I remember the golden Friday afternoons in college, the afternoons when I’d soon be on my way. I’d throw clothes and a couple textbooks in a bag, and my roommate and I would set off, through the south Georgia countryside which, in my memory, always rustles with roadside cotton. There are songs that still instantly transport me: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Jayhawks, Nick Drake. I rolled the windows down low. I was headed home, headed back to the boy I loved.
Travel was uncomplicated then, my life at college easy to put on hold. By contrast, life now is a sprawling thing. Because as it turns out, for every root you put down in a place, leaving it becomes just a little bit trickier.
When I left campus, for a long weekend or the summer, I never worried I was missing much. I could read and write anywhere. There was no housework building up in my absence, and nothing living relied on me. I missed my friends, but they’d be there when I returned, on Monday, or in August.
By contrast, extricating myself from the flow of life for a long summertime trip now is an ordeal. I need to pre-pay the kid who mows our lawn, and hire someone to care for the dog. I need to plan my summer gardening around a long absence, set Pippin’s homeschool schedule to take departure dates into account, pull Scout from school early, work out who will get our CSA share in our absence. I need to plan meals that eat out the fridge and pantry, then tidy them while I can; catch up on the laundry and discard the things we’d never ever pack, because maybe they aren’t worth keeping.
But for every chore in preparation, I’m reminded of my ties to this place. Put on hold: my library wishlist and sourdough starter, my yogurt system and compost bucket, my regular mother’s helper and standing dates with friends. I’m acutely aware of all that will march on in my absence: the weeds, yes, but also jamborees and birthdays and anniversaries, friends passing from one trimester to another. The peonies will bloom, even as the undergrowth creeps in.
I have high hopes for this trip of ours, of not-to-be-forgotten memories for all of us — knights and sugar mice, rambling walks and cold pints. But I find myself glad to be reminded of all I exchange for those experiences. Where I am, day in and day out, is not such a bad gig, even if I’m ready to temporarily trade it for the romance of Elsewhere.
It makes the prospect of returning home all the sweeter.