Monday, December 7, 2009

Maryland, Day Four

My bags are packed and tomorrow I'm leaving on a jet plane (you better believe I'm singing that in my head and not just typing it - I love me some Peter, Paul, and Mary.) I can't believe it's over already. This weekend has been fantastic - I've done lots of fun things, but at a slow pace, not my regular breakneck vacation pace. I've meandered and moseyed and wandered and I loved it all. This trip was very much needed and I'm hoping to go home and feel a little bit more...human. More "me", less "mom". I'm aiming to be awake at 4:30 - yes, that's a.m. - so let's get today's recap going, shall we?

First up, I slept in. Ahhhhhh. So what that it was only until 8:30? After that I stayed in bed and listened to a book until I finally wandered upstairs at about 9:15. My grandpa was ready to come pound on my door to make sure I was okay. It would have been better than the kids coming in to get me - they wouldn't have bothered knocking. And they would have immediately asked me to do something for them. I sat at the dining table while my grandma made me a cup of hot cocoa and warmed a croissant. Oh man am I going to hate going back to 7 a.m. bowls of cereal after this.

One thing I've noticed on this trip is the lovely roads that I take to get everywhere. They are roads that have seemed unnecessarily long and winding to me in the past, and they might still be if my goal was to get somewhere in a timely manner. Since that was generally not a goal of this trip, I was able to enjoy how beautiful the roads were as they wound through the trees. Even without the leaves, the trees were lovely. The smaller two lane roads remind me of driving through the canyons, except a) not steep, and therefore none of the crazy switchbacks up the mountain, and b) instead of mountain on one side and cliff on the other, you've got trees on both sides. They are right up against the road, not much of a shoulder, and it gives the same impression as the mountain does, pressing its mass against you so that you tend to lean in just to get more space.

Roads in Utah, the roads I drive every day to get from point A to point B, are straight and efficient. They were master planned by Brother Brigham himself, and I suppose after spending two years crossing the Great Plains, maybe he didn't have any wandering left in him. Our nice, neat grid system is an engineer's dream, but it makes for a dull driving experience. Maybe I'm asking too much out of what is only intended to be a transportation system, but I'm a little sad that when I leave the Salt Lake airport, the only trees I'll see are those that have been put there on purpose. I will drive in mostly straight lines and make mostly 90 degree turns. I will see more billboards than foliage. When I need to get somewhere in a hurry, I appreciate our easily understood (once you get the hang of it) east/west north/south directions, but I want to somehow take my meandering attitude back home with me, and I'm afraid the staid, boring roads are going to immediately resurrect the efficient driver in me.

After my leisurely morning, I headed to Columbia Mall to meet my friend Josh for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We talked about our spouses and our children and our jobs, such a different kind of conversation than those we had 15 years ago when I was still in high school. That's one of the great things about seeing these friends who meant so much to me a very long time a go - they knew me way back when I was the previous version of me, Emily 1.0. Now that I've been upgraded to the 2.0 model, I can interact with these same people and notice just how different this version of me is. The fundamentals are still the same, but have I maybe gained some bells and whistles? A better user interface? Have I gotten less buggy? Sometimes I want to know how Josh and Rachael and others that "knew me when" see me - in some ways they are my benchmark. But at the same time, they've changed too, so it's not like I can measure against such a flexible ruler.

After lunch, we walked over to the mall proper and walked around. I worked in the mall for some amount of time when I was a senior, so it was a very familiar place to me. Today, though, it was a brand-new place. There weren't even the faint echoes of a place that felt the slightest bit recognizable. Josh pointed out the place where the JoAnn Fabrics where I worked used to be, and I had to stand there for a couple of minutes, just to get my bearings. This was the only place I visited on this trip that gave me this feeling of complete foreignness.

On my way back to Annapolis, I swung by our old townhouse in Laurel. We lived there from the time I was, oh, five or so maybe until I was 11. In order to get to the bus stop, I had to leave our neighborhood and cross through some woods, over a bridge that covered a creek, and into the next neighborhood. I have fond memories of this wooded area - my brothers and I used to play in the creek and catch crawdads. There were honeysuckles that lined the bank and to this day the smell of honeysuckles takes me back to this place. I tell you all this to help you see the memory of the place that I carry in my mind - remote, isolated, my own little wild place - I compared it to the woods where they played in the book "Bridge to Terabithia," one of my all-time favorites.

