Thursday, November 8, 2012
An ashen tail pipe drips and steams just a few feet from our car.
This is winter.
I am a teenager again, studying images from from the passenger seat of my grandfather's Chrysler.
My grandfather's legs are perfect 90 degree angles, his knees making pleats on powder blue pants. His freckled hand holds the wheel while the other pushes through a surprise of thick gray hair.
He is quiet, deliberate, and relaxed as a train conductor with years of muscle memory.
"Your blinker's still on." I remind him because I don't want us run off the road.
"Thanks, Smartypants." He teases me as if we had an ongoing tit-for-tat.
We drive in the slow lane to school, neither of us needing to fill up serenity with meaningless chatter.
I wish there was an even slower lane.
"Don't miss the bus ride home, it's a long walk." He ribs me some more. I can think of nothing funny so I kiss his cheek in a truce. I'll get him back later after walking home from school.
Nobody's around to see my grandpa drop me off that day and I feel disappointed. I want to show him off. He's my secret weapon that I liked to bring out as if in doing so people would suddenly understand me.
Growing up with my grandparents meant I started at the end and went in reverse. I already saw what happens in the end. The sweet retired middle, the lonely broken after, and the very bitter harshness of the final end.
While my friends felt giddy for dances, Homecoming games, or their new Sebagos, I felt alien, disconnected, and uninterested. All the cool kid stuff seemed frivolous in my world ripe with discussions of dictatorships, savings bonds, college applications, and Alzheimer's.
I faked it just fine though, did not look like a weirdo and fell in love so hard that love letters gave way to poetry which kept me busy and utterly amused for years. I lived and loved very much inside my own mind. it was safe there.
My best friend (my Otter) was my one link to this strange dramatic teenage world, doing her best to include me in after school events, pep rallies, and student government. None of it stuck but we ate a lot of Doritos and made a bazillion precious memories together.
Now, with both grandparents long gone, my default is to still feel displaced, disconnected, and alien, even when there is no real reason to feel those ways. I belong now to a different sort of club: Motherhood, Preschool, Kindergarten, Writer's Circle, Runner Buddy, and the beat goes on.
Sure, there may not be a grandfather to adore or a grandma to take to the store for cough drops and cottage cheese. But is that any reason to sleep walk through this part, even if it seems foreign to me now? In homage to them, I need to wake the F up.
Suddenly, sitting behind an ashen tail pipe that is steaming and dribbling toward my minivan, I see it's almost winter again. I'm not ready for winter. Even though I may not know how to do this middle of life part (mothering, cultivating egos to sail instead of rest, this tricky balancing act of nurturing others while keeping my own personal joy alive and well) I'm going to figure it out, splinters and all.
My children play around me and I don't care to join in. I want to curl up in my blanket and fleece to write, drink hot drinks, and have conversations about capitalism and nursing school.
But I can't do that. Because if I did, my kids would grow up just like I did, over before I began. They would know realities of what happens in the end. They have a right to a silly youth, frenetic tumbling toward independence, unabashed kid yells of a happy childhood. They will not read their stories from back to front if I can buck up and take off my granny undies.
Their winter has not even started yet.