On Friday Heather came over for dinner. She grew up next door to us back home, like another sister. She was in town for a conference. My parents and sister brought lasagna, bread, salad. I set out cheese and crackers. We talked about the old days and the new days, the days we are in right now and the ones to come. Almost all the neighbors from that block are gone now and exist together only in my indelible memory of a place that still exists, houses that still stand, but a time that is gone. I'm making it sound sadder than it is. Other kids are riding their bikes up and down that driveway, climbing that really good tree (I hope to god they are still climbing that tree), crawling behind the forsythia bush.
I hope they have the chance to play together like we did, forming a noisy blob that floated effortlessly through the neighborhood, known and safe wherever we went. I hope they still don't need to lock the doors and and that they can still hear the Metro North commuter train quaking across the tracks a few times a day. I hope their biggest troubles, like mine were, are forgetting their musical instruments at home on band day, or not having any clean socks. I hope when they're sixteen religious zealots don't fly planes into nearby buildings and send that whole fever dream of safety and security crashing to the ground. And I hope nobody gets sick or hurt and they never learn what a hospital waiting room is like. I hope nobody calls in the middle of the night. I hope they aren't eaten alive with anxiety or mysterious aches and pains. I hope the recession ends and they all pursue their most passionate interests in a positive and remunerative way.
But if they can't have all of those things, I hope at the least they make a friend who becomes like family, who they can go a long time without seeing but when they see her next, be reassured by how much she both has changed and is the same. And I hope at least they can get a chance to sit around a table sharing a meal and getting nostalgic for a time when they didn't even know how good they had it.
I am starting to not feel that young anymore. I'm starting to feel like I've done a some living by now, like I have lifetimes behind me already. At Michelle's house on Saturday I kept forgetting whether I knew her from high school or college. It all blurs together. Old friends are old friends.
Her new house is an adorable ca. 1912 temple of sturdy Edwardian craftsmanship, hardwood floors and built-in shelving and a fireplace that works, books and wine and baking and cooking. The four of us, the two couples, stayed up late making pizzas and drinking wine and later scotch and solving all the problems of our modern age. We woke up to a sun-swept Sunday morning and Michelle made breakfast.
That right there is the good stuff of life, the living that I'm always so preoccupied with figuring out how to do. You share a meal, you share stories and memories and news and ideas and opinions. You find out which great-aunt's attic the furniture came from. You eat and you drink. You give and receive. You say thank you and you're welcome and please. Especially thank you. Especially that.