morton’s fourth grade that year but didn’t really know each other. She was a skinny girl; we were not. One fall day we were walking home after school, taking the shortcut across the high school track and there she was, blocking the path to Blaine Street, holding a muddy broom like a baseball bat.
I’d seen the broom in a puddle that morning but didn’t think anything of it.
Who would? When we got close she swung the broom at our shins. The bristles splatted mud all over our white knee socks. We darted to one side, scrambled up the berm alongside the path, and ran.
I can hear the soles of my shoes slapping the street and hers right behind me.
It was a warm fall afternoon and we broke a sweat under that ugly fake-leather jumper and turtleneck. We ran three blocks, all the way to Lawrence Street.
I was sure she’d catch me and hit me with the broom again, but she didn’t. When I slowed down and looked back, she was just standing on the corner of Lawrence, watching me.
The next day she was waiting at the track again, but she didn’t have a broom.
She just had school books. She walked with me but we didn’t talk until we were nearly to her house. I just had to ask her- –
Why she chased us. I’ll never forget what she said.
“I wanted to see if you could run.” After that, we were friends.
That was quite a reset, 9. And so long ago- -fifty-two years! I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the track is gone. Now it’s half tennis courts and half untended weeds. The weeds make me sad.
And the weeds make me wonder: what will the new normal be when- -if?- -we are free of COVID-19? Some days I’m afraid to ask.
Every single day feels like a reset. I move through a list of tasks that sometimes seem meaningless, but they keep me going. I make plans but don’t count on them because half the time they get cancelled. The fluidity of how the world works this minute, as compared to the minute before and the minute to come, can be numbing.
Reset, reset, reset. Feed the cats. Do the online yoga class. Read research books for a major writing project that feels promising but has yet to gel. Order takeout from a restaurant I hope will still be there in the fogged future. Finish another module from Spanish Made Simple. Every so often make a break for it- -a masked, furtive break to where I’m never quite sure I’m really allowed to be.
Go back home and reset for whatever comes next.
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