Saturday, September 20, 2008

For a Dreamer, Night's the Only Time of Day

Two nights ago I had a very eerie dream, the kind of epic dream in which you recall every detail with vivid imagery, the kind of dream where you wake up and are tormented with the thought, "did that just happen, or was I dreaming?" I tend to have very vivid dreams several times a week, but this one in particular has been haunting me for the past 48 hours.

I'm in my grandparents' old house in New York, where my brother and I often spent weeks at a time during summer vacations, and our family spent numerous holidays. It was an amazing house, equipped with secret passageways, a creepy basement, an attic full of antiques, and multiple floors... perfect for hide and seek and other fun games we played when we visited.

However, in my dream, I'm not a child. It's the present day, and I am frantically running through their house. I pass my grandfather, who is seated at the kitchen table, head in his hands, crying. I feel panic and frustration as I continue half-running, half-walking through the various corridors and levels of the house. I feel the urgency of knowing that I am dreaming, knowing that I need to complete something before I can wake up.

I run up the all-too familar stairs to the sewing room/attic, where the twin bed that I slept in when visiting still had the same sheets and quilt I remember from when I was ten. The rocking chair is still in the corner, blocking the door to the actual attic. But the rocking chair is... rocking. I don't seen anyone in the chair, so I slowly walk closer. Suddenly, my grandmother appears in the chair. She stands up and walks towards me. I start crying hysterically; it is now apparent that I have been searching for her in the house.

My grandmother died the third week of September in 2002.

As I'm crying, she places her hand on my shoulder, and I look into her eyes. She smiles at me.

"I'm so sorry, Grammy," I say between tears. "Please forgive me."
Grammy looks at me and smiles again, her gray hair falling around her face in beautiful curls. There is a light suddenly shining through the small window.

"I'm so glad to see that you are finally happy," she says. I can feel the warmth of her hand on my shoulder. "I love you."

And then I woke up, still crying. But it was real. I touched my shoulder and it was still warm from where Grammy had touched me. And I felt overwhelmed with relief. I had just seen my grandmother... and she looked the same as the last time I saw her. But the relief was more because I apologized, and she even acknowledged my current state of happiness (she was always overly critical of every boy I dated).

My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2001, but didn't tell anyone. When my father suggested I come home from college one weekend in early September of 2002 to go visit her and my grandfather at their house in New York, I just casually said I would see them at Thanksgiving, since that was always the tradition. I wanted to spend the weekend with my college friends, since sophomore year had barely begun. I didn't know my grandmother was dying. I didn't know I would never see her again. No one told me. I didn't know. I.didn't.know. That guilt has plagued me for a very long time.

I believe that the spirits of our loved ones occasionally visit us, as if checking up on us. Was that really a dream, or did my grandmother enter my sleep cycle to talk to me, to allow me to apologize, to let me know that she knows I've found The One? Call me crazy, but I truly believe that my grandmother visited me 48 hours ago, which was six years to the date of her death.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Digital Intimacy?

I was perusing through my "Blog Favorites" (i.e. my list of bookmarked sites that I try to read on a daily basis) and came across an interesting article that John linked in his blog. If you're an avid Facebook user or diligent blogger (or "blog stalker"), you'll find this article in The New York Times Magazine pretty powerful. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

True Vacation

I started crafting a poem on the flight from Orlando to Manchester, NH. My inner, and somewhat lost, creative spirit became inspired by the magnificent clouds out my window. I imagined myself sprawled in the grass in the front yard of my childhood home, watching the clouds slide slowly overhead. Sticky summer days are almost effortless when we're children, and I spent many lazy summer afternoons staring at those cotton candy clouds, creating a carefree circus in the sky.

The house my parents rented in Rangeley, Maine was different from the houses we stayed in when I was growing up. This one was larger, since my family is bigger now, and the lot was less private. We didn't have our own dock, and, had I wanted, I could have thrown an object out of my window to have it land on the neighbor's porch. (And, upon hearing that our neighbors had proved less-than-pleasant, I wondered if my aim was any good.)

My parents had rented the house for two weeks, though I was only able to join them for the last weekend (Labor Day). It worked out well, though, because my brother had to come back to MA for an EMT class, and my stepmom had to come back to work for a few days to work at the Town Hall for the elections. One of my stepbrothers had also come back from Maine for a few days-- my guess is he missed his cell phone service and internet access. Ideally, someone would be available to pick me up at the airport.
Rangeley, Maine is a small town in the western part of the state, about an hour south of Canada, nestled in the mountains. In fact, if you're driving fast enough down the narrow roads and are able to avoid the wandering wildlife, you might drive straight through the town without realization. A sign in town notes that Rangeley is the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole. The high school senior class totals between 15 and 25 students each year, and most of the parents make their living off the summer and winter tourist seasons-- boaters, hikers, and fishermen in the summer and snow mobilers and skiiers in the winter. The town has a few family-run restaurants and an ice cream shop that hasn't changed its flavors since I was ten.

