Tuesday, July 18, 2006

vacation, all I ever wanted

This is me at my worst.

No makeup, hair uncombed and tatty-thick from chlorinated water, skin glowing some florid magenta color.

At this particular captured moment in time I've been sunburnt, heat-exhausted, dehydrated, dragged to First Aid, revived from semi-consciousness with ice cubes and water, and shuttled in a little van across this flame-broiled land mass that is North America as the EMT workers sought air conditioning for me as their own personal and very noble quest.

News flash: air conditioning of the most sublime and euphoric quality can be found within the confines of an extremely plushy Cadillac of a nondescript color. (So nondescript I kept losing it all weekend. I could have been arrested for trying to get into other people's cars.)

I don't like the way Cadillacs look, and I don't like the status symbolism that goes along with it, and I firmly maintain that money doesn't buy class and that manners cannot be bought and that courtesy to others and dignity of self is much more valuable than a label or a name.

But the luxury of riding in a Cadillac, I admit it, I am pained to confess it, is REALLY, REALLY NICE.

So is the luxury of best friends. I'm coming to find that friends are far more helpful than the most qualified psychologist. Spending a weekend with them was terrifically relaxing.

Heather and I, dining at an Italian restaurant with Melonie and Laura (not pictured).

Even throughout the laughter and comfortable banter, I know I kept drifting away at moments, if only mentally, and my friends would ask: What's the matter? Where are you? Are you sad? Are you thinking about your kids? What is it?

Nothing's the matter, I'm fine, no, I'm not sad, I know my kids are happy and enjoying themselves too (ah, the miracle of cell phones). It's what I call Seymour's Bananafish (from the J.D. Salinger short story, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"). Which means only this: the feeling you get when you come across something so beautiful and touching that it makes your throat tighten and you have no words to define it. I got Seymour's Bananafish a lot this weekend.

I got it walking along the waterside at night, watching the waves lap up on the sand, licking away the brave little mounds of sand castles that vacationers' children had built all day long.

I got it watching a very young girl (four? five?) in a green sundress sitting next to her grandmother over brunch, her tanned back perfectly straight and her hands folded properly in her lap as she waited for her cue: what to do next.

I got it in the gift shop, standing over the trinkets (bouncy balls, whistles, clackity-clack wooden toys) looking for something quiet to take back home to the children when a little curly-haired boy who'd wandered away from his parents held a spinning top aloft and nudged me curiously: "Mom! What's this do?" and then rounding his eyes at me as I smiled gently down at him and he realized: "Oh! Oh!" (you're not Mom). And I just kept on smiling, motionless with the realization: that's the classification I'm in now; not string-bikini beach teen type, but automatically associated as someone maternal, a woman who knows the names of things and what it is they do. It was a nice thought.

Any time I'm near the water I am completely in my element. In my childhood I nearly drowned more than once due to my endless fascination with the water -- its complete and boundless depths, its buoyancy, its mysteries. Now that I'm older I know not to flirt with the drop-offs in the floor, that some challenges really are unbeatable; that there really are forces greater than ourselves at work, and that surrender does not necessarily mean defeat.

So I walked along the edge, comfortably, stopping to write in the sand now and then, letting the tides consume the messages and carry them away to somewhere else.

Where are you, Sharon? What is it?
My answer: I'm happy.

Update: Heather posts about the trip.
Melonie posts about the trip.
Laura posts about the trip.