Tue 17 Jan 2012
seven years ago tonight i landed – in the middle of a snowstorm – back in PEI.
for good, it seems, or for the long run, though i could not have predicted that, back then. back then, i wasn’t used to staying in the same country more than a few months. i own condiments now far longer than i used to own furniture.
(should you ever doubt that time marches on with merciless mundanity, check your condiments. if you have none older than your children, you are truly living carpe diem.)
our last apartment in Korea had a chilly tile and concrete hallway that opened to the winter air: no security door in that building. it was 5am and dark and cold and the trusty little 1993 Kia Pride that had cost $300 was just about to be given up for scrap and it groaned and shook as Dave pumped the gas. i had three suitcases: five years of a life stuffed down to so damn little.
it never seems possible that you can be leaving a place forever. i remember staring wide-eyed out the window at the waking city: the shuttered shops with their tin grates, the pots of drying red peppers by the roadside. the hustle of the bus station even before dawn; the pungent smells of kimchi and deng jang paste and bad imported coffee. all so present and familiar, then. now, a dream half-remembered.
i landed here at midnight more than thirty hours later, in a snowstorm. home. i was coming home. my mother met me at the airport, even though it was late and the roads were slippy, as we Islanders say. she gathered me in her arms like a child.
i was laughing, beyond tired, beyond happy. i was twelve weeks pregnant with Finn. i’d slid his ultrasound picture between the pages of my passport; shown it to the flight attendants between Tokyo and Toronto. i slipped it out to show my mother at the airport: her first sight of her first grandchild. i breathed deep, relieved. safe. and i stared wide-eyed at my sleeping hometown as the cab drove us home in the snowy dark, my heart all hopeful in my throat.
everywhere is a dream half-remembered, when you are not there.
i wrote once about what seven years can mean, how our cells regenerate and leave us utterly new. except the cells of the children we carry, who remain, somehow.
sometimes it feels as if nothing of that girl who stepped off a plane that night seven years ago could be left within this body. i am more tired now, more cynical, more lumpy and stretched, as if i were silly putty and time were like gravity.
but i know her.
i know her soft little camel cloche hat, bought to look like a grownup coming home: it still sits in my closet, seldom worn since that first winter.
i know the child she carries…or i know him as well as anyone. he is an enigma still, seven years later, and it has been long enough for me to know he always will be. i know he will die, in her arms, in mine, a few months after she steps off the airplane. i know that he will be the dividing line between she and i; that the shocking ephemerality of his small face will take worlds with it that she will never see again.
but. when i think of her stepping off that plane onto the tarmac seven years ago, i no longer want to shout at her to turn around, to run like hell. i wince, but i do not flail.
i know the smile on her face, the one that looks forward expectantly in spite of whatever else came before. i feel it rising again to my own.
it scares me, this relentless hope. but there is no other direction.
next week i turn forty. i shake my head at the number, not in denial or even disbelief…just…surprise. that it can be. everything surprises me these days. these seven years most of all.
in fifteen days, we move. this house that we brought our babies home to, all but the one, will be in the past. and a piece of my own past, in its strange way, will be our present. our future.
the move itself – the chaos, the packing – have me properly panicked.
the transition, though? it is already in motion. i am watching wide-eyed through the window, trying to carve on my brain the sight of Posey clumping up the stairs here, the sound of Oscar leaning back on his stool in the yellow kitchen and drumming with hands.
soon, it will be a dream, half-remembered.
they say, wryly, that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. so it is with a second shot at homecoming.
i know it can all go to hell, in a second. and still. i gather myself, the old little cloche hat in a box, and go. like stepping off a plane into another January night; my heart all hopeful in my throat.
wish us luck. (and send moving tips, if you have any. we’ve never moved with condiments, let alone children).