I arrived at the airport in Manchester, NH, in the evening, in which I was supposed to wait around for Dawn to pick me up and we would then drive the additional five hours north to Maine. Instead, I ended up traveling back to my hometown in Massachusetts, having dinner, and taking a two hour nap while waiting for Jack to get home from his evening EMT class. Dawn and Jack had been in cahoots earlier that day and had decided that we would surprise my dad (who was still up in Maine) and drive overnight to greet him at 4am.

We left the house shortly after 11pm. I kicked off the road trip by offering to drive the first two hours, my foresight being that I would crash shortly after that, since I had worked in Orlando at 7am that morning.

I didn't realize how much of an issue it is for me to see at night. The street lights and head lights blurred together, and those stupid flashing "construction zone" signs are rampant in the wee hours of the morning. "Hey, look at me! BLINK. I'm a bright orange sign that will make BLINK you take your eyes off the BLINK road for an unsafe amount of time BLINK." After the first hour, Jack wanted to take over.

I didn't snooze much, partly because I wolfed down a veggie burger and fries from Burger King at the highway rest area, and partly because Andy was snoring so loudly next to me that I thought his tonsils were going to vibrate out of his throat. Dawn and Jack had both gulped down "surprisingly good" coffee from the rest stop, and were thus chattering away on topics ranging from organic cat litter to the Presidential Election.

After many narrow, dark roads (and thankfully no moose sightings), we finally arrived at the cabin, stumbling up the porch stairs to find the lights on and the sliding door wide open. The air was a crisp 45 degrees; I watched in childlike amusement as my breath danced around me.
Andy sprinted down the hall in his I-slept-for-5-hours-glory to where Dad was soundly sleeping. He knelt by the bed, in the darkness, whispering, "John... we're here," in a tone that dripped with 6th Sense creepiness. Dad snapped awake, after which we roared with laughter as he looked at us, hair standing on end, shrieking, "What are you doing here?"
Spending two and a half days in the wilderness was both a blessing and a curse. For once, I truly felt like I was on a v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n, far away from intructional manuals, disgruntled coworkers, and, well, LIFE. It was, in a word... fantastic.

However, it made me homesick. And not for Orlando, which I've called my home since May of 2005. I was homesick for the changing leaves, the mountains, the lakes in which you can actually swim ... the hiking trails, the biking trails, the twigs in my kayaking shoes, the dirt on my knees from hiking ... the rock-skipping, the marshmellow-roasting, the sweatshirt-wearing ... the campfires, the loons, the moose ... even the mosquitoes. In those nostalgic moments, I missed New England.

I've taken numerous trips back north since moving south, and it has never hit me quite like it did those few short days in Maine. Maybe it was the perfect weather, maybe it was aggressive nostalgia from visiting such a traditional family vacation spot. Either way, I didn't want to leave the lake and the mountains. We even attempted to find my favorite hiking trail, "Angel Falls," on our last afternoon, but to my discouragement, we discovered the massive rainfall the area had experienced in July had actually washed the dirt road away, which made it practically impossible to get to the trailhead. We drove as far as my dad could (in his company car, mind you), but we eventually had to turn around. My brothers made the best of it (see photo below), but I was deeply disappointed.

I suppose that's the sheer beauty of vacations, though. To get away, to not want to return, to rejuvenate, to reawaken. And I did.
Fortunately, though, I had a few extra days to spend in New England, in which we ventured to yet another traditional location-- the Woodstock Country Fair, in CT. In the span of eight hours, I consumed four ears of buttery corn-on-the-cob, delicious strawberry short cake, a veggie pita wrap, soft serve ice cream with sprinkles, cotton candy, a chocolate eclair, part of Jack's hot fudge sundae, and a few spoonfuls of the most amazing apple cobbler. I truly love country fairs.

Lana and several other long-time hometown friends gathered at Lana's parents' house for what I have deemed Ghetto Slip N' Slide Good Times. A long tarp, a garden hose, and some dish detergent... this was all we needed to recreate that infamous and overly-priced front yard water attraction.

But my favorite part about coming back to New Engand? Seeing my old friends, the girls with whom I grew up. They're scattered around the Boston area now (and Liz, missing from photo, lives in Vegas!), so it's a true gift when we can all be in the same place at the same time. Erin (far left) and Sarah (far right) are engaged... and Liz is already married.

Sometimes I feel like we're still ten years old, heading off to soccer camp next weekend. We just finished playing make-believe in the woods behind our houses (because that's what kids did before the Internet and Ipods) and we're already planning our next sleepover. Erin's glasses are too big for her face, Lana and I are taller than all the boys, and Jenn's diabetic bracelet is magical.

And we're gigling about what it will be like to kiss a boy, get married, and be a grown up. And we cackle, knowing that no matter where we end up, we'll always remain friends.