May 18th, 2007

Shoring up the Fragments

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This picture. I can smell the freshness of it. I can smell his windblown, sun-soaked skin.

Andy is away this weekend, traveling cross country to Houston where he is meeting his mother and sister, who has graduated from law school. They will make the long drive back to Illinois together in a UHaul, and Andy is along to ensure their safe arrival, and of course, to crack jokes and lighten the journey with his presence.

I’m up late, going through the old green trunk. It’s stacked to overflowing with dusty photographs. This time I’m going to do it, I had promised myself as I extricated an envelope from the middle of the pile, I am finally going to organize this mess. Inside the envelope, I find this picture, and as per usual when it comes around to this kind of thing, I’m sidetracked.

I can smell the freshness of the couple we were here. Eight years younger than we are now, bursting at the seams with “us”-ness and oblivious to much else.

It was early fall in a small South Dakota town. We had just made our first big purchase together, a 1966 split-window VW bus. We bought a tool box, wrenches, WD40 and John Muir’s “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot.” It was our bible that summer. The bus is there, in the background of this picture, leaking oil onto the gravel driveway.

Remember driving that bus down I-29? We could only drive 40 miles an hour on the highway.

Andy thought every one else was in too much of a hurry anyway. That bus was, in so many ways, an extension of him.

The couple in this photo takes pictures of themselves with a camera on outstretched arms. They are smug and satisfied with the kind of satisfaction that comes from having made a beginning together in a place that feels Home. They do not yet know they will sell the bus. They are not yet married. They do not have a child. They can’t imagine a time when they won’t have the energy, some nights, to kiss each other before sleep. 

We moved out east, a direction neither of us ever thought we would be heading, in a truck packed full. Our only responsibility, the beloved, drugged-out cat (we mistakenly thought a tranquilizer would ease the stress of the journey). There, we built a new kind of life from the bottom up. From scratch--careers, friends, new highways. We traded in an ocean of sky for…well, an ocean.

Later, we traded in a little bit of who we used to be for a baby.

Tonight, I was overcome with the urge to sweep through this dusty green trunk, make sense of all these old photos, put them into books, label, date, chronologize. As though the order will help me to somehow make sense of who we are now, what we have become. We both feel a little lost, I think. In having a baby, we have become fuller in so many ways, but intimacies, connections are harder won. We are faced with an Us that takes work.

This photo stops me in my tracks. I am diverted from my project. Instead, I come here to put it down, to write it out. I can still smell the way the late morning felt in this photo. This picture is, in so many ways, the beginning of them.

I close the lid on the trunk, tuck the falling pictures gently back inside from the edges.

Posted by: Sarah on May 18th, 2007
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