Friday, May 25, 2018

The Path Not Taken

Life can be hard to figure out.
From the time I was little, I loved adventure. I wanted to read about them, to suck them up. 
Exploring the big woods and prairie as settlers. A magical garden. A swing that, if you soared high enough,  transported kids to a new world. A subway ride that melded into 1600s Dutch-settled New York.
Then reading wasn’t enough. I needed to experience life myself. It started with small forays a few blocks away, wandering afar in the early light before many people were awake but when the sun had already whispered good morning, sparkling on the dew drops in the grass. 
Like any good adventurer, I knew to pack supplies, one half peanut butter sandwich folded over for that tender curve of bread rather than the hard edges of sliced bread. I’d drop the sandwich into a brown paper bag and pick a wire-ringed notebook and pencil to take along.
After searching the neighborhood for adventure, I’d end up under the maple tree in our front yard, my back pressing against the smooth trunk as I wrote about things I’d never seen but could only imagine. Mysteries and covered wagons and dusty attics. 
Perhaps it’s no surprise that I felt no compunction choosing a college and then a grad school far from my home in Ohio and then settled into a job in Florida. I don’t remember being sad when my parents sold my childhood home and moved to Kentucky. I rarely venture back to my hometown although my brother lives only half an hour from where we grew up. 
The year Grace was born,
 we moved 4 times - from Sebring, Florida to Tampa, Florida to an apartment in Michigan to a house in Michigan.
Back in the old days when you couldn't tilt the crooked picture
We had two more kids and moved four hours away to Columbus, Ohio. 
The back porch of the house we sold in December
Sometimes when we stayed in one place too long I’d get itchy. I saw moving, leaving friends behind, as a new chapter adding to the book of my life. I have friends and beautiful memories from every page.
And all this wandering, this search for adventure has led me to this moment— lying in bed in a house in Quillan, France. 

The birds outside raise a cacophony of sound to welcome the morning as the blue light of night fades to yellow and I miss my home.
Even as my eyes feast on the craggy rocks of the mountains that surround this town, my heart is in the quiet tree-lined streets of Grandview where I walk with Sheila and we know each other and each other’s kids so well we can talk in a friend shorthand. 
I get and send messages to my kids everyday and I try to read the meaning from a terse response versus a loquacious one. 
Should I just go home and surround myself with my family and friends? Gathering at the coffee shop for book group filled with laughter. Meeting Najah, Noreen and Pam for a slow run around the lake, our breath labored from sharing stories of our lives and our mouths tipped in smiles so that our cheeks ache. Long phone calls with my friend Ruth where we solve the problems of the world. 

Did I dismiss the daily pearls of life while I went searching for adventure? 
And so I think what would my life look like if I returned? My parents still live in Florida far away. Tucker is considering a move to Detroit plus Grace and Jack have a three-year plan that springs them out of Columbus and into the world. 
I could return, but life moves on. Noreen may move to North Carolina and Sheila pines for the countryside with a barn for a workshop. 
If I punched my timecard, trading it for my old life, my previous existence might have moved on. 
Sometimes I wonder if I’m not destined to always long for the other life, the path not taken. 
For now though, I’ll put on my hiking boots and grab an apple and a water bottle and walk into the mountains while they’re outside my window, imagining a day in the future when I’ll look back wistfully and wish I was here again.

6 comments:

Just Me said...

Beautiful post. 🤗

sillygirl said...

Isn't it the nicest thing to be having new adventures AND still have wonderful memories and ties to where you have already been! The web of your life just grows and grows.

Holly Boyle said...

Your best post! Full of robust memories that beckon a return. But we all know you cannot return as all the world marches on. Stay in France and create new memories and friendships. They are just up the path!

Sim Carter said...

Stop making me cry! This really is one of your best posts. Thoughtful and beautifully written. Put it in the book!

Paulita said...

Just Me, Thanks.
Sillygirl, Yes, the web continues to grow whether traveling the world or staying at home.
Holly, Thanks. You're right, as is Thomas Wolfe who wrote "You Can't Go Home Again."
Sim, Thanks. That's what happens in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. Maybe I'd better get insomnia to improve my writing career.

Fat Dormouse said...


I'm enjoying reading your blog. Always keep looking forward, but never regret the past. Enjoy the present!

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