A year is not as long now as it used to be. Twenty years ago, a year was a long-term relationship, seniority at Victoria’s Secret, enough time to become BFFs. Now it’s not even long enough to bother introducing myself to the neighbors or unpacking my wedding china.
Back then, a year was long enough to fall in and out of love six or seven times (sometimes with the same wrong boy, sometimes with several wrong boys), decide (for real this time!) to pursue eleven or twelve different careers, drape my ratty Uptown walkup in pretty fabrics and feel perfectly at home. I don’t remember giving a thought to the next place until a month or two before the lease was up. It didn’t matter — home was wherever I took my boom box and Pier One votive collection.
Now I’m here, my stuff is here, my family is here in this house, but I still don’t really feel like I live here. This is mostly my fault –I’m not invested because I’m too aware that we’re only here for a year. I’m almost 40 now, so a year is an entirely different unit of time than it used to be –longer than the time it took for my little peanut to complete preschool, kindergarten, and 1st-3rd grades combined, but not as long as it takes to stuff my Duchesses in their jackets, snowpants, hats, mittens (“I can’t find my ‘nother mitten, Mama!”), boots, and scarves before they tell me they have to tinkle. It’s just a year, I think to myself, so why bother doing much of anything except waiting for the next thing, the permanent thing?
I have never been good at living in the moment –I am forever looking way back or far ahead.
A disposable year …that’s how I’ve been thinking about it. Something like the mandatory canoe trip at camp every summer: it wasn’t a trip I would ever have chosen, I didn’t love every minute of it, but it showed me some rare, wild beauty and deepened my friendships with the other girls, so I was glad enough to have had the experience in the end.
Still, I liked it better looking back on it from the other side (that first post-canoe-trip shower was heavenly). Once it was over, I could fully enjoy the camp experience I had actually signed up for — sailing in adorable outfits with full hair and makeup in case one of the boys’ boats got close enough to see me, movies in Senior Lodge on rainy nights, and winning the extra scoop of ice cream with camp chocolate sauce in horsengoggle. And sitting out on the balcony of Clubhouse during cabin meeting with Liz, laughing our asses off because nobody knew where we were. And lying on my back in LT cabin singing “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles with Marlys and Betsy. Oh, and bagel dogs –I’d go back to camp just for those.
Camp…sigh …I digress.
I have never been good at living in the moment –I am forever looking way back or far ahead. I suppose that’s a hazard of being a creative writer-type; I need psychological distance from the events in my life before I can write about them (I’d be a horrible reporter). I get through whatever there is to get through and make sense of it later. Spending a few years in hell mode will do that to you, too.
It’s a good strategy for processing trauma and intensity, but when the whole family is sitting in a dark movie theater wearing 3D glasses, giggling at Madagascar III, I want to be there with them. When Julie comes over eating Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch out of a tupperware container to sit with me on my porch and ask where the hell the summer has gone, I want to be there with her.
Even though I didn’t actually sign up for a year in a rental house, I want to participate in this softer, easier time in my own life as its happening …as Brian and I are dating again, as I am reading novels and puttering in the kitchen and yard again, as a year –maybe for the last time– is once again stretching out for me into a unit of time long enough to feel perfectly at home, to be glad for the experience.