|Sometimes when I’m walking and listening to a podcast, the words clop along with each step, coming in and out of the path like an autumn leaf. Then other times, like this day, the words are so clear, so near, so understandable, it’s like the slight touch of an old friend, words that you not only recognize, but ones that find their way into that empty space in your heart, and fill it. These were the words. This musician spoke of being at an awards show in the early 2000’s. She was to go onstage after June Carter and Johnny Cash. It was the old fashioned kind of stage, steps on the side that you climbed in the almost darkness. She watched Johnny climb the stairs, slowly, carefully, like an old man. She noticed he looked fragile, frail. And then at the final step, he straightened, chest out, and as he walked into the spotlight he became “Johnny Cash.” He was tall and strong and new every word to every song. He was amazing. He was, well, he was JOHNNY CASH!” |
It was just after her first cancer surgery that I was showing at Art in the Park in Alexandria. It was one of my first shows and I was a little nervous, and I was alone. My mother was still weak. Still fragile. On the last day of the show, I looked up from my booth, and there she was, coming down the hill, the sun lit just for her. She was wearing a new off-white outfit (maybe pale yellow) that she had purchased from a store in Las Vegas, just out of her price range, completely within her style. She walked slowly down that green path and my arms cheered above my head – the stage was complete!
My mother has never sung or played guitar, but oh, how she has shined. Darkness has tried to cover her through the years, with divorce, illness, life’s uncertainties, but nothing has been able to put out her light. When she is with me, it sometimes takes a minute, sometimes more, but she climbs the stairs, steps onto the stage, and the crowd in my heart cheers, because she is my MOM! MY MOM! Bigger than any star I could imagine.
Today she is living with cancer. We continue to laugh and shop online and dream of outfits from the Sundance catalog, and what Robert Redford might actually think of us in them. So if you ask me how my mom is doing, I will smile and say, “Well, she’s JOHNNY CASH!
It was the best vacation. I know we say that for every one, but this one was extra special. Every day was extra. The weather – unseasonably mild. Sun just a little brighter and longer. In our photos, we smiled, no one had to tell us to, we just did. These moments were meant to be captured. This vacation was the essence of travel. Meeting people. Listening to their stories. Laughing – comfortably and uncomfortably — like when she said, “We call them Yankees…” Smelling the magnolia. Tasting, AT the Magnolia, grits for the first time. Knowing I would make them again at home. Knowing I would claim them as ours, now OURS, and we would tell and retell the stories of each day’s travel. Each day would remind me of another. This vacation. Was it better than Rome? Oh, Rome – the Vatican – the lines, how my aching feet were forgotten in the blue of the Sistine Chapel. But Paris! Yes, Paris! Eiffel and macarons. Could one vacation be better? This one. Yes, that one – sure. I loved them all. Oh, to travel. Drinking wine in Tuscany, with locals. Learning the beauty of locals. Everywhere. Sitting in an orange chair in Lichtenstein. Wasn’t our Junior High librarian from there? She was. And we are connected. Wait, come back to here. Right here. Right now. Home from this perfect vacation. Remembering all vacations. Were they vacations? From what? Living? No. They were LIVING at its finest. I guess that’s what travel is. Living. Celebrating the beauty of your life and all the lives around you. What else could give you that feeling? Coming home I knew it with all the certainty that one heart can produce – this would be my next book. My next inspirational tale. “Get your passport.” Yes, that was it – I had to tell people to travel. See the world. See a different city. A different county. A different perspective. It was all so important and fresh in my mind. And yet… before I got one word to the page, it arrived, the most unlikely, unwanted visitor – the pandemic. There would be no travel. Ah, the best laid plans… And so I stopped. The world stopped. We waited. It will be over soon. Sure. I can still write that. Waiting.
I’ve never been a good waiter. And I’m not sorry for that. I don’t want to be patient. How many days can we afford to give away? This life. Each day is so precious. But I’m not stupid. We must be careful. These are serious times. So now what?
I remember when I was freshly viewing my twenties – all things were possible – or we were going to make them that way. Sitting in a circle of Minnesota friends, gathered together solely for the purpose of what could be – we dreamed aloud. “We should live like the Europeans,” he said. None of us had been anywhere, but we had seen it on screens, read it in books – this European lifestyle. “Yes!” we all agreed. Siestas and wine. Meals so slow and so filled with family and friends. Dark coffee and intelligent conversations. Art and books and discussion. Creations of why not now! “Yes to it all.” We raised our hands, and probably our glasses and smiled one collective smile and sigh. A sigh that brought the realization, to us all, and so someone had to say it, what we were all thinking… “I guess we could do that here.”
I guess we could do that here. Now. In a pandemic world with no travel – we could travel. We could open three jars of marmalade at breakfast, like they have in the hotels. What were we waiting for? Nothing could be wasted – if we enjoyed it. We could wear clothes that begged to be photographed and smiles that did the same. What are you saving that dress for? It was meant to be worn. Even if it’s only in your kitchen. There is no only now – there is the KITCHEN. My life will not be an unworn dress, an unplayed piano. Yes, we are in different times, but our dreams can be the same. Our kitchens can be hotel breakfasts. Books can be read. Art can be made. Dresses worn and candles lit. There is nothing to wait for. And we can discuss and laugh and cry and be moved – for that is what travel is – being moved. Today our hearts and minds and hopes and dreams can travel. And yes, I believe we will all move about someday – and someday soon – but for now, we can’t give up our wanderings – because I guess, I know – we can do that here. No passport required.
Someday I will write that book – or not – but I will never quit writing. And I will tell you that I’m dressed all in purple for no reason, with new shoes as I write this. We had croissants and homemade bread and jam and lattes for breakfast. Multiple jars of jam are open and we are happy. We are living. I think of where I have been, come from, going to, and I am moved. I am moved to tears that laugh and drop in pools of waters splashed. I can do this here. We can do this. Here.