REFLECTIONS ON THE ROAD

“As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination. There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept.” ~ Jhumpa Lahiri, The Third and Final Continent

After eight weeks on the road, I wish I could have written those lines myself.

I awoke sometime around three a.m., as I always do, and I couldn’t figure out which bed I was in. I thought it might be a hotel, although I had spent only five nights out of sixty five in hotel rooms. But I was sleeping in a king size bed. It took a few seconds of asking where am I to figure out I was home.

This happened on the road quite often. I would tell someone about a meal I ate.

“I had this awesome veal vitello with …wait a minute, where was that…Oh right, Anthony’s Old World Deli in Warwick with my family.”

Or someone told me something, some movie they saw and liked or a great book they read or a place to visit in Asheville on the drive home. Who was that? Where was I when I heard that?

The days were jumbled. Is it Monday? No, it’s Thursday. How did it get to be Thursday? It was a wonderful way to live. Day by day. Moment by moment. And there were so many moments that I remember clearly and I treasure them all, the muddled memories and the magical moments. Three stand out clearly, in all their particular details.

***

There was a morning on Cape Cod when we met our friends’ next door neighbors, Jim and Mike, a married couple who summer on the Cape and winter in Florida. They were getting ready to attend a wedding later that day and Dori and I were making peach and blueberry cobbler but her oven was broken so we made two, one for us and one for the neighbors, and brought them next door to borrow their oven.

The small summer home was stunning, beautifully decorated with unique artwork everywhere including the floors, the doors, and the tile in the shower, and there were fabulous views of the Bass River. Jim was the consummate host and made drinks before giving my husband and I a full tour.

Jim is a retired entertainer, a cabaret singer who studied under Otto Preminger, Uta Hagen, and Jerry Lewis. Those mentors describe Jim very well.

He planned to sing a song for the bride and groom later that afternoon at the reception and needed to wake up his vocal chords so he asked if he could sing us a song.

Absolutely.

He turned on the tape player and leaped into character, choosing a song I’d never heard before, and of course it was a busy day so I didn’t write it down and now I’ve forgotten it, but it was a song about a relationship. The repeating lyric was “I want More.” More kisses, more romance, more time together. It was all so familiar as Jim sang in the kitchen then moved to the the living room, and I swiveled around on my stool by the kitchen counter and watched him dramatically act out the longing of a lover who wanted more. I was right there with him, wanting more too. More hand holding, more music and candlelit dinners, more listening. When he finished we all clapped enthusiastically and I looked at Rich and said, “I Want More”, because how could anyone not after that heartfelt rendition on a Cape Cod morning with sunlight streaming through the open windows.

***

Then there was a day on the beach with my Mom and Dad. He went for a walk and a swim while my mother and I sat on Adirondack chairs in the shade under the pavilion and gazed out at the ocean, the colorful umbrellas, the kids building sandcastles and chasing waves. We didn’t talk much, she doesn’t remember much anymore, and she no longer knows who I am. But she was content and the photo I snapped with my IPhone and sent to my sisters and brother was of a woman who was calm and happy.

It was a moment in time when I knew things would change and not for the better, but we were together, listening to the sound of seagulls and laughter muffled by the breeze under a blue sky with white puffy clouds drifting overhead. The Block Island ferry made its way back and forth along the breakwater and sailboats bobbed offshore. For a fleeting moment life was free of turmoil and we shared a place where nothing mattered, just a view, a gentle breeze, a sunny day.

***

Fall arrives early in Vermont. The days were in the 70’s and the nights were cool, dipping down to what felt like a brisk sixty-two degrees to this newly transplanted Floridian. But oh what a magical time we had with our friends Donna and Rich in Wilmington at a place called Higley Hill.

In the third novel I am writing, one of my characters is an artist. I envisioned her painting multi-media canvases that were put together like collages. I thought it might be decoupage. Donna is an artist and in the living room beside the stone fireplace that Vermont Rich built, there were small works made from old Simplicity dress patterns, black and white photos, and maps. Encaustic collages are the proper name, Donna told me, and I learned some valuable information for my book. But a more amazing coincidence happened regarding the art and my novel. In the chapter about the artwork, the artist describes her technique and what the pieces mean to her. The way she told the stories of her life through her art instead of with words.

Donna had taped an essay to her refrigerator door explaining to a friend what her encaustic collages meant to her. How she was making them to tell the story of her mother. The similarities in these two stories blew us away. It was as if we were channeling the same story. It was a sign and had to mean something.

After dinner, the four of us went outside to look at the Vermont night sky; the Milky Way, the Big Dipper, satellites passing overhead. And seven shooting stars. My personal shooting star record. Another sign for sure.

There will be more stories to come.

“Pack a pillow and blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it.” ~Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

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