It's been a month since I've posted here and I find, this morning that I have lots to say. In the interests of all of our sanities, I'm going to stick to one subject and try to follow up on the others through the week. I need to start writing daily anyway, so you'll be my experiment...
I'm slowly -- as I seem to do everything -- getting back into life after being in Montana for two weeks. I didn't mean to be away as long as I was but I thought some stranded flier might need Tuesday seat into LaGuardia less than 48 hours after Irene & then United gave me $800 in vouchers to take a flight later in the week. (Can you say Bora Bora?)
This simple series of events pretty much covers my trip. It extended it, it extended what I most needed to accomplish, and it extended my regrets over what felt like I didn't have time to accomplish.
My relationship with my family was tested pretty severely two years ago after my mother died. My reclusion and the difficulties of making friends in New York to begin with, meant that this very lonely person needed both to reconnect and, if not to make actual amends, live them. I stayed with my brother for two weeks and got silently irritated with the situation exactly twice. I felt guilty at imposing on them but given the number of hours I was there, I enjoyed 99.99% of our time together. The entire family, except for one grand-niece (yeah, you!) drove to Spokane for another family member's birthday so I got to see everyone except said grand-niece in my brother's family. I lovedlovedloved laughing and talking with my oldest nephew who is as cynical as I am and almost as psycho. I met new nieces. An in-law I've met once was recounting a story about her favorite cousin and my father's head shot up and he said, "Jumbo? He was a conductor on the NP. He had a sister..." I thought that was a fine serendipity and a fitting one for Missoula, with its concentric circles of family history.
I spent a lot of time with my father. I was confessor to younger family members. I saw our old house at Flathead but fleetingly: I couldn't bear to look. I took day trips with one or another of my family to the east, west, north and south. I had huckleberries, elk, prime rib, corn that had been picked that day.
So much for the slide show. I also failed in other important reconnects and amends, with friends from grade and high school, from the Writing Community, with cousins. I thought I was on a shorter schedule. I found that talking after saying perhaps twenty sentences a day for the last four months was exhausting. I was ashamed of what I look like. I was scared to meet some of the people who have hurt me in the past. I put myself on my family's schedule and agenda and took a vacation from self-determination. I'm sorry that this is so, K, M, T, L, J, M, S, J, C, F, N, L, L. I don't know whether you'll read this but I will try to make it up to you next summer, although my brother and I have plans already to float the Blackfoot.
I haven't been back to Missoula -- really and truly there on an out-and-about basis -- for more than ten years. What I noticed when I stepped out of the airport was the smell of green grass in 15% humidity, and the skytheskytheksy. I have only ever seen that sky in one other place -- Austin, Texas -- and only in Montana is it that cornflower blue.
The next startlement is the growth of the town. I mean, it's really grown, with lots of raw housing tracts, miles of chain restaurants and stores, and a complete rerouting of traffic. Part of it has been Super WalMartized, another part has been darlingized in restoration, and another part is permanently Outdoor Magazined. I could spot the latter by the badly maintained yards but neatly stacked inflatables -- inner-tubes, rafts, tents, mountain bikes. The OMs have too high morals an no time to waste water by changing sprinklers.
I probably could have met up with everyone I didn't see if I'd hung around the Saturday morning farmer's market longer. At some point my willies came up and said, "Get your fat ass outta here." My sister-in-law and I lugged out bread and sun flowers and beets back to the car and took off for the corn farm just, perhaps, in time.
So maybe it was a visit to Montana but not Missoula. I think my father will be moving there permanently next year and maybe I'll have the nerve and energy to see Missoula then. I came home to find that the hurricane took out an old survivor of the 1928 Dutch Elm epidemic that graced several homes with its shade, and that the tree had taken down two other trees, uprooted wiring and busted up the doorway of the 1828 wooden house next door. I stepped out of the cab from the airport to be greeted by the smell of the sea. I had a calendar of dogs awaiting me the next day and a pile of catalogues. A friend had come in and changed my sheets and put a salad and yogurt in the fridge.
I was back in Brooklyn even though I wouldn't say I'm back in New York.
UC Berkeley student Shanzeh Khurram writes in her weekly column in The Daily Californian...