Things have to be taken apart and carried away
We left the mountains yesterday and arrived back at my parents' house in Massachusetts a week pretty much to the minute from when we had taken off, pointing north. It didn't turn out to be anything particularly adventurous, a hedge maze (back here in Mass) was probably the biggest hike we took, and we didn't even make it as far as Canada. After leaving Hanover and Lake Sunapee, we settled into these little towns around Mt. Washington, and we did drive up to the top on the next to last day. Straight 4000 feet drops, hairpin turns, narrow roads, no guardrails of course, but unless I'm remembering wrong, it was no worse than California's Route 1 running up the coast. I was fascinated by the history of exploration there and the idea of going above tree line which I'd never really thought of before, that there's a point where trees are no longer able to grow. Since we left New York for the second time a week and a half ago, we moved every day except for one (we stayed two nights in Hanover). So every morning we folded up Wally's pack n' play and gathered our stuff and moved on. Wally started waking up in the morning and saying, "New house?" meaning, okay, let's get going, don't we have somewhere else to be? Usually we'd roll out at around 8:30 in the morning, which in my past life would have felt like getting up and out, and now feels like-- all right, don't worry, we still have a fair amount of daylight left.
After a while with these little break downs and set ups I started thinking about all those years in bands, schlepping a ridiculous amount of stuff around the city. Reheasals were nothing -- just a guitar or whatever -- but packing and unpacking for gigs, sometimes with amps and a full drum set, it made these little hotel-hops seem like a picnic. The amount of physical labor that goes into first breaking down the equipment in the studio, shoving it all into the car, then setting it up for 45 minutes of playing and doing the whole thing again, it's amazing. It gets you used to the idea that things always have to be taken apart and carried away.
In this weird, broken up vacation (first Virginia, then the strange circling without being able to land in NY, then to CT, MA and NH) not much has really changed for us, but meanwhile one close friend had a baby and another is getting divorced. My nieces Eliana and Leah today are going to their first wedding, my sister's close friend from college and her girlfriend. I overheard them playing wedding and they both wanted to be the bride. After a bit of a struggle, one said, "Wait--there can be a two-girl wedding, so can both be brides". The problem was solved and they moved on to the game itself.
Things are moving on. People are moving on, from the single life (the friend who just had a baby was one with whom I've perhaps shared the most inappropriate run of drunken evenings), from family arrangements (it was six years ago this August we celebrated the wedding of the friend now moving out on his own), from friendships (we won't be at Joe's wedding today), from out-dated ways of thinking about what weddings can be. Daylight leaves earlier now. You can already feel the difference. Leaves are starting to fall from trees. Wally picks them up and says, "Broken" then holds them as high as he can reach, asking me to fix the tree. My 12-year-old cousin Charlie is here visiting as well. We had always sort of winced at the idea of him ever growing up. For years he held the place in the family as the quintessential kid, making forts in the woods, picking up snakes without hesitation, feeling sad when family holidays were over. At his house this year on July 4th, watching him play with other kids, everyone go swinging and swimming and drink lemonade under giant old oak trees, my dad said, "This is so Last American Childhood." I said "It really is", then asked myself what we meant by that. There is this trip the beginning traces of a teenager about Charlie. He is still the sweetest kid you could ever dream of getting to hang out with, but you can see that he's growing up and there's no way to stop it. And why would you want to? Of course he should grow up. But you kind of just want to keep him right where he is.
We roasted marshmellows for the last time last night, can't imagine where we'd do it in the city. There was no denying the cool air coming in. We were wearing t-shirts, but towards the end started huddling around the few remaining orange coals. I keep thinking back to seeing Charlie at what felt like the beginning of summer. It's getting near the end now and I have this sense of having failed an assignment to write about what I did on my summer vacation but what I really meant to write about is what I meant by Last American Childhood and I just can't do it. There will be more time to write, but not today. More leaves will be falling soon. Wally will have to learn that we can't put them back. Alex is packing up the car now to head back home, although I never really call it that. My dad and Charlie are playing a few last rounds of ping pong in the basement. My mom is handing us bags of fresh-picked apples and peaches. Wally's taking his big wheel bike for a last spin around the block. We're just about ready to hit the road.