Twenty-five years ago today I got married. It was a beautiful day filled with special moments and memories I will never forget. The photographer complained that the skies were too blue and lacking clouds, yet he still managed to capture images that illustrate what a great day it truly was.
I was 27, nearly 28, on that Labor Day weekend Sunday. I thought of myself as an “older bride.” Friends and family came from miles and miles away to join my groom and me in Washington Park where it seemed that the flower beds had conspired to fit our color scheme, It was everything I had ever imagined my wedding day to be.
The reception was held in a historic Shaker meeting house where guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by the only restaurant to say “We’re caterers. Tell us what you want and if it’s possible, we’ll do it” instead of “You must have three hot h’or d’oeuvres and three cold h’or d’oeuvres and 2 salads and…” People talked about the food for years. We had so much fun.
But, as you know, a wedding day does not make a marriage. A marriage is hard work under skies that are not always blindingly blue. Learning and growing together takes effort and sacrifice and communication and maybe I wasn’t really as old as I thought I was on that gorgeous summer day.
Somewhere along the way we got lost. Our marriage ended and, while I take no joy in that, I am so very proud of how we’ve together parented the children our love created. We have always been able to put our children and their well being first and avoid the ugliness I’ve seen in far too many divorces.
While I may no longer be in love with the father of my children, I’ll always love the years we shared and that part of my life. It was a really good chapter.
As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.
After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…
But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.
Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.
Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.
As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.
Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.
I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.
Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently. Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.
A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:
All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.
During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.
After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.
On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists. After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.
Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.
There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?
I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son. My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.
Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided. We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.
I’ve been doing this DelSo thing for what will be a full decade come December 9th. Wow. I don’t know how that happened, but, I’m also unclear how it is even possible that I will retire in less than 6 years. Boom. Just like that. Incredible!
Over the years, I’ve written about lots of different topics and there have been times that I’ve offended people. I’m aware. What does sometimes take me by surprise, though, is when someone references something I wrote and it’s a person I never imagined reading my words. Wild and gratifying in a way parenthood is most definitely not.
Relationship angst and posts about food and travel are usually the most popular subjects and find the largest readership. Everybody loves a little indulgence and drama, right?
I’ve removed only one post ever, upon request from someone I’ve known a long time. I regret deleting it and would be hard pressed to do that ever again.
There was one post which I significantly modified to add anonymity to the identity of a friend who had died after years of struggles with various substances. Editing the post didn’t change the fact that he was gone.
Often, the posts that vex me the most when I am writing them, are the most audibly received. I get comments or shares, which is particularly welcome when I’ve hit the Publish button even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final product.
I know I make people uncomfortable at times with my positions, or the degree to which I share my personal shit, but what I put out belongs to me – my impressions, my thoughts, my trying to understand the only life I’ll ever have. My truth.
In the past 8 years or so, I’ve been gratified by the opportunity to write for other platforms – both print and digital. All over Albany totally provided my first exposure through their weekly “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature and I’ll forever appreciate Mary and Greg for the support they provided to me. I wrote for two Hearst Times Union hosted blogs and have also contributed photos to their website.
It’s been fun to write for other “projects,” but I’ve always maintained my distance and refrained from aligning myself exclusively with an alternate web interface. I’m DelSo Silvia.
A number of months ago, I was approached and invited to write for a new website sort of envisioned as a second generation All Over Albany/Metroland love child. Interested, I agreed. Here’s what I’ve published over there most recently, at CivMix. Maybe you want to check it out? Post a comment? Give a follow?
One thing, remember that the website is still in beta. The site will grow in options and performance and, hopefully, interest to you, DelSo readers.
Wait. Maybe that sounds harsher than I intended. It wasn’t actually a lie when I said it, more of an attempt to say the “right” thing. Because when we travel away from our family and friends and lover, we’re expected to tell them we miss them, aren’t we? It provides some sort of consolation in our absence and verbally demonstrates the importance one places on their presence in your life. It’s what people do.
The truth is, that when I’m away, I’m gone. I’m in some other place, hearing languages I don’t know, smelling scents that make me turn my head to locate the source, seeing things I’ve never before imagined and tasting foods that literally make me moan. I’m walking roads made of marble, swimming in remarkably warm and blue waters, and feeling the sun on my back and the wind in my face.
I’m absorbing as much as I can of the place where I am so I can carry it home. Where I will share it, with those that I love who were not with me for this most recent adventure. So, when I say “I miss you,” what I’m really saying is “I’m sorry you’re not physically part of this marvelous experience, but, I am. Completely.”
I’m no army brat, so the term captain isn’t one I use with any frequency. Which is probably why I took note of the fact that I did indeed use the word twice in a single evening recently. Both were in the “proper noun” category, meaning a place and a person, (of sorts) and both have left me feeling reflective. I’m not complaining, it’s not a bad way to be, particularly as my academic years winds down.
