Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Object!

As I was wandering around the winding boulevards Montreal a few weeks ago, I realized it had been far too long since I’d been out on my own exploring the world, and how much I missed it.

See, I used to go to summer camp up near the Boundary Waters for two months every summer. It was there that I learned the value of being a strong, lionhearted (like the CareBear) and independent girl from a bunch of Dominican nuns whom I suspect spent the rest of their year working with MacGyver and the Phoenix Foundation to save little girls from heinous Soviet gulags. Sure, they tossed in a few casual religious lessons, but they were fairly utilitarian to suit the nuns’ needs. Sister Ruella, the horseback riding counselor, told us that the Virgin Mary was not afraid of bugs, but she did frown upon little girls who screeched at the sight of spiders or were afraid of the dark. Self-reliance was a paramount virtue, right up there with humility, kindness, and perseverance.

Because my home life was tempestuous, homesickness was an alien emotion for me. When I hopped on that bus for the twelve-hour ride north, I didn’t look back. Some girls spent their first few nights at camp crying for their families; I spent my first few nights back at my parents’ house crying because I missed camp. As it became increasingly difficult to keep the skeletons of my home life locked firmly in the closet or try to explain the bizarre cuts and bruises (“Wait, run that by me again; I still don’t understand how a pitchfork and lye were involved?”), I lost interest in the exhausting process of trying to maintain normal friendships. As I withdrew, the independence I’d learned from camp comforted me; to be alone without being lonely is an extraordinary useful skill. During the non-camp months, when I was supposed to be minding my mother’s knitting shop I would ditch the yarn (you would have too!) to wander in the woods near my house for hours at a time, lost in my thoughts and dreaming of a peripatetic and cosmopolitan future where I would rely on no one. I buried my nose in Emerson, but thumbed my nose at Thoreau, who was too much of a momma's boy- after all, I didn't have to leave Walden to get my mom to my laundry; why, I'd been doing it since I was eight.

It took a long time, a criminal trial (not mine, I swear), living on three different continents, and distance from my family for the bitter and hardened independence I’d cultivated to soften enough to make real friends and relationships. By the time the Object rolled into my life, it only took a year and a half’s worth of his cajoling to domesticate me, as opposed to the NEVEREVEREVERSERIOUSLYNEVER I’d always sworn to myself. Still, the week after we moved in together, I hopped on a plane, leaving the Object with my cat while I set off for Montreal.

Since my traveling companion was spending her days at some phymistry or chesminics conference- my days were largely my own. Armed with my notebook, iPod full of Montreal tunes (ever the faux-purist, I listened only to Montreal bands while in Montreal, except for the new Spoon album. I couldn’t wait; sorry), and guidebook, I drifted around the city, happily alone with my thoughts with no one to answer to but myself and feeling more in my element than I had in ages. I started to wonder if I’d ever be able to go back to my utterly normal DC life. I entertained thoughts of calling the Dominicans to see if they had any openings for world-traveling MacGyver nuns, hoping that belief in God was no longer a requirement to follow the call of God.

I rounded one of the cobblestoned street corners in Vieux Montreal and saw a lovely old sandstone three-story building, trimmed brightly in robin’s egg blue with big, bright flowers cheerfully dotting the window boxes and a luxurious roof deck spanning the top beckoning as an oasis from quotidian monotony. At that very moment, Montreal singer-songwriter Leslie Feist crooned into my ears, “I got a man to stick it out and make a home from a rented house. We’ll collect the moments one by one; I guess that’s how the future is done.”

The area right under my heart seized into a hard, painful knot. All I wanted in the world was the Object standing next to me, clasping my hand and making fun of the neighbors we’d have if we lived in this little slice of urban utopia. As I thought of the Object back at home trying to wrangle the cat into bending to his will, the corners of my eyes became wet, and I realized that for the first time, I had a home. Roots. A place that I wanted to go back to and someone whose arms I wanted to be in.

I was homesick. Bad.

I wiped my eyes, changed the tunes, and moved on, happy enough to be alone, but just for now. Upon my arrival back in DC, the Object was waiting outside the gate with a big bouquet of flowers. He scooped me into his arms and gave me a rib-cracking hug. As we walked to the car, I nattered on about my travels. Suddenly the Object interrupted me, “Hey, don’t leave again for a while, ok?”

I smiled. “Ok. Can we watch MacGyver when we get home?”


Blogger Achtung! said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, can we get a collective "aawwwwwwwwwww!" It happens to the best of us, glad you've joined the club. :)

7:49 AM  
Blogger rock_ninja said...

Oh noes! Does that mean we'll move to Germany, too? 'Cause we were hoping for Costa Rica!

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a great post thanks. i grew up in a dysfunctional family and like nothing more than to come home to the wonderful family i made as a happy adult.

9:10 AM  
Blogger 3pennyjane said...

Aw, sweetness! Here's to many more happy moments in a long and joyful life.

9:15 AM  
Blogger The Kresl Family said...

I'm so happy that you have found a home! Three cheers for a domesticated existance!

8:48 AM  
Blogger rock_ninja said...

dun dun dun another one bites the dust!

it's good in the dust!

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Desidirius said...

Good stuff, goo-ster. Really with you on a number of points.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Chris Chan said...

This is definitely one of your best personal essay blog posts ever. Really great work.

5:23 PM  

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