I am no longer situate.

It isn’t contiguous.

I don’t know if this is the indicator of great personal and societal loss, or the beginning of real living. Or if, as I love to joke lately, I just lost a lot of brain cells in the 90’s. What did Stephen Colbert say recently? Or was it Jon Stewart? The 90’s– if you can remember them, you weren’t THERE!

The brain cell loss is certainly true. But it mightn’t be the 90’s or only the 90’s– it may also be having a baby and the subsequent loss of sleep that pounds a mother’s brain relentlessly from pregnancy through the first two or three years. And it might just be that I am doomed, whether through a college-type rock and roll lifestyle that extended way too long, through genetics, or through environmental toxins and stress, to end my life in dementia before too long and need to get my papers in order.

I was born in DC and moved every 4-5 years, but I grew up in places where families lived all their lives, where old homes and homeplaces remained. My Dad’s career was devoted to an institution that preserves historic and natural resources. My parents carted books about community and old ways of life– Jesse Stuart and the Foxfire books and such– everywhere we moved.

I believed in the mythology of place and community and tribe, and wanted it. I wanted to create a home, raise several kids there, so large and comfortable that friends and family would come and stay at holidays and summers, have my kids come home from college there, bring my grandkids there, die there. I don’t mean to sound like my life is over, although of course you never know. But at least til now, how different from that it has been.

Why I believed in that, I don’t know. Both my parents were raised within the military and attended many, many different schools throughout their lives.

What feels like my mother’s family homeplace, a pre-Civil War farmhouse in what used to be a terribly rural Jefferson County WV, is actually a relatively recent purchase– right before I was born. They’re actually from the complete opposite end of the state, but I don’t know much about that and it seems like it’s all gone now, or at least inaccessible to me. I’m begging mother to write her memoirs, and I promise I’ll wait til everyone’s ‘daid’ to publish them, and it will be worthwhile… but it’s all gone.

My Dad’s mother was the child of Swedish immigrants– talk about no longer situate! And his father’s people left Pittsburgh to become permanent snowbirds in Florida, and his parents landed in Norfolk Virginia just because they were Navy. My parents left the place I called home just by default– longest length of time in one place– to be with my grandmother in Norfolk after my grandfather passed away.

And my own choices– throughout my teen and adult years, building relationships that would inevitably stop fitting, moving all over the Southeast, always taking a new job or getting a new education– I never went Back Northeast for college or work, too timid, too needy for my parents in the end. But I’ve worn some paths around Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and Alabama. Nashville, Atlanta and Houston, and increasingly Louisville, exemplify everything I could ever expect from a city, from the incredible divide between grinding poverty and obscene wealth, to public works and cultural ‘scene’.

But here we are, washed up in Montgomery with a baby and a mortgage… This– flat and hot and so much else– isn’t a place I’d ever have thought I’d raise my baby or buy a home or still be at the age of almost forty. But it has been so good to us we’re stuck.

And it’s not just about place. Place is just symbolic. I no longer feel like any person I ever was. I used to have senses of where I’d been and where I might go. But now I can’t trace any strand or Thread that Runs So True through my life into now much less the future. I don’t even have time to try.

My values, speech, and current end are a perfectly sensible product of my life experience and roots. But, um, what were those, again?

I am by default all about now, all about what I can create in this moment– painting a room in my home or building a friendship or scrambling to keep the house clean and my paycheck coming or making a baby quilt or my latest experiment with vegan food that is nutritious, satisfying, delicious, that my kids will eat.

And I’m not doing too good with just now, either. As I write, my garden goes unworked, my trip to the science museum with my kids goes unmade, the disaster in my kitchen from the impromptu champagne brunch and playdate yesterday (my choice over simply being home alone and being quiet, which is what I long for every day of my life– I loved every minute but you know–) sits attracting and breeding gnats and flies, baby quilts go unquilted.

Would contiguous be better? My best friend from library school just sold the home her grandfather built by the river and bought a place out in a new suburb of Nashville. How could she? Yet the river house just didn’t fit any more. I loved it so much as a college girl, but as a parent I eyed askance the wide and deep river that had once been so comforting and symbolic and looked at the steep cliff of a back yard with suspicion. She didn’t have enough room, she had no toilet on the floor that was her bedroom, her two boys would never be able to play outdoors without a parent watching hawklike every moment.

When I am in very old rural places, whether personal like the place on the Cumberland Plateau where my high school best friend’s entire extended family has lived since nobody can remember when, regardless of the availability of jobs or opportunity. or whether more public like historic sites, sweetness and continuity and longing bloom in my heart. But where does situate end and trapped begin?

I realized a year or so ago when my sister in law left my brother to go ‘home’ to a place my family had only lived for a few years, that complaints, impermanence, rocky marriage and all, my home is absolutely with my husband and baby. He longs to move back to Napa California where he was raised, in contrast to Napa’s mystique, in a family of several kids, a small single income, in tiny rental houses, with a quality of life that he remembers as simple but very good. I don’t want to move where my parents are– it too is hot and flat. I long to move to Nashville or Atlanta or Back Northeast, at least to Metro DC (also a very nice short distance from both sides of my family) if not to Massachusetts, to raise my little girl.

She knows only Montgomery. My stepchildren know only Houston. My husband was talking about folks who can afford things like Priuses and an organic environmentally friendly lifestyle (and yes, this includes us, with my veganism and gas guzzling SUV and our huge, fossil-fuel sucking, uninsulated house) sitting around sniffing their farts from wine glasses, and I realized… If we moved back to Maryland… well, as he put it, there wouldn’t be a wine glass big enough.

And we’re not going any damn where. We’re going to sit right here and live our life and pay our mortgage and rack up and pay down consumer debt until disaster strikes or the panic of retirement years is upon us.

I’ve often thought that if my life and perception of my life was more contiguous and situate, things would be simpler and I could get more done. That may be true, and it may not. That’s been my little stumbling block or defense. I’ve always had the fact that I’ve just been through a major life change– move, marriage, baby, job loss, new job– to fall back on to explain why I am where I am.

I was reading Willy Leventhal’s interview of Dawn Halfaker in The Brett Brothers: Brothers Bats and Balls… and Other Life Lessons in Sports. She talked about applying the discipline she learned in athletics to the process of regaining a life– not her old life, but a life, and a good one– after losing her right arm in Iraq.

I don’t in any way compare my suburban existence to her service and sacrifice and strength. And I’m a little mad at her for saying the women’s game isn’t as good as the men’s. But what if instead of wringing my hands, instead of Mother’s Little Helper, I applied athletic style discipline– practice, routine, facing it down even when I don’t want to– to all the things I wish were true, and really worked at making them true? I’m not getting a lot of sleep of late… why not just use that time? And why not just shuck it– stop using my Eastern style spirituality as a pacifier and actually live it instead?

A person who’s had a very chaotic and ugly role in my life– my soul sister, daughter, reflection, my opposite (at least as I perceive it) in every conceivable way, my agent of chaos, liar, schemer, destroyer– said to me recently– you know when I thought my life was so bad? Those were the good years and I just didn’t know it.

As, in retrospect, too late as always for the conversation, I wanted to say to her… so how about some acceptance and gratitude, bitch? Stop clawing at anything and everything like a crab in a bucket.

I keep thinking I’m pretty darn grateful and accepting… but it’s obviously time to keep going, to enjoy my bucket.

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