|Between Bathampton and the toll bridge|
Years ago, I went to Florida to take care of my grandmother while she recovered (as far as recovery happens in the later stages) from an exacerbation of COPD. I was a year into a PhD, and I thought that it would be easy enough to write when she slept. Inexperience is a fabulous reminder of the eternal naivety of the human condition. I read a lot of blogs during those months, and I wrote a handful of rather dire personal essays, but mostly I coped with a seventy-five year old toddler. I didn't see a lot of Florida that trip; though, I let Gram dream aloud about what we would do the next time I visited. I didn't mention how much I hate Florida, but I did apply for a handful of permanent faculty positions close enough to her residence, far enough away from her residence.
We spent a lot of our time in the medical-industrial complex that runs the length and breadth of Florida. One stucco building runs into the next until you're practically eating peaches in Georgia. Most days, as tempting as it was to keep on driving, I kept an eye on the amount of oxygen left in the green tank that road shotgun attached as it was to Gram. I learned to turned us toward home before the red indicator light would frighten her.
It isn't surprising, now that I have time to ruminate, that when my great aunt relieved me I hadn't seen much of America. I headed north for my sister's wedding and began the litany of things I had forgotten: which way to look when crossing the street, how heavy nickles are, the intricacies of filling up a petrol tank, how American roses smell, the necessity of greeting people you pass in the street, and American boys. I'd forgotten their long khaki shorts and worn-out t-shirts, the way they sit in threes and fours on front stoops drinking brown bottled beer, that they shake hands, that they hug each other, that they can throw a Frisbee up and down a road for hours. I'd forgotten America boys, train horns, and wintergreen mints.
I find a certain disquiet in knowing that melancholy is little more than knowledge of a memory turning first pleasant, then fading. I like to stand on the railroad bridge out by Bathampton for no greater reason than I am finally old enough to do so for as long as I choose. There is no great adult insisting on a bath then bed, no one to tell me one more train and then we'll go. And still, until I snapped the picture, I hadn't remembered how the city rises quite suddenly on the horizon. I am grateful for pavements that are no wider than my hips, for the shadow the abbey throws in mid-afternoon, for the weight of a pound or two in my left pocket.
I am glad to be home.