The Old Places

I can't stop thinking about the old places.

No offense to the new ones. I mean no harm to the soil that hosts home for me now. I sink my fingers into this dirt. I see the side effects under my fingernails from all the planting, the furious fall planting where you reseed grass and bury bulbs and pray like mad that something takes. I see it under my fingernails and know that the new soil sticks, enough that I'll have to scrub hard to undo the evidence of a season in dirt. I'm certain that something took, that I'll see it bloom in the spring. Maybe sooner.

But I still can't stop thinking about the old places.

Larry and I drove to one of the old places this weekend. My parents took the children (yes, I'm rising up yet again to call them blessed), and we headed to DC where memories of a decade cover every square inch from King Street to M Street like plastic wrap. I saw it first in a flower pot by the fountain in the atrium of National Gallery of Art. And I lifted up one corner, and the air crept in, and next thing I know, I'd lifted more and more, and everywhere I turned--memories and cellophane.

By the end of the weekend, I had uncovered so many moments, the metaphoric wad of plastic wrap was taller than me and twice as wide. There was the time I dropped off a 2 year old Caed and his Daddy at the Botanical Gardens to see the holiday train display while I drove up and down Constitution, praying 4-day-old Dani would stay asleep. I remember how then I still thought of her only as Sheridan, how then I had to concentrate to know her name and to feel like she was really mine.

There were the countless hours on the metro, and the time Eve and I went in search of a mid afternoon yogurt and found the press camped outside Monica Lewinsky's lawyer's building. (We had apparently just missed her. Oh darn. Now about that yogurt?)

There was the time I went out to celebrate Becky's 40th, nine months pregnant, back when Rosa Mexicano was a hot new restaurant. Our group waited for a table for over an hour. Nine months pregnant, and in heels. I wished for the baby to come and for a margarita. It took 6 days for the baby, 6 weeks for the margarita. See, wishes do come true, just not always on your birthday, or on your friend's birthday.

Then there was the leadership meeting at the Willard, the one where I was supposed to be making my co-in-charge debut. And I wondered whether anyone else thought we'd wasted a solid two days and four easels worth of paper, whether anyone else noticed the emperor was still naked. When I walked by the Willard last night, I smiled at the fortune of finding so many dear friends among those colleagues. And then I thanked my lucky stars that my co-in-charge, death by easel facilitating days were over.

How much of these old places I carry with me, even now. It ought to feel like a heavy load for the volume alone, but it's so light and compact I scarcely know it's there. Until I pull it out, like a tourist with a map (before there was an app for that), unfolding and unfolding, and wow, would you look at all these streets and roads and landmarks and all the old places? There's so much here, so much.

And how much of me I've left behind in the old places. I didn't realize that either. The pieces aren't that noticeable. You don't realize they're gone until it's too late to turn around the car and go back. And by then, the wind has probably scattered them anyway. By then, you might as well let go of those pieces, let them stay lost in the old places.

I am ready as ever to sink my hands into the soil, into the new places. But only because the old places promise me, prove to me it's worth it. We drove back into our sleepy Ohio suburb tonight, the cheesy Christmas tree lighting ceremony in progress as we passed the town square. And I thought, I'm going to visit here one day and be amazed at how much of me is scattered here, and at how much of here is folded up and tucked inside. I'm not going to be sorry about anything planted. I'm not going to regret scooping deep into the soil.

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