So, the first occurrence was related to a mega reunion, involving many graduating classes, which occurred last weekend. While the event initially sounded fun and worthy of a drive “home,” as the date approached it began to feel less and less appealing. I don’t like really big crowds and I didn’t think I would know many people there. My immediate classmate cohort had been a freshman class of 65 which the much larger class(es) we were merged into, in a neighboring district (we didn’t have a high school in my town), had either absorbed or spit out. What was the point of driving 100+ miles to talk to people with whom I wouldn’t necessarily have engaged 35 years ago?
But, then I started seeing the names of the people who were making significant effort to get to Orange County and I reconsidered. I still didn’t feel comfortable going to the large, and probably loud, outdoor party on Saturday, but there was an interest in a Friday evening social at a local place that everyone there had memories of hanging out at during our late teens and twenties.
The get together was held at the Captain’s Table, a joint where softball teams celebrated after every game, win or lose, when we were kids. It was very much a roadside burger and beer stand, with barstool seating and, as I remember, hinged wooden windows that could be dropped at the end of the night. I learned to like beer there, something I had to do because it was the cheapest alcoholic beverage at the time and I was saving my money to travel.
Friday night’s mixer made me shake my head many times, none of which were particularly bad reasons. I shook my head to clear cobwebs and hopefully recall a long forgotten name. Or history. What was our connection? Shared academic classes? Parties? Did we hang out? Where do you start when you’re talking with someone you haven’t seen in 35 years?
There were, of course, some Laker friends whose names are pretty much etched on my heart. Those people? We really know each other and our histories have been entwined for decades. It takes no effort to remember our shared memories, families, or joint experiences and I’m always happy to see them anywhere. That part is easy.
I stayed at the Table long enough to catch up with a couple of people, eat a burger and drink a beer. That was really all I could manage since I needed to drive north again to spend the night with friends in New Paltz. I left feeling a twinge of regret for
1. Not arranging my schedule better to accommodate staying later and
2. Just not being more comfortable with a crowd.
My takeaway from the happy hour is that I really need to either work on my social skills or avoid placing myself in situations like this in the future. I’m pretty certain that I felt similarly after the last big get together. Maybe I just need to accept that I’m not the reunion type? How do you manage similar events? Any techniques you’d like to share for making reunions more meaningful?
Now, if you’re thinking my second captain of the night was a Captain Morgan and Coke, you’re wrong. It actually involves an adorable addition to the household of friends – a new puppy! Captain is a cocker spaniel who has stolen the hearts, and the shoes, of his new parents since he arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a puppy and I almost forgot how cute they are and how much work they can be! Although Captain is ridiculously adorable and easy to be with (even when he bites my toes), I sincerely salute both of this weekend’s Captains and wish them health and longevity.
In the past decade there was a run of not so great holiday weekends in my life. There had been discoveries and recollections which had left in their wake a slight dread when a three or four-day holiday weekend approached. A good time for all was not guaranteed since unexpected and bad news seemed to arrive as reliably as holiday weekend sales on new cars and large appliances – and I’m not interested in buying any of those things. I’m good, thanks.
This recent extended weekend, though, was different. There was a loose plan for a quick overnight getaway in the Berkshires. Cocktails in a cool and semi-swanky bar bid adieu to the work week and hello to a mini vaca in a delicious way. Museum passes were borrowed from the public library for free admission to a museum that I’ve wanted to visit for some time. The forecast changed from rainy to sunny, a positive change that provided an obvious example of how things can also unexpectedly improve.
Strolling through farmers markets and sipping a Bellini on a sunny terrace are two of the most perfect things to do under blue skies. Especially with someone who treats you well and makes you laugh.
The weekend rolled on with a full morning on the deck with the Sunday NYT, followed by a party with interesting people and a fire which left my hair and clothing pungent with the smell of wood smoke. Spreading four bags of mulch and planting the flowers and herbs from Saturday’s market was Monday’s warmup to a five mile run – with an al fresco nap sandwiched between the more vigorous activities. The grill is definitely back in the rotation and I can’t believe I forgot how easy it is cook dinner when there are not pots or pans left behind to scrub. Ah, the almost summer vibe is strong…
I don’t know that I’ll ever completely forget the bad holiday weekends I’ve experienced, but I also don’t know that’s necessarily a negative thing. We should remember important things and lessons learned, especially when they help one to appreciate their current situation.
Memorial Day Weekend 2019 was, at last, a completely sunny, relaxing, fun, leisurely and most of all, happy, stretch of days. I hope yours was similar.*
*If it wasn’t, keep the faith. There’s always next year – or July 4th.