These rose-colored memories make me laugh when I see the reality of that place. The "woods" consists of a single line of trees on either side of the "creek," which is more the size of a drainage ditch than anything wild and dangerous. The distance from my neighborhood to the other was, I don't know, 100 feet or so? I'm bad at judging distance like that. Maybe from my house to the end of the cul-de-sac. Whatever the distance, it wasn't this long, dangerous trek I took every morning. I smile every time I compare my memory with the reality. How many other things do I remember so differently? What other places and events do I look back on fondly, that maybe don't deserve it? Is this the trick that the mind plays on people to make life more bearable, as in: if my past was this good, my future will be, too? Or is this the blessing that we get, to go through things that may be hard but take away from it the best pieces and leave behind the excess?

I left the woods and the creek and headed back towards Annapolis. I made my requisite stop at Friendly's and got myself a strawberry Fribble. (Isn't that a great word? Fribble? It's a nice, thick shake that you drink with a straw, so a good word for a good product.) It was purely out of obligation, that Fribble, because I wasn't the least bit hungry. With that checked off the list I hit historic Annapolis to pick up some souvenirs for the kids. I came home and packed - magically, everything fit into my suitcase and backpack (I hadn't kept spatial issues in mind when I was making my purchases.) At dinnertime (still not hungry, mind you) my grandparents took me to Adam's Ribs - oh,wait, Adam's Ribs, I just now got that! Adam, you know, from the Bible? And the rib? Wow, talk about delayed reaction. Okay, back to the story, we went to this rib place, whose owner is apparently NOT named Adam like I thought, and I got baby back ribs with a Maryland crab cake. (That one's for you, Kelly.) It was sweet and light, the outer crust was thin and crispy and it was filled with crabmeat - it was delicious. I'm not a seafood eater generally, but that's two crab items I ate on this trip and I liked them both. I'm going to make a Marylander out of me yet.

I stayed up late talking to my grandparents, then went down to my room and stayed up for another hour talking to Ryan on the phone. I turned out my light at midnight, knowing that sleep was probably futile with an alarm set for 4:30, and I was right. I couldn't fall asleep until one, then my cell phone rang at two, I slept from then until about 4 and decided to get up shortly before my alarm clock because, sheesh, why the heck not at that point. I'm on the plane now and it's only maybe half full (or half empty, depending on how you look at it.) I got the entire row to myself, so I laid down for an hour or so, but apparently I can't sleep on planes. I've never known before because I usually have kids to watch and/or hold during flights. Seriously, I don't know what people complain about - this flying stuff rocks.

I expect this is my last blog about my trip, so in summary I want to say that this trip has been truly wonderful. A balm, as they say, soothing my soul. What's so soothing about sightseeing and eating crabcakes and seeing old friends? I don't know. All I know is that I feel peaceful. I feel calm inside and mentally rested. I feel like things that a week ago had me completely on the verge of losing it aren't going to bother me now. My goal is to see how long this can last. Not forever, surely, but hopefully I can keep the idea of this feeling, the memory of it, and revisit it sometime when life is feeling particularly dire. How do you take a picture of a feeling? I want to lay it down on a page in a scrapbook and keep it safely on a shelf so it doesn't go away. Well, if I can't do that, I can record it in words: I am happy. I am relaxed. I can handle things. Life does not overwhelm me, and when things get busy or stressful, maybe I need to meander a little bit. Take a drive in the canyon and find some trees that aren't part of a master plan. Allow things to come into my life and if they don't make life better, let them go. Slow down. Life is good.

One last round of pictures:

Mmmm, Friendly's. Not the greatest ice cream, but the fondest memories.
This is the playground behind our old townhouse in Laurel. Different now, of course - the slide used to be straight and much shorter. One time Drew took his Big Wheel to the top of the slide but instead of riding it down the slide, he accidentally went backwards down the steps.
The bridge over the creek. Notice the lack of forest.
And the townhouse itself.
My grandparents.

Historic Annapolis. I think Utah has completely missed the boat on calling things "Historic." We've got history, too! I propose we rename Provo "Historic Provo." I think it'd be much cooler that way.

Annapolis harbor. The statue you see a tiny bit of is to commemorate Alex Haley's Roots - his ancestor, Kunta Kinte, arrived on a slave ship into Annapolis harbor.

1 comment:

rachel said...

Emily, if you can eat crab, you can eat a lot of different seafood. Really, you would be surprised.
I am glad you had such a nice time. I know that calm peaceful feeling - I have had it a few times on trips like that. I start to feel human again. In fact, I could use a trip like that now :)