And just to really bring on the nostalgia, there we were at that conference center where we spent time every summer growing up. There were some fireworks across the lake the first night we were there, which took me right back to being so mad one morning to wake up and hear that my older sister and Debbie (who had been sleeping on the screened porch) got to see fireworks across the lake, while the three of us younger ones sleeping in the bedrooms missed out. Just like that, I was right there, five years old, jealous, and pissed. Ha. You'd think I could come up with a more flattering memory, but there's the one I've got.
When I was younger, I don't think I fully realized the value of family, of being part of a tribe. I probably still don't, but I know I was fascinated and buoyed up by spending time with them last week. When I was younger, I had so much invested in establishing my own identity, some special uniqueness that turned out to be not all that special or that unique. Now I can look around at my cousins and appreciate how much we are alike, and how rare our particular combination of faults is. [aside: You know, the teacher from my editing class would argue that "special uniqueness" is redundant, but I don't think it is. Well, OK, maybe it is but it still works in this paragraph. Maybe.]
There we are with our blond eyelashes (which never get fully coated by mascara no matter how hard you try), our cerebral interests, our collective introversion (we figured this week that there was one extrovert per family, which is a good thing or we would have all retreated to our rooms and never come out). Most of us have a tendency toward bitchy crankiness that covers hearts utterly loyal and unfailingly willing to help, the same snide and sarcastic sense of humor, and (damn it) chronic headaches. It's comforting to know you're not some weird anomaly. (or if you are, at least you're not the only one.) When I was younger, I wanted to be some sparkling combination of amazing individualized traits, now I'm just happy to know I'm not the only one dealing with my particular burdens.
And then there was the trip to Chicago. I call myself a native Texan, but technically, I'm not. I was born in Philadelphia while my dad was teaching at a college there, and we moved to a town about 30 miles west of Chicago before I was two. We didn't move back to Dallas until the summer I turned seven. But since most of our extended family was in Texas, and many of our vacations involved trips to Dallas to visit them, we always knew we were just temporarily displaced while we were living in the North.
Anyway. Chicago. The first time I went to a movie, we rode the train into Chicago to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Or maybe it was The Jungle Book. I'm not sure, but I remember the train ride and being too hot. And then for my first two years of college, I went back to that school 30 miles west of Chicago where my dad taught, adding more layers of memory.
The Chicago waterfront is an entirely different thing now than it was back then, but even then I always loved going to Chicago. In college we would get on the train and head into the city to go to Uno's for pizza, or the Hyatt for the dessert bar, or to Marshall Field's for frango mints (back when that was the only place you could get them). My friend Dré and I rode the train in one time for the matinée of the stage version of Evita and then went out for lunch at some restaurant at the top of a building somewhere, I don't remember which one. We thought we were quite the sophisticates.
Now, there are all kinds of cool things to do and see at the Chicago waterfront.
|The Bean at Millenium Park (otherwise known as the Cloud Gate)|
|Like every other tourist there, we took a zillion pictures of ourselves|
At some point last week Crosby Stills and Nash's "Southern Cross" played and I was so swamped with nostalgia for the early 80s that I could barely stand. Which seemed kind of funny. I've never been one for sentimentalism or nostalgia. I've never wanted to go back to my childhood or be 25 again or god knows not 14. But it hit me hard last week. It was a simpler time, yes? Maybe the reason I've never longed for the past is because I always thought the present was better. If you're a woman, there is no time period in the history of our planet better to be alive than the last fifty years.
Nowadays, I'm finally not so sure that the present is better. Things were a lot less complicated back then. Or maybe it's just seems that way because I was younger and less complicated myself. Either way, it hit me hard last week.
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of the coming day
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me larger voices callin'
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world
Lookin' for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will, and you know it will yes