Friday, June 6, 2014

starlight painted on the pavement

It was such a small journey, in feet, but it felt as if I were striding from one end of the universe to the other, the light of the Alps illuminating my way.
--Richard C. Morais, The Hundred Foot Journey

I came home in the midst of a rainstorm.
As we landed on the airport runway, streaks of rain running down the windows of the aircraft.
But inside the house was a homecoming like I'd never seen before.
The light in our house is so soft and malleable, it adjusts to suit the changeable moods of its inhabitants, the atmosphere bends to the ready tempers that dwell inside it.
The kitchen was filled with a warm light that did not come from the outdoors.
The gloomy grey cloud-banks outside only accentuated the joy that radiated inside the yellow kitchen.
There was something fresh and lively about the house. 
Each person seemed to chirp and chatter with their own exciting news, all the private joys inside of them spilling out in one big iridescent hullabaloo.
The kitchen pulsed with the various stories of twenty-somethings, teenagers, and one eleven-year-old boy who keeps up with all his older siblings.
I didn't look so closely at everyone's faces, but there was a collective smile that settled down over the entire room, incubated by the rain glistening on the window panes.
Joy echoed in the linoleum floor and the stuccoed ceiling.
Breathlessly, my own story poured out of me and added to the general joyful chaos.
I stepped back to take in the scene, and something tugged at my heart. 
Quietly, something whispered that this was a side of growing up I had never seen before.
Perhaps, it suggested diplomatically, growing up is not simply about loss, but about gaining something new as well.
Like yesterday, with my mother and the math book.
As she picked up Saxon Math Book Number 87, my mother said: I don't need this anymore. Confused, and intrigued, I looked up from the world of ante-bellum masters and slaves that was holding a firm grip on my attention.
I understood her meaning: my youngest brother had just finished his math lesson for the year. And instead of saving this book for the next child in line, my mother was to retire the book for good.
There was no child next in line to inherit the book, as we had done for so long, ever since I first inherited that book from my older sister many years ago ( she had impishly changed the threes to eights in several of the problems, causing me great confusion and distress).
It was strange to think of a cycle that had seemingly continued ad infinitum was finally coming to an end.
Usually, my response to growing up is nostalgia for the old days, when there were baby toys scattered across the living room floor, baby gates at the top of the stairs, and lots of little baby clothes in the laundry hamper.
I miss the hurried nature of life when everyone had to pile into the minivan to go to the grocery store, and when you vied with your siblings over who got to take the crying baby to the back of church during the homily (because you wanted to get out of the pew as much as the screaming infant).
Sometimes, I'll look at old pictures of all our little selves sitting on the front porch eating ice cream or playing dress-up out in the backyard, and I miss the simplicity of being a small child.
In a large family, being a small child is great fun: there are the mornings you wake up early to start your Barbie games before mom makes you start school, Christmas mornings, mornings your mom surprised you with waffles and whipped cream for breakfast.

But, there, in that kitchen, was the joy of when everyone in the family is, to a certain extent, grown-up.
There is a different sort of simplicity in the love fostered between siblings who can talk to one another about their art projects or science lessons and psychology theories, and what they're scheming over and what they're dreaming for.
It's a different sort of fun than running the plastic dinosaurs through all sorts of terrors and tribulations in your giant maze book with your brother, but it's good fun nonetheless.
There was something new in that kitchen that had never been there before.
Coming home to new things (substantial new things, I mean, not like new ovens, or new sofas, or new pictures on the wall) is jarring. But not a bad sort of jarring, just the good kind--the kind that makes you more attentive and alert, interested in the environment around you. 
Like when something jerks you out of your drowsy head-bobbing in an afternoon class. 

As I drove out into the pouring rain, sheets of lightning cutting through the velvet night with rosy blades, I turned up the Chopin prelude.
The sweet music and the savage rain blended together so sweetly.
Sort of like loss and gain.
Making a crashing harmony, like thunder and lightning, like adulthood and childhood.
It was a fierce juxtaposition, and I felt its electric charge run through my blood as its violent symphony soared through the wet and wild air of the storm outside.


As man understands, he knows how to go on.
--Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations


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